Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans
Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans
Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: J.M. Adovasio and David Pedler
Audience: Trade
Specs: over 325 color illustrations, charts, tables, glossary, bibliography, index
Pages: 352
Trim Size: 9" X 11" X 1 1/8"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20160915
Copyright Year: 2016
Price: Select Below

Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans

Where did Native Americans come from and when did they first arrive? Several lines of evidence, most recently genetic, have firmly established that all Native American populations originated in eastern Siberia.

This beautifully illustrated book will be the standard work on the subject for a generation.
-- Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara

An entertaining, authoritative, and up-to-date review of one of the most contentious issues in archaeology today: the early peopling of the Americas.
-- Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History

The migration of Homo sapiens into the Americas remains to this day a contentious subject amongst archaeologists. Strangers in a New Land represents a clear, interesting and well documented review of the arguments from all sides about how and when migrants came to the New World, where they came from, and what they were doing.
-- Aldona Jonaitis, University of Alaska Museum of the North

In Strangers in a New Land, the authors tell the absorbing story of the first people to explore and colonize the Americas at the end of the last Ice Age with captivating discussions of key concepts and descriptions of the most important First American sites from Alaska to South America. This is a book for anyone interested in learning about the first intrepid people who explored and settled the New World.
-- Michael Waters, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A and M University

Strangers in a New Land is a profound and challenging account of an intensely controversial subject, the first human occupation of the New World, written by an acknowledged master.
-- Tom Dillehay, Vanderbilt University

Where did Native Americans come from and when did they first arrive? Several lines of evidence, most recently genetic, have firmly established that all Native American populations originated in eastern Siberia.

For many years, the accepted version of New World prehistory held that people arrived in the Western Hemisphere around 13,000 years ago. This consensus, called "Clovis First," has been increasingly challenged by discoveries at numerous archaeological sites throughout North and South America and is now widely considered to be outdated.

The latest findings have convinced most archaeologists that people came to the Western Hemisphere thousands of years prior to Clovis. There is credible evidence of a human presence in the Americas dating to 19,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 38,000 years ago. The prehistory of the very earliest arrivals into the New World is the subject of Strangers in a New Land.

This book documents 35 Clovis and Folsom sites, disputed pre-Clovis sites, legitimate pre-Clovis sites and controversial pre-Clovis sites. This covers an area that stretches from Bluefish Cave, Canada, 70 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle to Monte Verde, Chile, 14,000 kilometers south of Bering Straits. The discovery and history of each site is accompanied by photographs, maps and diagrams that illustrate the excavations and chronicle the evidence of human activity. Strangers in a New Land brings these findings together for the first time in language accessible to the general reader.

An excellent selection for physical and cultural anthropology, archaeology and prehistory collections.


J. M. Adovasio has overseen over four decades of archaeological research at the renowned Meadowcroft Rockshelter, one of the best dated pre-Clovis sites in the Western Hemisphere. Adovasio is author of over 250 journal articles and five books, including, with Olga Soffer, The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory. He is currently a Research Associate of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

David Pedler is Editor at the Lighting Research Center, School of Architecture, Rensselaer University and a Research Associate of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.



Location: Union County, New Mexico, United States
Coordinates: 36 degrees 52'54.05"N, 104 degrees 4'16.13"W.
Elevation: 1,948 meters above mean sea level.
Discovery: George McJunkin in 1908.

While Folsom is one of the best-known Paleoindian sites in American archaeology, after over eighty years of archaeological investigation much remains unknown about the Paleoindians who hunted now extinct bison there.

The Folsom site provided the first definitive evidence that humans shared the New World landscape with and hunted extinct Late Pleistocene animals, in this case Bison antiquus, and has been called "the place that forever changed American archaeology" by noted authority on the site David Meltzer. Folsom also serves as the complex's type site, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the site where objects or materials regarded as defining the characteristics of a particular period were found." The Folsom complex was a cultural manifestation that endured for about 700 years and whose range extended from the Rocky Mountains to the central Great Plains, from central Texas to just south of the Canadian border.

The Folsom site is located in the northeastern corner of New Mexico near the Colorado border, about 15 kilometers west of the village of Folsom and about 200 kilometers northeast of Santa Fe, on the southwestern reaches of the Great Plains about 100 kilometers east of the Rocky Mountains. The site lies principally on the southern bank of Wild Horse Arroyo (also known as Dead Horse Arroyo), a narrow, ephemeral tributary of the Dry Cimarron River which in turn is a tributary of the Arkansas River and, ultimately, the Mississippi. The regional physiography is dominated by volcanic landforms and large flat-topped mesas that are divided by several major river systems and interspersed with grasslands and open woodlands. [Figure 1.1] The river valleys generally trend from west to east and, along with several mountain passes currently used by modern highways, would have provided ready human and animal access to the region from the High Plains to the east.

