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New Perspectives on the Clovis vs. Pre-Clovis Controversy

  • David S. Whitley (a1) and Ronald I. Dorn (a2)


We consider the Clovis vs. pre-Clovis debate from three perspectives: migration models; petroglyph and surface-artifact ages; and scientific method. First, we test the hypothesis that a Clovis migration can account for the temporal and spatial distribution of South American Paleoindian sites “accepted” by Clovis-first advocates. Using a Clovis-first model, site ages are underpredicted by approximately 1,500 years, suggesting that the Clovis hypothesis cannot be reconciled with accepted empirical data. Second, we present North American accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C minimum-limiting ages from petroglyphs and surface artifacts that demonstrate continued support for a pre-Clovis occupation of the dryland west, as well as a Beringian entry into the hemisphere. Third, the debate has been confounded by a widespread misstatement of the problem. Though Clovis occupation is a “solved” issue, the competing hypotheses are whether the first migration was Clovis or pre-Clovis; the presence of Clovis sites is simply a necessary prediction of both migration theories. The empirical implications of the Clovis-first hypothesis are virtually untested. Scientifically evaluating the first peopling controversy requires scrutinizing the empirical test implications and logical coherency of both competing hypotheses.


En este artículo consideramos el debate clovis vs. pre-clovis desde tres perspectivas: migración, edad de los artefactos de superficie, y método científico. Primero, a pesar de que la opinion general sostiene que las poblaciones clovis estuvieron presentes en Norte América, nosotros examinamos la hipótesis de que una migración clovis podría explicar la distribución espacial y temporal de los sitios Paleoindios aceptados. El modelo “clovis primero” estima que las edades de los sitios son 1.500 años más tempranas, lo cual sugiere que las poblaciones clovis no pudieron haber ocupado inclusive aquellos sitios Paleoindios sudamericanos que han sido aceptados por los defensores de “clovis primero.” Segundo, presentamos una serie de fechas de AMS 14C límite mínimo, extraídas de petroglifos y artefactos superficiales que sugieren una ocupación pre-clovis en las tierras áridas del oeste norteamericano, así como una entrada en este hemisferio a través del Estrecho de Beringe. Tercero, este debate ha sido complicado por una distorsión generalizada del problema. Aunque la ocupación clovis es un tópico “resuelto” las hipótesis contrarias discuten si la primera migración fue clovis o pre-clovis; la presencia de sitios clovis es simplemente una predicción necesaria en ambas teorías de migración. Las implicaciones empíricas de “clovis primero” no han sido examinadas. La evaluación científica de la controversia de la primera población requiere un escrutinio de las implicaciones empíricas y coherencia lógica de estas hipótesis contrarias.



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New Perspectives on the Clovis vs. Pre-Clovis Controversy

  • David S. Whitley (a1) and Ronald I. Dorn (a2)


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