- Paperback: 394 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (February 14, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465076696
- ISBN-13: 978-0465076697
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Settlement of the Americas: A New Prehistory
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"Gripping and groundbreaking. . .his passion for and mastery of the topic make for an impressive narrative." -- Publishers Weekly
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It examines the earliest fossil evidence of humans in the Americas with a view to determining when they came; who they were; the routes they took; and their strategy for exploration. The focus is on archaeological sites in South America. With a frown at "NAGPRA," Dillehay uses the Clovis stone artifacts produced by rapidly moving big game hunters in North American to compare with corresponding products found in South America. The most securely dated evidence for human activity and settlement throughout both continents cluster towards the end of the last Ice Age, eleven to fifteen thousand years before the present (BP) (pp.315-17), but other facts suggest 25000 BP as the time frame for their entry into the New World. By ten thousand BP, the Bering Land corridor they crossed from Asia was underwater.
Knowledge of the earliest peoples is complicated by the fact that they lived during times of profound ecological and climatic changes with mega fauna going extinct, ocean levels rising 400 feet, precipitation increasing, and glaciers melting. Dating their elusive artifacts is a major issue in evaluating the evidence. The author has much to say about the various "gotchas" that lie in wait for naïve analysts. Along the way, we become sensitive to the subtleties of preservation environments, stratification, deposition, mixing, and carbon dating. Most of the securely dated materials are from marginal, rocky upland areas that suggest later, rather than original, occupations. Although the photos are often indistinct and the drawings small, they suggest that the excavated stone artifacts correspond to distinct maker traditions and even regional styles different from the Clovis forms (p. 100). It is impressive how spare and sparse are the cultural materials that remain in place on site.
Abundant, detailed references to the source literature in Spanish and English support the exposition. A helpful glossary explains many of the technical terms, but the index is only OK.