The Solutrean hypothesis is an alternative theory about the Settlement of the Americas, according to which peoples from Europe may have been among the earliest settlers of the American continent. The Solutrean hypothesis was first proposed in 1998. Its key proponents include Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution and Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter. The theories that currently are most widely accepted consider the American continent to have been first populated from Asia either via the Bering land bridge or by coastal travel.
According to the Solutrean hypothesis, people associated with the Solutrean culture migrated from Ice Age Europe to North America, bringing their methods of making stone tools with them and providing the basis for the later Clovis technology found throughout North America. The hypothesis rests upon proposed similarities between European Solutrean and Early American Clovis lithic technology. Many archaeologists have criticized the proposed similarities as too insignificant and just as likely to be due to chance as to shared origins. As one has said, "few if any archaeologists -- or, for that matter, geneticists, linguists, or physical anthropologists -- take seriously the idea of a Solutrean colonization of America."
Though the proponents cite recent archaeological findings in support of the theory, the hypothesis has generally not been well received. Two recent DNA studies dismiss the suggestion that mtDNA Haplogroup X2A migrated to the Americas via an Atlantic route.
Solutrean culture was dominant in present-day France and Spain from roughly 21,000 to 17,000 years ago. It was known for its distinctive toolmaking characterized by bifacial, percussion and pressure-flaked points. Traces of the Solutrean tool-making industry disappeared almost completely from Europe around 15,000 years ago, when it was replaced by the stone tools of the Magdalenian culture.
Clovis tools are typified by a distinctive type of spear point, known as the Clovis point. Solutrean and Clovis points share common characteristics: points are thin and bifacial, and they share the intentional use of the "outre passé", or overshot flaking technique, which quickly reduces the thickness of a biface without reducing the width.
The Clovis blade differs from the Solutrean in that some of the former have bi-facial fluting (a long depression that occurs on a point, struck from the basal end of the point; the purpose was to better fit the point onto a spear foreshaft). Clovis tool-making technology seems to appear in the archaeological record in eastern North America roughly 13,500 years ago, and similar predecessors in Asia or Alaska, if they exist, have not been discovered.
Recent supportive archaeological findings 
Stanford and Bradley, in their book "Across Atlantic Ice," make a variety of claims in support of the Solutrean hypothesis. Among these are the connection between the Clovis culture and several artifacts found in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware. In addition, they have been able to carbon-date many new findings from the Delmarva Peninsula in Maryland to between 26000 and 19000 BC, which is contemporary with the period in Europe during which similar artifacts were being made. According to their book, no materials from before 15,000 years ago, of any make or cultural bearing, have been found on the West Coast near where the first Siberian ancestors of American Indians first arrived.
Atlantic crossing 
The hypothesis proposes that Ice Age Europeans could have crossed the North Atlantic along the edge of the pack ice that extended from the Atlantic coast of France to North America during the last glacial maximum. The model envisions these people making the crossing in small watercraft, using skills similar to those of the modern Inuit people, hauling out on ice floes at night, getting fresh water by melting iceberg ice or the first-frozen parts of sea ice, getting food by catching seals and fish, and using seal blubber as heating fuel. Among other evidence backing up this hypothesis is the discovery among the Solutrean toolkit of bone needles, very similar to those traditionally used by the modern-day Inuit. As well as enabling the manufacture of waterproof clothing from animal skins, the technology could, in theory, have been used to construct kayaks from the same animal skins. However, a 2008 study (see below) argues that the conditions were not favorable for such a crossing.
Transitional styles 
Supporters of the hypothesis suggest that stone tools found at Cactus Hill (an early American site in Virginia) indicate a transitional style between the Clovis and Solutrean cultures. Artifacts from this site are estimated to date from 17,000 to 15,000 years ago, although some researchers dispute their definitive age. Other sites that may indicate transitional, pre-Clovis occupation include the Page-Ladson site in Florida and the Meadowcroft rockshelter in Pennsylvania.
Recent genetic research 
An article in the American Journal of Human Genetics by researchers in Brazil argued against the Solutrean hypothesis. "Our results strongly support the hypothesis that haplogroup X, together with the other four main mtDNA haplogroups, was part of the gene pool of a single Native American founding population; therefore they do not support models that propose haplogroup-independent migrations, such as the migration from Europe posed by the Solutrean hypothesis."
