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The Antiquity of Man in South America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Thomas F. Lynch*
Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850 USA.


The initial peopling of South America is reviewed in terms of geochronological and archaeological data. The problem is put in historical perspective and a systematic evaluation is made of the latest typologically oriented arguments for the presence of preprojectile point complexes. Field evidence is very weak for early Biface and Chopper traditions. There is better support for an early Flake tradition, but it is not likely to precede the use of stone projectile points.

Radiocarbon dates and “terrace dating” should be used only with great caution and careful attention to the nature of cultural and stratigraphic associations. Uncritical acceptance of determinations on bone and soil samples has led to extremely problematic cultural reconstructions. Emphasis on stratified sites with finished artifacts, faunal assocations, and charcoal dates leads to a reconstruction at odds with those presented in recent textbooks. It is concluded that the bulk of solid evidence favors the entry of man as a big game hunter using stone projectile points and having an adaptation much like that of the Paleo-Indians of North America.

Original Articles
University of Washington

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