Regarding the studies involving the population of the Americas, it is important to highlight some considerations:
a) Concern about the inhabitants of the pre-Columbian Americas only began with the acceptance by Europeans that the indigenous people had souls and, therefore, were considered human beings. This occurred around 1540 after the publication of a papal bull, which confirmed this statement, based on the argument that one of the apostles was in America previously.
This bull resolved issues arising from contact with the Amerindians who were unaware of the existence of Jesus Christ, contrary to his order to the apostles, to spread the teachings of the New Gospel to all peoples, consequently endangering all Christian doctrine.
The solution was to find something that would prove the stay of an apostle in America by going over the teachings of Christ. Comparing the similarity of the name of the main god of some indigenous tribes (ZUMÉ), they came to the conclusion that the apostle in question would be São Tomé, not only by name but also by the fact that he was the only apostle to doubt the resurrection and for that reason, he received as a punishment teaching the “good news” to the most distant and “primitive” peoples. This also demonstrated the ease with which Christian teachings were accepted by the indigenous people of the time.
b) The studies carried out on the American settlement are mainly based on archaeological findings. From this perspective, it should be noted that Archeology is a science of rare certainties, but it does not like speculation and that, in addition to archaeological remains, its conclusions are also based on comparative behavioral and cultural observations of “living peoples”, which preserve still “primitive” characteristics. Another important point to note is that future archaeological discoveries may force new reconsiderations considered correct until the present moment, through new technological innovations and/or new research and findings in this area of interest.
c) The dating techniques most used by researchers and currently available are:
CARBON-14: The use of this technique is more or less accurate in the analysis of materials up to 50 millennia (with a margin of error covering less than 20 or more than 5000 years). Carbon-14 is an element present in all living organisms, disintegrating at a constant rate after death. This rate corresponds to the fact that every 5730 years, the amount of radioactive carbon atoms falls by half, a phenomenon known as the half-life. A device called a mass spectrometer accelerator, counts the carbon-14 atoms of the analyzed organic matter, thus determining its age.
Uranium – Thorium: It is used in the study of objects that are millions of years old. It works on the same principle as the carbon-14 method, but it is based on the longer half-lives of uranium 238 and thorium 230.
THERMOLUMINESCENCE: This technique is reliable in examining findings that are a few thousand years old. It does not stop with the radioactivity of the materials, but with the emission of light. Thus, the fossil is heated and releases, in the form of light, energies that it captured and retained in its crystalline structure. Considering the environment in which the material was found and the amount of energy existing in the different periods, its age is established.
DNA TESTS: Through genetic mapping, it is already possible to determine kinship and other characteristics. For the next few years, it will be a great tool for the solution to several questions.
d) There are some physical and cultural similarities in all pre-Columbian inhabitants. Among the physical similarities, it can be highlighted: all have tanned or copper-colored skin; all have very straight black hair; all have brown or black eyes, usually almond-shaped. Cultural similarities will be analyzed in detail in the presentation of the work, but some stand out: the rapid spread of the Paleoindian cultural horizon of projectile tips, as a diagnostic piece; the polytheistic religion; the use of ceramics; hunter-gatherer livelihood pattern; iron was not worked, with the exception of the Eskimos, who imported it from Siberia around 1000 AD; and in building societies: the litter as a symbol of social status, human heads as trophies; the ritual meaning of felines, such as the leopard-man or jaguar and the bird-man, and the snake appearing in various artistic manifestations.
e) The New World is an excellent research laboratory for the study of man, both anthropologically and in his adaptive relationship with the natural environment.
From a geographical point of view, America is a compact and more integrated area than the Old World. Natural barriers are less marked across the continent, facilitating transposability and transitional areas are less abrupt, and both coasts provide excellent habitat for mollusks, fish, and cretaceous, especially on the Canadian coast.
The continent has a hemispheric “backbone” that runs through the North and the South, including it that may have provided a channel for the migratory movements of fauna and man. On the west side, the mountain ranges are young: the Rocky Mountains in North America becoming Sierras Madres in Mexico and Central America, which join with the South American Andes. On the east side, the mountain ranges are older and lower, and smoother following the entire Atlantic coast from north to south. In the center, both to the north and south of Ecuador are gigantic plains drained by huge river basins. The Pacific coastal plain, confined to the mountain range is narrow throughout, disappearing in certain stretches.