In a 2011 article in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers in Italy reported that "Our findings have also a second important implication. Taking into account that C4c is deeply rooted in the Asian portion of the mtDNA phylogeny and is indubitably of Asian origin, a scenario in which C4c and X2a are characterized by parallel genetic histories definitively dismisses the controversial Solutrean hypothesis of an Atlantic glacial entry route into North America for X2a (Stanford and Bradley, 2004; Straus et al., 2005)."
Archaeological and oceanographic challenges to the Solutrean hypothesis 
Arthur J. Jelinek, an anthropologist who noted similarities between Solutrean and Clovis styles in a 1971 study, noted that the great geographical and temporal separation of the two cultures made a direct connection unlikely, since the dates of the proposed transitional sites and the Solutrean period in Europe only overlap at the extremes. He also noted that crossing the Atlantic with the technology of the time would have been difficult, if not impossible, an observation repeated by Lawrence G. Straus, who wrote that "there are no representations of boats and no evidence whatsoever either of seafaring or of the ability to make a living mainly or solely from the ocean during the Solutrean." Straus excavated Solutrean artifacts along what is now a coastline in Cantabria, which was not coastal at the time of the Solutreans, finding seashells and estuarine fish at the sites, but no evidence of exploiting deep sea resources. However, proponents point out that evidence of Solutrean-era seafaring may have been obliterated or buried underwater, as much of the coastlines of western Europe and eastern North America that existed during the Last Glacial Maximum are now submerged.
Another challenge to the hypothesis involves the apparent lack of cultural or artistic practices being passed on from Solutrean culture to Clovis culture, for instance the style of Solutrean artwork found at Altamira in Spain and Lascaux in France. In response, Bradley and Stanford contend that it was "a very specific subset of the Solutrean who formed the parent group that adapted to a maritime environment and eventually made it across the north Atlantic ice-front to colonize the east coast of the Americas" and that this group may not have shared all Solutrean cultural traits. A carved piece of bone depicting a mammoth found near the Vero man site in Florida has been dated to 13,000 to 20,000 years ago. It is described as possibly being the oldest art object yet found in the Americas, and may provide support for the Solutrean hypothesis. Art historian Barbara Olins has compared the Vero mammoth carving to "Franco-Cantabrian" drawings and engravings of mammoths. She notes that the San of southern Africa developed a realistic style of depicting animals similar to the "Franco-Cantabrian" style, indicating that an independent development of such a style in North America is possible.
In a 2008 study of relevant oceanographic data from the time-period in question, Kieran Westley and Justin Dix concluded that "it is clear from the paleoceanographic and paleo-environmental data that the LGM North Atlantic does not fit the descriptions provided by the proponents of the Solutrean Atlantic Hypothesis. Although ice use and sea mammal hunting may have been important in other contexts, in this instance, the conditions militate against an ice-edge-following, maritime-adapted European population reaching the Americas." According to their analysis of the evidence they examined (primarily the believed location of the ice shelf at the time in question), they do not believe the Solutrean culture or elements of it could have undertaken any transoceanic crossing into North America utilizing the glacial ice sheets.
See also 
- Bradley, Bruce; Stanford, Dennis (2004). "The North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: a possible Palaeolithic route to the New World" (PDF). World Archaeology 36 (4): 459–478. doi:10.1080/0043824042000303656. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Carey, Bjorn (19 February 2006). "First Americans may have been European". Live Science. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Vastag, Brian (March 1, 2012). "Theory jolts familiar view of first Americans". The Washington Post. pp. A1, A9. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Meltzer, David J. First Peoples in the New World Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009, p. 188
- Fortune, Jack; Bruce Bradley, Paul Martin, Dennis Stanford, Jim Adovasio, Michael Collins, Douglas Wallace, Lawrence Guy Straus, Joallyn Archambault, Ronald Brower (21 November 2002). "Stone Age Columbus - transcript". Horizon. BBC. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Fagundes, Nelson J.R.; Kanitz, Ricardo; Eckert, Roberta; Valls, Ana C.S.; Bogo, Mauricio R.; Salzano, Francisco M.; Smith, David Glenn; Silva, Wilson A.; Zago, Marco A.; Ribeiro-dos-Santos, Andrea K.; Santos, Sidney E.B.; Petzl-Erler, Maria Luiza; Bonatto, Sandro L. (2008). "Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas". American journal of human genetics 82 (3): 583–592.
