Origin of the Clovis Points

Slender projectile point with a scalloped surface.
Projectile Point

L. Zaragoza

When and how did the first Americans get here? What course did they
take to populate the Western hemisphere? Connecting the dots between
various archaeological sites containing distinct Paleo-American tools helps
reveal the course of early human migration throughout the Americas.
Archaeologists have long understood the broad strokes of this early chapter in
American (pre)history, yet many details remain unknown. One of the longest
running mysteries is the age and origin of fluted spear points in Alaska.

For decades archaeologists believed that the highly specialized spear
points found in the Clovis archaeological site, located near Clovis,
New Mexico, originated in Beringia and were carried south as people migrated.
These points were thought to be indicative of America’s first culture, yet the
link between the points from the two archaeological sites remained unknown.
Were Alaska’s fluted points younger, older or the same age as Clovis? Did this
technology evolve independently or did it spread?

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve may shed some light on the history of
human movement into and within the Western Hemisphere. In 2009,
archaeologists found several fluted spear points near Serpentine Hot Springs.
The fluted points were revealed to be younger than those in Clovis, suggesting
that Clovis points developed in the midcontinent rather than Beringia and the
movement of people in and out of Alaska was complex and multidirectional
– not always a simple north-to-south migration as previously thought.

One possibility suggests that fluted spear point makers moved northwest
following bison through an emerging ice-free corridor and into the Yukon and
Alaska, spreading their technology into new territories.

While scientists continue to grapple with new discoveries and ideas, one thing is
clear: the peopling of the Americas was much more complex than the traditional
unidirectional land bridge theory indicates.

Last updated: April 4, 2017

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