More on that Clovis-Mammoth Discussion

In my previous post, Mapping Clovis Man vs Mammoths – Just Asking, I’d asked about the apparent blind spot in Clovis-Mammoth studies.  The maps there showed Clovis artifacts VERY predominantly in the Eastern USA, yet amazingly, the only “Clovis sites” chosen for study in Waguespack & Surovell 2003 were sites specifically showing mammoth kills.

Later, in Surovell & Waguespack 2007, the authors say

Using the most lenient and problematic standard of Proboscidean use, simple presence in zooarcheological assemblages, we previously estimated that at least 91 individual mammoths and mastodons are known from a total of 26 Clovis sites (Waguespack and Surovell, 2003, Table 2). Based on available data, no other taxon is present in as many sites or is represented by as many individuals.

My initial problem here has to be their amazing definition of a “Clovis site.” Here, is a different map of artifacts in the USA:


Now, when we read about the Leakeys finding pre-human artifacts in the Olduvai Gorge, the places they are found are normally called “sites” or “digs”. Now maybe Surovell defines sites as some activity, not just a Clovis point.  I would heartily disagree.  But let’s not quibble too much, because we don’t have to.  Look at the map of Clovis artifacts here.  Let’s also assume that the website’s authors weren’t stupid enough to just make that map up out of their imaginations.  If we go with Surovell’s idea of a “site”, then a stray Clovis point may have been dropped somewhere along a trail, not at a campsite.  Still, in a world where all travel is on foot, that dropped point is not going to be more than 20 miles from whatever campsites might be used.  By point population alone, it is clear from the map that the careless Clovis hunters were hunting in the regions shown – in both the East and the West.

Going back to the previous post, it is clear that if no mammoth kills were done (or at least so far none found) in the East, then those Clovis hunters were hunting something other than mammoths.  If another conclusion can be arrived at, it escapes me.

While my POV is that I think the Clovis-as-mammoth-only-consumer is dead wrong, I am trying here to give them a little rope with which to hang themselves, and I think they are doing a good job of it.  If something here cam convince me in the slightest that they aren’t cherry picking when they ONLY choose mamoth kill sites and then say, like Surovell does,

Based on available data, no other taxon is present in as many sites or is represented by as many individuals. These findings suggested that Proboscideans were utilized more frequently than other types of prey.

Well, NO WONDER!!!  They only ALLOW into their studies the actual mammoth kill sites in the West and upper Midwest, and ignore all the other Clovis regions. Surovell admits it plainly

…we previously estimated that at least 91 individual mammoths and mastodons are known from a total of 26 Clovis sites…

…and then you see his map, and it includes NO sites from the SE USA.


And NOW, we go to a different aspect altogether.  Overstreet and Kolb, 2003 is entitled “Geoarchaeological contexts for Late Pleistocene archaeological sites with humna-modified wooly mammoth remains in southeastern Wisconsin, USA.”  It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?  At the link all we have is the Abstract (paywalled), which reads in part:

This paper defines the geomorphic and stratigraphic contexts, and site formation processes for the Hebior and Schaefer woolly mammoths in southeastern Wisconsin. Both mammoths were butchered, and there are artifacts associated with the faunal remains. Radiocarbon ages obtained from purified mammoth bone collagen range between 12,200 and 12,600 yr B.P. for the Schaefer and Hebior mammoths and between 13,440 and 13,510 yr B.P. for the nearby Mud Lake and Fenske mammoths. These ages indicate human use of an ice marginal landscape 1000–2000 years before human–mammoth interaction in the American southwest. They also indicate these sites are pre-Clovis in age and may be associated with the recently defined non-Clovis Paleoindian variant called the Chesrow complex. [emphasis added]

The best I can interpolate on the IntCal13 latest graph is that the 13,440-13,510 yr BP (uncalibrated) comes out to ~16,190-16,270 cal yr. [my interpolation]

The 12,200-12,600 yr BP (uncalibrated) comes out to 14,110-15,000 cal yr.  [my interpolation]

Since Clovis Man dates to 13,500 cal yr., that means that Clovis was not the one and only mammoth hunter, nor was Clovis Man the first mammoth hunter. And it also means that mammoths were hunted and butchered using other technology than the fluted Clovis points.  Don’t credit me; credit Overstreet and Kolb (if not someone before them).

BOTH these are significant realizations, though.  The period for hunting mammoths i now extended to about 16,230 cal yr. – a good 2,700 years before Clovis points first made their mark.  For at least SOME perspective, 2,700 years from the present is about 250 years BEFORE PLATO.  With the mammoth hunting period extended from about 700 years to about 3400 total years, the Overkill hypothesis gets a new lease on life – 5 times as long to find and kill them all.

But it STILL wasn’t enough.  Not enough hunters and too much territory to cover.  N America is about 8 million square miles.  Look at where Clovis points have been found (above).  A few GAPS, aren’t there?  Mammoths were found WAY down in S Central Mexico, and in the upper Midwest, and down in Florida. Those are a lot of very different ecologies – high plains, close to the ice sheet, and down in Florida, whatever that climate as then.  Pretty adaptable, mammoths were.  So they must have lived in between, too.  And lots of corners, too.  Surovell points out that there really are only FOURTEEN clear Clovis mammoth kill sites.  Extrapolating from THAT to the hypothesis that ALL mammoths were killed by the people who worked those 14 sites – that is what is called an “extraordinary claim.”

Extraordinary claims DO require extraordinary proof.  That was what was claimed back in the 1930s, and no one then stepped up and asked for such proof.  (Shame on them!)  So the extraordinary claim somehow was re-framed to be the consensus (and WAS, for 75 years!) – the status quo.

<b>With only 14 sites and 91 kills in a continent of 8 million square miles, that extraordinary claim seems pretty DAMNED extraordinary, doesn’t it?</b>

SIBERIA (just for a moment)

Now NONE of this connects with Siberia – where we have been told so many times that the “First Americans” came from.  NO search in Siberia for Clovis-style tools has ever turned up ANYTHING like them.  And WAY more mammoths died in extreme northern Siberia than in N America.  And the last of them died out at the same time – EVEN WITHOUT CLOVIS MAN AROUND.

Think about THAT!

But that is for another post someday…


2 responses to “More on that Clovis-Mammoth Discussion

  1. This caught my attention.

    Because the site is about 20 miles away from where I grew up.

    The Thunderbird Archaeological District, said to be Clovis, is actually about a mile from where I grew up and near where I played as a child.

    So here’s an odd fact. Concentric stone circles for astronomical purposes in the UK and in Virginia at a Clovis site.

  2. Trent Telenko


    Science mag link and abstract below —


    Because of differences in craniofacial morphology and dentition between the earliest American skeletons and modern Native Americans, separate origins have been postulated for them, despite genetic evidence to the contrary. We describe a near-complete human skeleton with an intact cranium and preserved DNA found with extinct fauna in a submerged cave on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This skeleton dates to between 13,000 and 12,000 calendar years ago and has Paleoamerican craniofacial characteristics and a Beringian-derived mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup (D1). Thus, the differences between Paleoamericans and Native Americans probably resulted from in situ evolution rather than separate ancestry.

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