Evidence of Early Man in North America
Based on Geological and Archaeological Work in New Mexico

By: Edgar B. Howard

Originally Published in 1935

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Two occurrences in New Mexico—one in a cave and one in old lake beds—establishing associations of extinct animals and stone artifacts, offer evidence that Man lived in America at a time when climatic conditions were different than today. An attempt is here made to show how these discoveries, together with a number of others of a similar nature. reported in recent years, fit into the picture of Man’s antiquity in the New World. This involves consideration of many phases of the problem, including latest estimates of Late Glacial and Post-Glacial times, migration routes via Bering Strait, anthropological deductions, definitions of “Folsom” and “Yuma” points, and concluding with an estimate that at least 10,000 years is involved in the sequence of events since “Folsom Man” appeared on the scene.

THERE are a number of questions having to do with the problem of early man in America that, it must be admitted, have not been satisfactorily explained. It, therefore, seems essential to investigate some of these questions in order to develop the proper setting for a study of the subject. Two occurrences in eastern New Mexico may help to throw light upon the problem as a whole. One is a cave west of Carlsbad where an interesting faunal assemblage was found associated with man-made objects, and the other occurrence is near Clovis, where, under different physiographic conditions, a similar association was discovered. These will be described in some detail, and then, in order to determine where this evidence fits into the larger aspects of the problem of early man in America, we shall try to develop a background by reviewing the geological and archaeological interpretations connected with questions as to when and how America was first peopled. In order to have before us some chronological scale to apply to our specific problem we bring together the latest estimates of authorities upon glacial geology in America. Likewise we shall discuss certain types of artifacts forming part of the associations referred to. Further we shall review the evidence for migrations from Asia, possible geological connections. ice-free corridors. climatic changes. as well as brief descriptions of occurrences in other parts of America which show evidence more or less similar to that at Clovis and Carlsbad. We shall then try to interpret the facts thus brought together in light of the present status of the problem.

First of all we do not believe that the problem as to when and how America was first peopled can be solved by archaeology alone. Geology, particularly its allied branches of palaeontology, physiography, and glacial geology, must be called upon to explain many phases of the subject that involve a wide variety of converging lines of research, presenting many peculiar difficulties. The archaeologist, starting from the point where the historian usually leaves off, soon finds it necessary to lengthen his perspective, and eventually he is faced, so far as America is concerned, with a geological problem. The recognition on his part of the importance of special studies relating to such factors as climatic changes, studies of invertebrates, analysis of diatoms, or pollen that may be found in a given deposit marks a step in the right direction. Therefore, the archaeologist must familiarize himself with these and other phases of geology which bear upon the problem, such as the study of terraces, buried soil levels, loess deposits, varved clays, ancient lakes and shore lines, and any other factors which may give a clue to the environment in which early man may have lived in America. There appears to be too big a gap between dated cultural remains and that period when extinct animals lived contemporaneously with man in America to be able to fix any time limits without a thorough examination of all such evidence as we have enumerated. Hence the importance of a field of investigation which lies somewhere between geology and archaeology, a fact which is becoming increasingly apparent as a number of scientists recognize.1

1 Merriam, 1934; De Terra, 1934.

Cite This Article

Howard, Edgar B.. "Introduction." The Museum Journal XXIV, no. 2-3 (June, 1935): 61-62. Accessed July 16, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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