In Clovis, New Mexico, evidence of North American human settlements has been dated to be 11,500 years old. This is due to fluted projectile points that were located in the region, formed as though they could be added to a wooden spear. These projectile points are identified with small groups of people who spread across the continent, forming what would be called the Clovis culture.
The Clovis first theory says that it is this activity that pre-dates any other human civilization activity on the continent. This is despite the fact that there is evidence from Meadowcroft that suggests there was human activities as far back as 19,000 years ago. Artifacts found in southern Chile at Monte Verde are believed to predate Clovis by 1,000 years as well.
Why Is the Clovis First Theory Important?
There is such an orthodoxy with the Clovis points because the theory helps to support the believed planetary conditions which existed at the time. It is believed that humans could not have made their way into North America before the time of the Clovis civilizations because their way would have been blocked by glacial ice. About 13,000 years ago, it is believed that a vast corridor of ice ran down through Canada and into large portions of the United States.
This creates a “house of cards” that relies on two ideas: the corridor of ice had to recede just before the Clovis civilizations and the Clovis civilizations had to exist just as the corridor of ice receded.
This theory was considered to be the accepted idea of human origin on the continent from around 1900 until the late 1960s. This is despite the fact that only Clovis points and one infant, given the name Anzick-1, were discovered as support for this initial finding.
Yet DNA analysis may actually prove that the Clovis first theory was incorrect.
What Anzick-1 Taught Us Thousands of Years After Death
When the skeletal remains of this young child were located, researchers analyzed the nuclear DNA that is located in the nucleus of every cell. Each child inherits half of their nuclear DNA from each parent. Mutations also occur during this process; which future generations then inherit as well. Different cultures, peoples, and tribes have mutations occur at different rates. This allows researchers to determine population histories, comparing mutation histories.
After researches sequences and then analyzed the genome of Anzick-1, it was compared to over 50 Native American/First Nation genomes. Then it was compared to Eurasian genomes. Researchers saw a greater similarity in the Native populations.
Then this information was compared to specific population groups. When the samples were compared to Central and South American tribal groups, the genome was much closer to those then they were to the 7 North American populations – though it should be noted that not every tribe chose to participate.
This would indicate that the Clovis first theory is actually reversed. Instead of civilizations forming due to the ice corridors receding in North America and then spreading outward, the civilizations actually came from the south. People migrated north as the climate changed, allowing for the distribution of the Clovis points that have been consistently found.
Could Human Populations Have Come from Siberia?
The mitochondrial DNA of Anzick-1 was also analyzed and researchers found that it belonged to a haplogroup designated as D4h3a. This haplogroup is believed to have taking an early coastal migration route and may have originated in Siberia. These are genes that are rarely found in North American tribal groups, but are extremely common in South American tribal groups.
This does not change the implication of a large ice sheet covering the North American continent. It does change how humans adapted to that environment and where they traveled in order to make a life for themselves.
The Clovis first theory does have some validity in the fact that at some point, tribal communities stopped in the area and created a settlement. What we know is that they may have come from the south or they may have come from Siberia, traveling over glacial ice in order to reach a land that could support life.
It also means that through genetic research, other theories also have some validity in addition to the Clovis theory. Some mitochondrial DNA evidence points to European cultures contributing to the Native American/First Nation cultures. The Beringia Hypothesis, which uses the idea of a land bridge or an ice bridge across the Bering Strait, also has genetic evidence.
So the more we have learned, the more questions we actually have.