Monte Verde

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This article is about the site in Chile. For the mountain in Brazil, see Mantiqueira Mountains.
The proposed coastal migration route to the Monte Verde site

Monte Verde is an archaeological site in southern Chile, located near Puerto Montt, Southern Chile, which has been dated to 14,800 years BP.[1] This dating adds to the evidence showing that the human settlement of the Americas pre-dates the Clovis culture by roughly 1000 years. This contradicts the previously accepted "Clovis first" model which holds that settlement of the Americas began after 13,500 BP. The Monte Verde findings were initially dismissed by most of the scientific community, but in recent years the evidence has become more widely accepted in some archaeological circles,[1][2] although vocal "Clovis First" advocates remain.[3] Coastal migration is a widely accepted model explaining the inhabitance of Monte Verde. Archaeological evidence shows that people arrived at Monte Verde about 1,800 years before the time that the Bering Land Bridge between Alaska and Siberia would have become impassable in 13,000 BP. This leaves traveling down the western coast of the Americas as the most plausible explanation for the earliest inhabitants of Chile. Paleoecological evidence of the coastal landscape's ability to sustain human life further supports this model.[4] However, no archaeological evidence has been found of pre-Clovis humans using a coastal migration route.[5]

History[edit]

Discovery[edit]

The site was discovered in late 1975 when a veterinary student visited the area of Monte Verde, where severe erosion was occurring due to logging. The student was shown a strange "cow bone" collected by nearby campesinos who had found it exposed in the eroded Chinchihuapi Creek. The bone later proved to be from a mastodon. Tom Dillehay, an American anthropologist and professor at the Universidad Austral de Chile at the time, started excavating Monte Verde in 1977.[6]

The site is situated on the banks of Chinchihuapi Creek, a tributary of the Maullín River located 36 miles (58 km) from the Pacific Ocean. One of the rare open-air prehistoric sites found so far in the Americas, Monte Verde was well preserved because it was located in an anaerobic bog environment near the creek. A short time after the site was originally occupied, the waters of the creek rose and a peat-filled bog formed that inhibited the bacterial decay of organic material and preserved many perishable artifacts and other items for millennia.

Radiocarbon dating of bones and charcoal in 1982 gave the site an average age of 14,800 years ago (calibrated), over 1000 years earlier than the oldest known site of human habitation in the Americas at that time.[1][7][8]

In the initial excavation, two large hearths were found and many small ones as well. The remains of local animals were found, in addition to wooden posts from approximately twelve huts. This led archaeologists to assume the population was around 20-30 inhabitants. A human footprint was also found in the clay, probably from a child. Inside the camp, archaeologists found a chunk of meat that still had preserved DNA. After a DNA analysis, it matched that of a mastodon, indicating the type of food the inhabitants ate.[9]

Later, in 2007, Monte Verde would be associated with a close and new archaeological site known as Pilauco Bajo, postulating that both sites would be complementary – Monte Verde which would be a habitation site, and Pilauco Bajo which would be a hunting and scavenging site.[10]

Acceptance[edit]

The early date for the site was not widely accepted until 1997. It had hitherto been generally agreed that ancient people had entered the Americas using the Bering Strait Land Bridge, which was about 8,000 miles north of the Monte Verde site. A group of 12 respected archaeologists revisited the site in 1997 and concluded that Monte Verde was an inhabited site and predated the Clovis culture. One of Dillehay’s colleagues, Dr. Mario Pino, claimed a lower layer of the site is actually 33,000 years old based on the discovery of burned wood several hundred feet to the south of Monte Verde, which after radiocarbon dating was found to be 33,000 years old.[11] Dillehay himself was cautious of this earlier date[12] and as of 2007 it has not been verified nor accepted by the scientific community.[13]

Interpretations[edit]

Material evidence gathered at Monte Verde has reshaped the way archaeologists think about the earliest inhabitants of the Americas. Radiocarbon dating has provided a date of 14,800 BC and possibly 33,000 BC, establishing Monte Verde as the oldest known site of human habitation in the Americas.[14] Previously, the earliest accepted site had been determined to be near Clovis, New Mexico, dating between 13,500-13,000 BP, over 1,000 years later than Monte Verde.[15][16]

The new dates supplied by Monte Verde have made the site a key factor in the debate over the first migration route from Asia to North America. Before the discovery of Monte Verde, the most popular and widely accepted theory was the overland route, which speculates that the first American inhabitants migrated from Asia across the Bering Strait and then spread throughout North America. However, the early dates associated with Monte Verde work to disprove this theory. Prior to 13,000 BP, the Cordilleran Glacier (which covered much of present-day Canada) had not yet melted enough to reveal an ice-free corridor for people to reasonably journey by foot. The Monte Verde radiocarbon dates precede 13,000 BP, despite the fact that before the glacial melt, the vast, desolate, icy landscape of much of the Americas could not possibly have permitted enough vegetation to sustain traveling people or herded animals.[16][17]

