Archaeologists stunned by theory that prehistoric Europeans arrived in Americas | Science | News

The most widely accepted theory goes that the peopling of the Americas began during the Paleolithic period when hunter-gatherers entered North America from Siberia.

Proponents of this argument say they travelled across the Bering Sea which was at that time a land bridge, its waters having receded because of the Ice Age.

These people came into what is today known as Alaska and, over thousands of years, spread down and throughout the entirety of the Americas.

There is, however, another altogether more controversial theory that places the people who reached the Americas not from Siberia but from Europe.

The Solutrean hypothesis insists that these ancient people travelled along pack ice in the Atlantic Ocean on primitive boats, and claims to have the evidence to prove it.

According to the hypothesis, 21,000 years ago, a group of people from the Solutré region of France, a group known for their unique toolmaking technique.

Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford, the modern-day proponents of the hypothesis, say once these European people made it to North America, their toolmaking method made its way around the continent and provided the basis for the spread of Clovis toolmaking technology, found all around the continent.

This is the premise in which the hypothesis is surrounded: that Clovis and Solutrean technologies are strikingly similar and potential evidence that the former came from the latter.

Originally proposed in the 1970s, it didn’t become really popular until the 2010s, when Stanford of the Smithsonian Institute and Bradley of the University of Exeter came across it.

Solutrean culture comes from present-day France, Spain, and Portugal, and has been dated to between 17,000 and 21,000 years ago.

Their tools and Clovis tools found in the likes of New Mexico share common features. Their pointed tops are thin and bifacial, and both use the “outrepassé”, or overshot flaking technique. This particular technique reduces the thickness of a biface without reducing its width.

Supporters further point to the presence of a specific type of DNA — haplogroup X2 — shared by those in Europe and those in North America, though this line of argument has been contended with some experts pointing to the fact that it was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population not from Europe.

Other arguments dismiss the hypothesis, including from one scientist who has described it is “scientifically implausible”.

Jennifer Raff, a geneticist, writing for The Guardian in 2018, said it “suggests a European origin for the peoples who made the Clovis tools, the first recognised stone tool tradition in the Americas”.

She continued: “In addition to the scientific problems with the Solutrean hypothesis which I’ll discuss shortly, it’s important to note that it has overt political and cultural implications in denying that Native Americans are the only indigenous peoples of the continents.

“Indeed, although this particular iteration is new, the idea behind the Solutrean hypothesis is part of a long tradition of Europeans trying to insert themselves into American prehistory; justifying colonialism by claiming that Native Americans were not capable of creating the diverse and sophisticated material culture of the Americas.”

The evidence, she said, further raises eyebrows: “There’s a serious time gap between when the Solutreans could have crossed the Atlantic via the ice bridge (~20,000 years before present (YBP)) and when Clovis tools begin to show up in the archaeological record (~13,000 YBP),” and that, “there is no evidence of boat use or tools used for making boats at Solutrean sites.”


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