During Folsom times, the climate appears to have been drier and cooler than today with fairly snowy winters. Although tree species were probably similar to those present today, it appears that vegetation was more open with abundant grass- and shrub-covered parkland, scattered wetlands, ponds, and lakes. These conditions would have made the region attractive to bison, but apart from the prospects for hunting, not altogether attractive to humans. There were no sources for nearby toolstone, few springs, and few edible plants to distinguish the site's immediate area from adjacent, more ecologically diverse places. The site's attraction, in other words, was primarily its position in a landscape dominated by a topography that helped to channel people and animals around impassable, steeper areas such as mesas and volcanoes.

The Folsom site is widely believed to have been discovered by a cowboy named George McJunkin sometime after a destructive and deadly 1908 flash flood of Wild Horse Arroyo exposed bison bones on the eroded arroyo floor. [Figure 1.2] The site had remained known only to avocational naturalists until early in 1926, when Jesse Dade Figgins and Harold Cook of the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver visited the site in the interest of recovering a bison skeleton for display. After about a month's excavation, this presumed exclusively paleontological site became an archaeological locality with the discovery of a Folsom point, followed by a second point a month after that. Neither of these artifacts was found actually embedded in bison remains. Upon presenting Smithsonian curator Ales Hrdlicka with his finds in early 1927, Figgins was advised that he should halt excavation and invite the inspection of "outside scientists" to confirm the recovery of any embedded (and therefore indisputably associated) artifacts that might be encountered in the future.

Several Folsom points embedded between the ribs of extinct bison were subsequently recovered from the site during the 1927 and 1928 field seasons (the latter conducted in collaboration between the Colorado Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History). Visits by elite scholars ultimately confirmed the site as, minimally, a very Late Pleistocene bison kill. [Figures 1.3 and 1.4] But some significant questions remained. In the absence of radiocarbon dating, which would not be available for another twenty years, the site's age remained unknown and only broad estimates (ranging from "thousands of years" old to 20,000-15,000 yr BP) could made by the excavators. Additionally, because the excavation methods of the time employed only very crude measurement techniques and the project was primarily focused on removal of the bones rather than precisely documenting the site, the lay of the land at the time of the site's formation also remained unknown. [Figure 1.5] Had the site been a streambed, marsh, pond, lake during the Late Pleistocene? No one could say.

Despite its international acclaim and pivotal role in a watershed moment of American archaeology, the Folsom site remained curiously absent from scholarly publications following the brief flourish of mostly superficial treatments that appeared immediately after its discovery. The reporting of subsequently discovered Folsom sites--there are now at least forty-five localities recorded on the Great Plains and in the Rocky Mountains--had essentially eclipsed the type site until 1997, when archaeologists at Southern Methodist University in Dallas returned to the site with a major multidisciplinary research project.

The Southern Methodist University work was conducted over the course of three field seasons (1997-1999), periodic brief site visits thereafter (2000-2004), and several years of laboratory investigations, culminating in the publication of an outstanding monograph in 2006, Folsom: New Archaeological Investigations of a Classic Paleoindian Bison Kill. The project team, led by David Meltzer, sought to (1) determine whether intact bone deposits remained, (2) determine whether a Folsom-age camp or habitation site was present, and (3) elucidate the site's stratigraphy, chronology, and paleoenvironment. The project also sought to integrate its approach, methods, and findings with those carried out at the site some seventy years earlier and by Vance Haynes and his colleagues in the 1970s under the auspices of the Folsom Ecology Project. Newly excavated portions of the site covered about 375 square meters over the course of the Southern Methodist University project, and questions concerning the site's stratigraphy and formation were addressed via extensive sedimentological coring, augering, and geophysical studies.

The new work at the site demonstrated that the Folsom site landscape had undergone considerable geological alteration since late glacial times, and that a thick layer of more-recent sediments overlays and masks the former Late Pleistocene landscape. [Figure 1.6] The site's stratigraphy is composed of three discrete formations which include, from top to bottom, the Wildhorse (a relatively thin, recent deposit that is no older than 700 years), the McJunkin (a 2-meter thick Holocene deposit that dates from about 7950-7580 yr BP to 5320-4860 yr BP), and the Folsom (a 2-meter thick Holocene through Late Pleistocene deposit that dates from about 15,150-13,790 yr BP to 10,510- 10,250 yr BP). The bison bones and Folsom artifacts recovered from the site occurred within the middle of three Folsom formation subdivisions, named f2, which was radiocarbon dated to an unhelpfully broad range of about 13,440-13,270 yr BP to 11,720-11,280 yr BP, a span which is about three times the presently known duration of the Folsom complex.

Obtaining a more precise date for of the Folsom-age bone bed within the f2 deposit was partly achieved by modeling the site's topography as it appeared in the Late Pleistocene. [Figure 1.7] Sediment core data collected by the Southern Methodist University researchers indicated that a high bedrock wall lines the southern margin of Wild Horse Arroyo on both sides of the site, but not at the site proper, where there exists a gap. This gap was apparently created by an ancient north-flowing, two-pronged tributary (termed the "paleotributary" by Meltzer) whose channel contained a large portion of the bison bone bed and was surrounded by higher ground on both its west and east sides. This site configuration would have been well-suited for hunting, as bison attempting to avoid hunters by fleeing into the lower ground of the present-day arroyo (a former, ancestral valley termed the "paleovalley"), and possibly even being trapped there, would have presented themselves as easier prey for hunters positioned on the surrounding higher ground. [Figure 1.8] The radiocarbon dates from the two site areas, however, were problematically discrepant.