The most prevalent theory today is the coastal migration hypothesis, which argues that people migrated from Asia down along the western coasts of North and South America.[18] Monte Verde is located 8,000 miles south of the Bering Strait. Such a considerable distance was probably unreasonable to trek by foot, especially on ice.[19] Furthermore, remains of 22 varieties of seaweed are referenced in regards to this theory. Modern native inhabitants of the regions use these particular local seaweed varieties for medicinal purposes. Using an ethnographic analogy, this suggests that the Monte Verde residents used these varieties for similar purposes, which further suggests an extensive knowledge of marine resources.[20][21] This in conjunction with a relative lack of stone tools suggests that these first settlers were maritime-adapted hunter-gatherer-fishermen, and not necessarily big-game hunters like the Clovis. Therefore, it is feasible that they traveled along the coast by boat or along the shoreline, and could survive on marine resources throughout the voyage south.[22][23]

The existence of other possible sites is supported by the presence of non-local items at Monte Verde such as plants, beach-rolled pebbles, quartz, and tar, indicating possible trade networks.[24]

Stratigraphy[edit]

The Monte Verde site has two distinct levels. The upper level, MV-II, has been extensively characterized. Its occupation is reliably dated to 14,800 – 13,800 BP.[20]

The lower level, MV-I, is less well understood. It "was more ephemeral and came from ancient river sediments. Dillehay found charcoal scatters which may be the remnants of fireplaces next to possible stone and wood artifacts, and these were dated to at least 33,000BP."[25] He acknowledges MV-I has "problems such as dubious human artifacts, questionable radiocarbon dates, or unreliable geological contexts"[26] and hesitates "to accept this older level without more evidence and without sites of comparable age elsewhere in the Americas".[27]

Monte Verde Level II (MV-II)[edit]

According to Dillehay and his team, Monte Verde II was occupied around 14,800 – 13,800 BP by about twenty to thirty people. A twenty-foot-long tent-like structure of wood and animal hides was erected on the banks of the creek and was framed with logs and planks staked in the ground, making walls of poles covered with animal hides. Using ropes made of local reeds, the hides were tied to the poles creating separate living quarters within the main structure. Outside the tent-like structure, two large hearths had been built for community usage, most probably for tool making and craftwork.

Each of the living quarters had a brazier pit lined with clay. Around those hearths, many stone tools and remnants of spilled seeds, nuts, and berries were found. A 13,000-yr-old specimen of the wild potato, Solanum maglia, was also found at the site; these remains, the oldest on record for any species of potato, wild or cultivated, suggest that southern Chile was one of the two main centres for the evolution of Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, the common potato.[28] Remains of forty-five different edible plant species were found within the site, over a fifth of them originating from up to 150 miles (240 km) away. This suggested that the people of Monte Verde either had trade routes or traveled regularly in this extended network.

Other important finds from this site include human coprolites, a footprint, assumed to have been made by a child, stone tools, and cordage. The date for this site was obtained by Dr. Dillehay with the use of radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone found within the site.

In the May 9, 2008 issue of Science, a team reported that they identified nine species of seaweed and marine algae recovered from hearths and other areas in the ancient settlement. The seaweed samples were directly dated between 14,220 to 13,980 years ago, confirming that MV-II was occupied more than 1,000 years earlier than any other reliably dated human settlements in the Americas.[20][29]

A portrayal of living structures at Monte Verde

Comparison to other early Americas sites[edit]

MV-I has been reportedly radiocarbon dated to 33,000 years before present,[30][31] but like other sites with reported extremely early dates such as the Topper site in South Carolina, this deeper layer find remains controversial.

