New Perspectives on the Clovis vs. Pre-Clovis Controversy

David S. Whitley, Ronald I. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


We consider the Clovis vs. pre-Clovis debate from three perspectives: migration models; petroglyph and surface-artifact ages; and scientific method. First, we test the hypothesis that a Clovis migration can account for the temporal and spatial distribution of South American Paleoindian sites accepted by Clovis-first advocates. Using a Clovis-first model, site ages are underpredicted by approximately 1,500 years, suggesting that the Clovis hypothesis cannot be reconciled with accepted empirical data. Second, we present North American accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C minimum-limiting ages from petroglyphs and surface artifacts that demonstrate continued support for a pre-Clovis occupation of the dryland west, as well as a Beringian entry into the hemisphere. Third, the debate has been confounded by a widespread misstatement of the problem. Though Clovis occupation is a solved issue, the competing hypotheses are whether the first migration was Clovis or pre-Clovis; the presence of Clovis sites is simply a necessary prediction of both migration theories. The empirical implications of the Clovis-first hypothesis are virtually untested. Scientifically evaluating the first peopling controversy requires scrutinizing the empirical test implications and logical coherency of both competing hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-647
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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