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CHILEAN SITE VERIFIED AS EARLIEST HABITATION OF AMERICAS; FINDINGS SHOW MONTE VERDE DATES BACK 12,500 YEARS


Site May Fuel New Debate on the Peopling of the Americas

DALLAS — Human beings migrated to the Americas 1,300 years earlier than previously thought, pushing human habitation of the New World back to some 12,500 years ago, according to a team of eminent archaeologists who verified the antiquity of the Monte Verde archaeological site in Chile.

The Chilean site was excavated by a team led by Tom Dillehay of the University of Kentucky and the Universidad Austral de Chile from 1977 to 1985. The site was investigated Jan. 3-13, 1997 by a team of archaeologists sponsored by The Dallas Museum of Natural History, Susan and Claude Albritton, Lamar Norsworthy, the Holly Corporation and the National Geographic Society, which will feature the findings in an upcoming issue of its magazine. The archaeologists reported their unanimous conclusions today in Dallas.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the team’s consensus,” said Alex Barker, Dallas Museum of Natural History curator of archaeology. “For 60 years, the Clovis-period entry of humans into the New World has withstood all challenges. Now the Monte Verde site establishes that humans arrived earlier.”

The Clovis horizon, named after a distinctive fluted projectile point styling, was thought to mark the earliest spread of hunter-gatherers into North America at about 11,200 years ago, coinciding with the opening of an ice-free corridor from Asia to America.

Monte Verde, located 500 miles south of Santiago, has human artifacts as well as material never seen at early American sites: remnants of hide-covered huts; a chunk of animal meat, which DNA analyses indicate is mastodon; digging sticks, finely crafted tools of bone and tusk, and more than 700 stone tools; and, a child’s footprint.

“I am fully convinced that both Monte Verde 1 (MV1) and MV2 (MV2 is the layer dating to at least 12,500 years ago; MV1 is a deeper and older layer) are cultural manifestations and push the time limit back further than previously thought,” said Dennis Stanford, curator of North American Archaeology, Smithsonian Institution. “I suspect we’ll start finding earlier sites coming out of the woodwork.”

“The implications of Monte Verde are profound,” said David Meltzer, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University. “While it’s only a thousand years older than the previously accepted dates, its location 10,000 miles south of the Bering land bridge route that the first Americans took into the New World implies a fundamentally different history of human colonization of the Americas.”

George Stuart, National Geographic’s chief archaeologist and chairman of the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, said, “All of the numerous pre-Clovis sites proposed through the decades have had a shadow over them. The Monte Verde conclusion is as definitive as archaeology gets.”

The Dallas Museum of Natural History, located in Dallas’ historic Fair Park, receives a third of a million visitors each year. In addition to the Monte Verde project, museum curators also are currently conducting archaeological projects in Texas and Louisiana, and paleontological projects in Texas, Wyoming and Colorado.


In addition to Dillehay and Barker, the team included:

- Jim Adovasio, Professor of Anthropology, Mercyhurst College;
- Robson Bonnichsen, Director, Center for The Study of the First American, Oregon
State University;
- Dena Dincauze, Professor of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts;
- Donald Grayson, Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington;
- Vance Haynes, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arizona;
- David Meltzer, Professor of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University;
- Francisco Mena, Curator, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino;
- Lautaro Nunez, Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution; and,
- Dennis Stanford, Curator of North American Archaeology, Smithsonian Institution.


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