Early Paleoindians, from Colonization to Folsom

Nicole Waguespack

in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195380118
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Early Paleoindians, from Colonization to Folsom

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Identifying definitive evidence of the “first” peoples in the Americas, much like finding the first of any temporally distant phenomenon, is a difficult task. Because colonization is a process involving the spread, occupation, and growth of a population, multiple firsts must be identified. The earliest site, date, or artifact offers evidence merely of a human presence on a continent—but it does not necessarily indicate colonization. It is possible, if not probable, that multiple human groups ventured into North America without establishing a permanent presence. The archaeological signature of colonization, then, may not open an easily navigable spatiotemporal trail of artifacts, but could involve a more complex record of human explorations prior to, concurrent with, and postdating actual colonization. Consequently, Early Paleoindian archaeology is fraught with contentious claims, debates, and theories regarding the expectations and interpretations of evidence concerning the timing of human presence versus colonization.

Keywords: Early Paleoindians; colonization; artifacts; human groups; archaeology; human presence

Article.  3680 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of North America

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