Fall 2014 Is It Really Pre-Clovis? By Julian Smith

The first prehistoric artifacts at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter site in southwestern Pennsylvania turned up in a groundhog burrow in 1955. When Jim Adovasio began his decades-long investigation of the site in 1973, his team worked with much greater care. “What we were trying to do from the beginning was excavate more carefully than any closed site [i.e. cave] had been on the planet,” he said.

It’s fortunate they did, because radiocarbon dates eventually showed the site was occupied 16,000 years ago, well before the start of the Clovis era, which was once widely considered the earliest human occupation of the Americas. As data from Meadowcroft began to be published in the 1970s and ‘80s, it fueled a burning debate over when the first people arrived in the New World.

The idea that people first entered the New World roughly 13,000 years ago by way of an ice-free route between Siberia and Alaska held sway for much of the 20th century. In recent decades, though, a series of findings throughout the Americas has cast doubt on the “Clovis First” model. Sites from Oregon to Chile have produced radiocarbon dates that are older—in some cases by thousands of years—than the Clovis period.

While little of this evidence has gone unchallenged, the idea of pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas has gained widespread acceptance in the scientific community. At the same time, although many sites are said to be of pre-Clovis age, only a few of them are considered to be legitimate by many experts. This raises the question of how pre-Clovis sites achieve acceptance, or don’t, in the archaeological community. Why does one site make the grade while another doesn’t, even though both were investigated by professional archaeologists?


  1. This read like the abstract of a great article, but ends right before the really interesting part. I’d be really interested in reading an article that explores the factors behind the debate on the legitimacy of these Pre-Clovis sites.

  2. I am a new member and I am an avid history nut. I recently found your site and donated to it. Being of Native American, Welch and Scottish ancestry. The history of the Native People interest me deeply. Of course I believe that people were in the Americas long before 13,000 years ago.
    I have my families’s history back to about the mid 1600’s and it is well documented. but I often wonder where my Cherokee ancestors came from, paintings in some of our local art museums from the 1600’s show very different facial features of eastern tribes than those of the western native.
    Also the legends of the Moon Eyed People intrigue me, I wonder if they really existed? They are often spoke of in the Cherokee and Creek legends.
    I have visited many of the archaeological sights in Belize, New Mexico, Colorado etc.
    Thanks so much for sharing this information.

    • Hi Bill,
      Thank you for sharing with us, and thank you for becoming a member! We are glad to have you join us! Great to hear your like the new website and the articles, news and features :). Learning history can be such an exciting undertaking.
      All the Best,
      Dawn and The Archaeological Conservancy

  3. OK Julian Smith;;; looks like the Clovis crowd just does not like the new older ge dates knocking back the Clovis Club by few and more than several thousands of years. Ever heard of an issue called EGO?

  4. I just want to start by saying I totally agree with term Pre-Clovis era.By saying that I have one of the largest type sites in north America,from evidence I have personally gathered,and studied for over two years daily it seems to be so,by way of comparison of other claimed sites.So far it covers around six or seven hundred acres,and growing.need help.please respond.

    • Hi Shannon,

      We would love to talk with you regarding your site. Are you interested in site preservation? In what state are you located? We would be happy to have one of our regional directors get in contact with you, if we know what area of the country you are in.
      All the Best,
      Dawn and TAC

      • Are you a qualified? archaeologist? Degree holder of some type? And this Shannon Outlaw? Also qualified Archaeologist? So what is this do not reply email address? Why is this message coming to me out of the Blue? I have never really had direct contact with you 2. Have I? But I agree that there are probably many pre-Clovis sites in N. America and S. America; only the Clovis types do not wish to admit to this type of information. Did you people attend the 2013 Oct. Paleo America Conference in Santa Fe N.M.?


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