Twenty-four radiocarbon samples, six of which were run directly on bison bones, were employed to refine the chronology of the site's Folsom material. The eighteen dates obtained from charcoal within the f2 sediment package appeared to indicate that deposition began and ended earlier in the paleovalley, which was determined to be significantly older than the paleotributary, and that the two portions of the site shared only a 500-year overlapping interval. As no excavators have identified cultural features (such as fire pits) apart from the bone deposit and the dated charcoal was from naturally occurring fires over a very broad time range, the Southern Methodist University research team employed advanced radiocarbon dating techniques to process the organic fractions of six bison bone samples, three from each site area. The results from across the site proved to be statistically undistinguishable and produced a mean age of about 12,540-12,400 yr BP for the Folsom bison kill, which places it in the virtual midpoint of the age range obtained for the entire extent of the Folsom formation at the site.

The Southern Methodist University research concluded that the bison kill was a single autumn event that took at least thirty-two individual animals in both the paleotributary and paleovalley portions of the site, distributing several thousand bones across a well-defined archaeological surface. The animals clearly did not die a natural death, as the herd appears to have been relatively healthy and free from animal predation, but unequivocally showed signs of being hunted (the presence of a large number of projectile points) and butchered (dismemberment and the presence of occasional cutmarks). [Figure 1.9] Moreover, the specific bison bones recovered (and hence, discarded on site) consisted mainly of so-called low-utility skeletal elements such as lower limbs, mandibles, and crania. High-utility elements such as ribs, vertebrae, and upper limbs were for the most part removed from the site and transported to an unknown location.

The small assemblage from the site is composed entirely of flaked stone artifacts and dominated by the eponymous Folsom projectile point, the vast majority of which appear to have been broken as a consequence of the hunt. [Figure 1.10] The entire artifact count from all excavation seasons at the site stands at twenty-eight projectile points, though obviously more may have been recovered over the decades in which the site remained open, along with several flake tools and a quartzite skinning knife. While the raw material source for the quartzite knife is unknown, the stone employed in the manufacture of the site's Folsom points--mostly Alibates agatized dolomite and Tecovas jasper from the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle--appears to have been obtained from at least five discrete sources that are encompassed by an area of about 90,000 square kilometers. This mix of lithic raw material is not unusual for a Folsom complex assemblage, and the narrow array of artifact forms is typical of kill localities. The lack of fire pits or other cultural features clearly suggests that prolonged residential or domestic activity did not occur at the site. There probably was a nearby camp, as it would have taken the hunting party several days to process the remains of over thirty bison. To date, however, such a locality has not been found despite considerable efforts to locate one. [Figure 1.11]

Prior to the Folsom discovery, an indomitable consensus had held that human occupation of the Americas was quite recent, certainly occurring during Holocene times, and all claims for Pleistocene antiquity were met with withering criticism and denunciations from an uncompromising scholarly elite. In the absence of rigorous field methods, modern dating techniques, and later twentieth century refinements in geologic science, the fortuitous discovery of a Folsom point embedded in the ribs of an extinct Pleistocene species proved that antiquity beyond all doubt.



Landfall at Guanahani
From Where Did They Come?
How Did They Get Here?
When Did They Get Here?
What Were They Doing?



    1. Folsom, New Mexico
    2. Blackwater Draw, New Mexico
    3. Lehner, Murray Springs, and Naco, Arizona
    4. Shoop, Pennsylvania
    5. Shawnee-Minisink, Pennsylvania
    6. Kimmswick Bone Bed, Missouri
    7. Bonfire Shelter, Texas
    8. Central Alaska (Broken Mammoth, Dry Creek, Swan Point, and Walker Road), Alaska
    9. El Fin del Mundo, Mexico


    10. Old Crow, Yukon, Canada
    11. Calico Mountain, California
    12. Pendejo Cave, New Mexico
    13. Tule Springs, Nevada
    14. Pedra Furada, Piauí, Brazil


    15. Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Pennsylvania
    16. Monte Verde, Llanquihue, Chile
    17. Cactus Hill, Virginia
    18. Paisley Five Mile Point Caves, Oregon
    19. Schaefer and Hebior Mammoth, Wisconsin
    20. Buttermilk Creek, Texas (Debra L. Friedkin and Gault)


    21. Topper, South Carolina
    22. Saltville, Virginia
    23. Taima-taima, Venezuela, and Tibitó, Columbia
    24. Bluefish Caves, Yukon, Canada

Radiocarbon Dating
Part One and Coda Notes
Sources for Part Two Site Entries

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