The only human settlement site in Southern Chile of comparable age to Monte Verde is Pilauco Bajo dated to 12,500–11,000 years before present.[32] Further south lies the Pali Aike Crater lava tube dated to 14,000–10,000 years before present.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Monte Verde Archaeological Site". Tentative List of Properties of Outstanding Universal Value. World Heritage - United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Ancient seaweed chews confirm age of Chilean site". Reuters. 2008-05-08. 
  3. ^ Dillehay TD et al. "On Monte Verde: Fiedel's Confusions and Misrepresentations". University of Kentucky. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  4. ^ Mandryk, C. A. S.; Josenhans, H.; Fedje, D. W.; Mathewes, R. W. (2001). "Late Quaternary paleoenvironments of Northwestern North America: Implications for inland versus coastal migration routes". Quaternary Science Reviews 20: 301. doi:10.1016/S0277-3791(00)00115-3.  edit
  5. ^ Meltzer, David J. First Peoples in a New World Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009, pp. 129-130
  6. ^ "CHILEAN SITE VERIFIED AS EARLIEST HABITATION OF AMERICAS; FINDINGS SHOW MONTE VERDE DATES BACK 12,500 YEARS". National Geographic. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Monte Verde Excavations To Resume." Archaeology Magazine. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <http://www.archaeology.org/online/news/verde.html>.
  8. ^ R. E. Taylor, C. Vance Haynes Jr., Donna L. Kirner and John R. Southon (July 1999). "Radiocarbon Analyses of Modern Organics at Monte Verde, Chile: No Evidence for a Local Reservoir Effect". American Antiquity (Society for American Archaeology) 64 (3): 455–460. JSTOR 2694145. 
  9. ^ http://www.unl.edu/rhames/monte_verde/MonteVerde.htm
  10. ^ Diario austral Osorno.com.pe, Página 14 del dia 23 de Enero de 2008 (Spanish).[dead link]
  11. ^ http://www.archaeology.org/online/news/verde.html
  12. ^ http://www.unl.edu/rhames/monte_verde/monte_verde1.htm
  13. ^ Waguespack, Nicole M. (2007). "Why We're Still Arguing About the Pleistocene Occupation of the Americas". Evolutionary Anthropology 16: 63–74. doi:10.1002/evan.20124. 
  14. ^ Collins, Michael, and Tom Dillehay. "Early cultural evidence from Monte Verde in Chile." Nature. 332. (1988): 150-152. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v332/n6160/abs/332150a0.html>
  15. ^ Wilford, John. "Chilean Field Yields New Clues to Peopling of Americas." New York Times 25 Aug 1998, n. pag. Print.
  16. ^ a b Rose, Mark. "The Importance of Monte Verde."Archaeology. 18 Oct 1999: n. page. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.
  17. ^ Wayman, Erin. "Seaweed confirms Monte Verde dates, but also migration patterns?." Geotimes. Jul 2008: n. page. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.<http://www.geotimes.org/july08/article.html?id=nn_seaweed.html>.
  18. ^ Surovell, Todd. "Simulating Coastal Migration in New World Colonization." Current Anthropology. 44.4 (2003): 580-589. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.<http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/surovell/pdfs/coastal%20migration.pdf>.
  19. ^ Dickinson, W.R. 2011. Geological perspectives on the Monte Verde archeological site in Chile and pre-Clovis coastal migration in the Americas. Quaternary Research, 76, pp. 201-210.
  20. ^ a b c Dillehay TD, Ramírez C, Pino M, Collins MB, Rossen J, Pino-Navarro JD (May 9, 2008). "Monte Verde: seaweed, food, medicine, and the peopling of South America". Science 320 (5877): 784–6. doi:10.1126/science.1156533. PMID 18467586. 
  21. ^ "Monte Verde, Chile." Native Peoples of North America. Cabrillo Anthropology Department, 18 Feb 2000. Web. 8 Dec 2011.<http://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/mverde.html>.
  22. ^ Dixon, E.J. 2001. Human colonization of the Americas: timing, technology and process. Quaternary Science Reviews, 20, pp. 277–299.
  23. ^ "Monte Verde Excavation: or Clovis Police Beat a Retreat ." Cabrillo Anthropology Department, n.d. Web. 26 Nov 2011.
  24. ^ "Monte Verde, Chile." Native Peoples of North America. Cabrillo Anthropology Department, 18 Feb 2000. Web. 8 Dec 2011.<http://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/mverde.html>.
  25. ^ Mithen, S. After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC. Orion Books, 2003. ISBN 0-7538-1392-0.
  26. ^ Dillehay, Tom D. (11 May 1999). "The Late Pleistocene Cultures of South America". Evolutionary Anthropology 7 (6): 206–216. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1999)7:6<206::AID-EVAN5>3.0.CO;2-G. 
  27. ^ Dillehay, Tom D. (2000). The settlement of the Americas: a new prehistory. Basic Books. p. 167. 
  28. ^ Donald Ugent, Tom Dillehay, and Carlos Ramirez, Potato remains from a late pleistocene settlement in southcentral Chile, Economic Botany, 41(1), 17-27, January 1987
  29. ^ Salisbury, David F. "New Evidence About Earliest Americans Supports Coastal Migration Theory". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  30. ^ Tom D. Dillehay and Michael B. Collins. "Early cultural evidence from Monte Verde in Chile". Nature.com. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  31. ^ Wilford, John Noble. "Chilean Field Yields New Clues to Peopling of Americas". New York Times. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  32. ^ Pino, Mario; Chávez-Hoffmeister, Martín; Navarro-Harris, Ximena; Labarca, Rafael (2013), "The late Pleistocene Pilauco site, Osorno, south-central Chile", Quaternary International, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.05.001 
  33. ^ Hogan, C. Michael. "Pali Aike Cave or Rock Shelter". Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°30′17″S 73°12′16″W / 41.50472°S 73.20444°W / -41.50472; -73.20444