- Kashani, Baharak Hooshia; Ugo A. Perego, Anna Olivieri, Norman Angerhofer, Francesca Gandini1,Valeria Carossa1, Hovirag Lancioni, Ornella Semino1, Scott R. Woodward, Alessandro Achilli, Antonio Torroni (January 2012). "Mitochondrial haplogroup C4c: A rare lineage entering America through the ice-free corridor?". American Journal of Physical Anthropology (fee ) (Wiley Periodicals) 147 (1): 34–39. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21614. PMID 22024980. "Recent analyses of mitochondrial genomes from Native Americans have brought the overall number of recognized maternal founding lineages from just four to a current count of 15. However, because of their relative low frequency, almost nothing is known for some of these lineages. This leaves a considerable void in understanding the events that led to the colonization of the Americas following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). In this study, we identified and completely sequenced 14 mitochondrial DNAs belonging to one extremely rare Native American lineage known as haplogroup C4c. Its age and geographical distribution raise the possibility that C4c marked the Paleo-Indian group(s) that entered North America from Beringia through the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. The similarities in ages and geographical distributions for C4c and the previously analyzed X2a lineage provide support to the scenario of a dual origin for Paleo-Indians. Taking into account that C4c is deeply rooted in the Asian portion of the mtDNA phylogeny and is indubitably of Asian origin, the finding that C4c and X2a are characterized by parallel genetic histories definitively dismisses the controversial hypothesis of an Atlantic glacial entry route into North America." (subscription required)
- Straus, L.G. (April 2000). "Solutrean settlement of North America? A review of reality". American Antiquity 65 (2): 219–226. doi:10.2307/2694056.
- Strauss, Lawrence Guy; David J. Meltzer and Ted Goebel (December 2005). "Ice Age Atlantis? Exploring the Solutrean-Clovis 'connection'". World Archaeology 37 (4): 507–532. doi:10.1080/00438240500395797.
- Bradley, Bruce; Stanford, Dennis (2006). "The Solutrean-Clovis connection : reply to Straus, Meltzer and Goebel". World archaeology (Taylor & Francis) 38 (44): 704–714.
- Viegas, Jennifer. "Earliest Mammoth Art: Mammoth on Mammoth". Discovery News. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- Alpert, Barbara Olins. "A context for the Vero Beach Engraved Mammoth or Mastodon". Pleistocene Art of the Americas (Pre-Acts). IFRAO Congress, September 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- Westley, Kieran and Justin Dix (2008). "The Solutrean Atlantic Hypothesis: A View from the Ocean". Journal of the North Atlantic 1: 85–98. doi:10.3721/J080527.
- Brown, M.D.; Hosseini, S.H.; Torroni, A.; Bandelt, H.J.; Allen, J.C.; Schurr, T.G.; Scozzari, R.; Cruciani, F. et al. (Dec 1998). "mtDNA haplogroup X: An ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?". American Journal of Human Genetics 63 (6): 1852–61.
- Greenman, E.F. (1963). "The Upper Palaeolithic and the New World". Current Anthropology 4: 41–66.
- Jablonski, Nina G., "The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World," University of California Press, 2002
- Reidla, Maere et al. (2003 November;). "Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X". Am J Hum Genet 73 (5): 1178–1190. doi:10.1086/379380. PMC 1180497. PMID 14574647.
- Stanford, Dennis, and Bruce Bradley. 2002. "Ocean Trails and Prairie Paths? Thoughts About Clovis Origins." In The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World, Nina G. Jablonski (ed.), pp. 255–271. San Francisco: Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences, No. 27.
- Stanford, Dennis; Bradley, Bruce (2004). "The North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: a possible Palaeolithic route to the New World". World Archaeology 36 (4): 459–478.
- Stanford, Dennis; Bradley, Bruce (2006). "The Solutrean-Clovis connection: reply to Straus, Meltzer and Goebel". World Archaeology 38 (4): 704–714.
- Straus, Lawrence G. (2000). "Solutrean Settlement of North America? A Review of Reality". American Antiquity 65 (2): 219–226. doi:10.2307/2694056.
- Strauss, Lawrence G et al. 1990, 'The LGM in Cantabrian : Spain: the Solutrean', in Soffer and Gamble (eds.) The world at 18,000 bp: high latitudes, pp. 89–108. Unwin Hyman.
- Stone Age sailors 'beat Columbus to America' (The Guardian, 1999)
- Coming into America: Tracing the Genes (PBS, 2004)
- Stone Age Columbus (BBC 2002)
- Ice Age Columbus: Who Were the First Americans? (Discovery Channel 2005)
- New evidence suggests stone age hunters from Europe discovered America (The Independent, 2012)