Justification of the Solutrean Hypothesis of American Colonisation

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Many people are quick to hypothesize the initial colonization of America, but few are able to justify as to who, when, where, how, and why the Americas were colonized. The Solutrean hypothesis justifies the migration of humans from central Asia to America because of the similarities between clovis and solutrean tools, the genetic similarities between native Americans and solutrean people, and the likelihood of a migration through Beringia.

The type of tools that are used by a population can be used to determine the culture and origin of the society. Similarities between Solutrean tools and Clovis tools as well as similarities in the manufacturing processes used to create the tools have been found spread throughout both Europe and America. Both Solutrean and Clovis cultures use a process called biface thinning to create thin pointed stone tools which are identical between the two cultures, apart from Clovis tools having an indented base with flutes. The Solutrean tools found were also very approximate in age to the stone tools used by the Clovis people of Europe. Bradley and Stanford state that the “basic Clovis tool-kit is surprisingly consistent across diverse environments, ranging from the sub-tropics to the sub-arctic. This broad geographic distribution suggests that the tool-kit was designed for effective exploitation of almost any environment” (Bradley and Stanford, 2004). Knowing this, we are able to see how migrators were able to use their biface tools while crossing over Beringia to hunt and gather, further allowing them to travel away from Europe. The constant need for bigger and more game resulted in the hunters colonized in Alaska to move further and further down the ice free corridor into America, and eventually lead to the colonization of South America. While Solutrean tools have many uses, experimental replication done by Geneste and Plisson (1993) demonstrated how “copies of Solutrean points and other bifacial points to be highly prone to breakage when used as projectile tips” (Walker, 2014). Therefore, it is assumed that the biface Solutrean/ Clovis tools were used as either spear heads or knives during the migration across Beringia and America. Because of the lack of retooling resources on the migration route, losing or breaking tools was very catastrophic. In their article addressing the Solutrean hypothesis, Bradley and Stanford state that “although we have studied many biface-thinning technologies, the only deliberate and systematic use of this technique occurs in Solutrean and Clovis. The complexity and difficulty of this technique and its rarity argue against it being independently developed” (Bradley and Stanford, 2004). This indicates that Solutrean tool manufacturing must have evolved from Clovis tool manufacturing during the migration period to the Americas. These methods of tool manufacturing included blade production, blade detachment techniques, and pre core shaping techniques. It was also found that “all Clovis tool types including fluted bifaces occur in Solutrean assemblages” (Smith 1963), implying that there is some correlation between Solutrean culture and Clovis culture.

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The genetic relationship between Clovis and Solutrean people is a key factor in determining the origin of the first settlers of America. Bradley and Sanford (2004) stated that “practically all scholars accept the proposition that the bearers of Clovis culture must have come from north-eastern Asia and were the ancestors of modern Native Americans”. This knowledge allows us to be certain that settlers traveled from north east Asia across the Bering land bridge in order to reach Alaska. The link between Solutrean and Clovis cultures is known as the X mtDNA haplogroup, and it is “argued that the concentration of the X haplogroup in north-eastern North America demonstrates an ancestral north-eastern Amerindian connection with Western Europe that has subsequently been diminished due to admixture with peoples migrating through the traditionally accepted beringian route” (Stanford and Bradley 2002). That means that since there is an abundance of the X mtDNA haplogroup in America, there must be a strong correlation between Amerindian people and European people. The correlation between both cultures supports the Solutrean hypothesis as it shows how people migrated from Europe to North America.

The Solutrean hypothesis suggests that Clovis ancestors traveled from Asia, specifically Syberia, to Alaska by passing over a land bridge called Beringia. This land bridge was created by the build up of continental glaciers and the lowering of sea levels during the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago. This resulted in the exposing of continental shelves creating a sort of land bridge from Northeast Asia to Northwest America. Once Clovis populations came to Alaska, glaciers started to melt down, inevitably creating an “ice free corridor” to the remaining parts of America and allowing them to spread southward. Another hypothesis called the kelp highway hypothesis coincides with the theory that Clovis people used the Beringia land mass as a migration route into the Americas. Conceding with the Solutrean hypothesis, the kelp highway hypothesis states that the north pacific coast provided an unobstructed linear migration route with favourable conditions for hunters and gatherers. The highway was a result of the combination of reduced wave energy, productive fishing and high productivity of the northern coastal shorelines. The Solutrean hypothesis in combination with the kelp highway hypothesis show a lot of reasons as to why Clovis people used Beringia as a land crossing to the Americas. A lot of this reasoning is attributed to the abundance of animal and plant resources available in the island rich beringia shores. This allowed for migrators to travel along the coast without needing massive adaptive adjustments in terms of food and terrestrial resources. A study done by James Walker on the Solutrean hypothesis states that “the Solutrean crossing of the Atlantic comprised a series of expansive and contracting migrations from peoples tethered to land. The suggestion that people were traversing back and forth across the ice implies that people were highly adapted to life in these environments rather than stretched to their limits” (Walker 2014). This means that the migration from Asia to America was not done in one straight continuous migration but by taking multiple shorter migrations. Proof of this is shown by the fact that the first migration occurred from Siberia to Alaska via the Bering land bridge, and the second migration occurs slowly as maritime hunters chased their game further and further away from Europe and eventually settle in more temperate climates.

The Solutrean hypothesis justifies the migration of humans from central Asia to America because of the similarities between clovis and solutrean tools, the genetic similarities between native Americans and solutrean people, and the likelihood of a migration through Beringia. The similarities between tool types and their potential effectiveness throughout the migration route showed how the tools used by American settlers must be from Clovis descent. Along with their tool use, the genetic similarities between Solutrean and Clovis people including the X mtDNA haplogroup data conveyed the Clovis descent of Amerindian settlers. Finally, the hunting patterns and the ease of the ability to travel across Canada using the ice free corridor justifies the migration route used in order for people to migrate over to America.

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