Ok, as it goes, the settlement of the Americas is still up for debate. Although most archaeologists might agree that Clovis peoples were most likely the first settlers in the New World, there are some sites in both North and South America that throw a wrench in the works. Most well accepted sites dating to the Clovis culture, the culture first thought to have settled North America, date to around 11500 B.C. It was at this time that the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets in the Arctic had receded enough to allow people to cross Beringia and make their way south.
The problem with this model is that there are more than a few sites that date much earlier.Sites like Meadowcroft Rock Shelter in Pennsylvania date to around 12000 B.C. – and Monte Verde, almost at the very tip of South America, dates to around 10500 B.C. What does this mean? Perhaps people were able to reach South America in 1500 years… I think this is very well possible, but may also suggest humans were able to make it to the New World before 11500 B.C.
One way humans could have made this trip without traveling through the Ice Free corridor is by traveling down the coast from Beringia, down the Alaskan shore, western Canada and into the New World. Monte Verde is a well-established site, work conducted by Tom Dillehay has been corroborated by many other scholars, so the early dates are secure. Another early site, Pedra Furada in Brazil, has animal bones in context with stone tools and dates as early as 30,000 B.C.
Well, regardless, I don’t have any definite answers, and the debate is still out, but this is some food for thought. More thoughts on South American archaeology to come…