I saw a documentary yesterday called America’s Stone Age Explorers which examined the evidence behind the various theories on the peopling of the Americas. It is the first bit I’ve seen in the mainstream media to challenge the Clovis first theory – the one we were all taught in school about the land bridge at the end of the last ice age. It examined much older sites and discussed human migrations from Asia occurring much earlier than the end of the last ice age 13,500 years ago. The main point was that the Clovis point was a hugely important piece of technology, but where did it come from? They raise the possibility that it came from Europe, then discussed how early Europeans could have crossed the Atlantic in boats similar to the Umiak of the far north. If you’re interested in primitive technology and the history of humanity around the end of the last ice age, which I am, you’d probably enjoy it. You can get it from Netflix.
The problem with finding evidence of human history from this period of time (end of the last ice age) is that when the glaciers receded sea levels rapidly rose, flooding coastal regions that had the highest human populations. So the vast majority of archaeological evidence from the past is currently on the ocean floor, and will probably never be recovered.
A common theme discussed by the researchers is one that has always bothered me; Archaeological evidence that contradicts the prevailing paradigm is often either ignored or discarded. So instead of basing theories on the hard evidence available, the evidence is cherry-picked to support current and popular theories.
In graduate school I studied the history of technology and human ideas, from ancient history up through the scientific revolution. This notion of pleasing, or at least not pissing off the powers that be with new ideas has always held us back as a species. Remember Galileo’s run ins with the church, or how Copernicus delayed publication of his book until after his death? Sadly it seems to be a part of human nature.
It makes this quotation from Max Plank seem appropriate:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.