Collapse of old theory opens window for alt views that Natives were not migrants


EXCERPT: . . . Not so long ago, many researchers believed they had an adequate explanation for the peopling of the Americas. A single theory dominated much of the 20th century’s thinking on this question. [...] It was long a commonplace belief among anthropologists that ancestral Native Americans descended from people living in Asia who crossed into the Americas over a now-submerged open tundra bridging Russia and Alaska, the Bering Land Bridge, also known as Beringia.

From there, these people were thought to have traversed a narrow passage between glaciers covering Alaska and Canada that only opened up about 13,500 years ago. [...] The theory hit a steady stream of challenges in subsequent years, but most weren’t taken too seriously. ... Eventually, though, genuine cracks appeared in the Clovis-first model. ... Years of subsequent excavation at Monte Verde uncovered undeniable traces of a human presence ... at least 1,000 years older than the Clovis-first model would predict.

[...] In the last two decades, a handful of other sites, in North America especially, have gained wide acceptance as authentically pre-Clovis. Unlike the Clovis sites, most of these older sites have no distinct artifacts to connect them. ... As researchers validate these finds, studies are chipping away at the story many of us read in textbooks. For one, the idea of a single pioneering population may have been a mistake. “It’s probably more like a dripping faucet where people are coming in at different times, from different directions,” Dillehay says.

[...] Most archaeologists would now agree that there were widely scattered, small but culturally diverse groups of people living in the Americas at least one or two millennia before the emergence of Clovis spear points. That estimate, then, placing people in the Americas roughly 15,000 years ago, is among the most conservative.

As the Clovis-first model has fallen out of favor, even bolder chronologies have emerged. For example, one group of scientists has made a case that they have uncovered evidence of humans butchering megafauna 130,000 years ago at what is now called the Cerutti mastodon site in Southern California—though many archaeologists have contested that argument. In an article for Science, Braje, Dillehay, and a few other colleagues wrote that the collapse of the Clovis-first paradigm “has opened a Pandora’s box of alternative scenarios for the peopling of the Americas, with some scholars and members of the general public quick to accept implausible claims based on limited and equivocal evidence.” They cited the Cerutti mastodon site as one such example.

[...] many non-Native scientists are starting to appreciate that their findings have implications for Native American communities, who have had to square their own cultural narratives and more recent stories of displacement with scientific messages of how their distant ancestors came to the continents. ... To some, the scientific origin story was perceived as a means to undermine the long-term presence of Indigenous peoples on the land. After all, emphasizing how people first migrated to the Americas from elsewhere can be used to subtly imply a similarity between the ancestors of Native Americans and the European explorers millennia later. The science can be twisted to imply the land was not “really” that of the Indigenous peoples. Doing so downplays the real trauma and theft that occurred when European colonists took the lands of Indigenous peoples.

“I think subconsciously or not so subconsciously there’s this immigrant narrative, that ‘we are all immigrants,’ that drives the possibilities for how scientists and how a lot of non-Indigenous people see human history on this continent, and they are really stuck in that narrative,” says Kim TallBear, of the University of Alberta, who has studied the politics of tribal genetics and is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. TallBear would also like to see non-Native scientists and writers think through their choice of words. “Language creates reality for the world,” she says. For example, referring to certain ancestral populations as “first Americans” or to the land as the “New World” can reinforce the narrative that, on some level, the Indigenous people of the Americas came from somewhere else in the recent past.

Furthermore, narratives about the first people in the Americas, TallBear notes, whether written by scientists or science journalists, tend to focus on very mechanistic and simplistic motivations for the migration... (MORE - details)

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)