It is the only stretch of the planet that has all climatic types; this because, cut in half by Ecuador, it provides similarity of climate and vegetation in both hemispheres, with small variations produced by altitude and rainfall, for example. This natural environment also influenced the cultural development of prehistoric man. In the sense of subsistence adaptations, the Amerindian was able to spread over long areas, without radical changes in his “modus-vivendi”. As for culture, the similar environment facilitated interaction in some regions, stimulated parallel developments in others, and only in a few, left it in isolation.
When the glaciers last retreated to the north, climate and ecological changes altered the order previously imposed, including the extinction of several species of fauna, which were part of the main diet of the groups, changing the patterns of subsistence, settlement, and technology, thus occurring a variable diversity in American culture that forced Americans to adaptive innovations.
Although these changes did not occur across the continent, in some areas the old hunting and gathering models persisted, two additional types appeared in response to the transformations: the exploitation of mollusks along the coasts, the culture of sambaquis, and the collection of fish. seeds in arid regions.
2. The arrival of man in the Americas
Up to the present day, the controversies about ORIGIN, HOW, BY WHICH ROUTE, and mainly WHEN man would have arrived in America, there are fierce debates within the scientific community.
There are several theories or hypotheses, many without any proof and even absurd; others being seriously analyzed, such as the discoveries of Raimundo Nonato, in Piauí; others still almost overthrown, Clóvis’s theory; and others practically accepted, in case the route was through the Bering Strait.
The fact is that no conclusion has yet been reached and the issues set out above are of unmatched importance, as, in addition to the international recognition of the scientist, if he arrives at the solutions to the problems raised, their clarification may illuminate the studies of New World origins and past, deepening the capacity to understand the human cultural development of the present and the future, as well as the growing social and ecological crises, not only in America but across the globe. In view of so many probabilities and in view of the importance, we will present below the existing theory or hypotheses.
3. Theories related to the origin
a) The theory of Florentino Ameghino, a famous paleontologist, is that American man would have developed in America, based on numerous discoveries of human bones, on the banks of the Rio Frias, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition, there is an abundance of charcoal, toasted earth, bones of prehistoric animals that sported streaks, grooves, and notches made by human action. He also found arrowheads and stone knives, sharp bones, and various tools for sharpening. These findings would prove human cohabitation with antediluvian animals. This theory is currently largely rejected, as until now, fossils of superior anthropoid fossils have not been discovered on the continent, but also, in relation to the human bones found at the time the theory was formulated, the carbon-14 dating technique was not known.
b) Another theory is that of Alis Hardilick or Mongolian theory – American man migrated to America about 15,000 years ago, through the Bering Strait. This theory is denied by Paul Rivet, when he says that man is not only of Mongolian origin but comes from Polynesia and Australia, that is, the Amerindian has multiple origins, migrating through Beringia, as well as the Pacific Islands, originating all the American people. In turn, Salvador Canals Frau challenges Paul Rivet’s theory, when he says that this passage does not exist, but successive waves of immigration, due to the fact that Siberia and Alaska are still inhabited by the Eskimos today.
c) A scientific work by two Brazilian geneticists, Sérgio Danilo Pena and Fabrício Santos, published in the Science magazine in March 1999, confirms the genetic relationship between tribes from six American countries (Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States) and a small settlement in the Altai Mountains, located between Siberia, Russia, and Mongolia. This work was presented as irrefutable proof of the Asian origin of the Amerindians, who entered the Bering Strait, proving the theory of Alis Hardilick.
d) In 1972, archaeologist Knut Fladmark, from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, stated that the first Americans were fishermen from precarious vessels, originating in Polynesia, Asia, or Australia, coming via the Pacific Ocean, through a long chain of islands disappeared today. To support this theory, in September 1998, two camps of unknown maritime peoples were discovered in southern Peru: Quebrada Jaguay, 11,100 years old and its inhabitants ate seafood and fish; and those of Quebrada Tacahuay, more to the south, dated 10,700 years old, which fed on fish and sea birds like cormorants.
e) Archaeologist Walter Neves from the University of São Paulo and his research partner, Héctor Pucciarelli formulated a hypothesis, which thousands of years before black slavery, there could already be Africans in America. It was based on the analysis of anatomical details of hundreds of bones of Indians in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. The measures almost always coincide with those of the present peoples of the Far East. However, the oldest skulls have African features, similar to the aborigines of Australia. One of them, that of a woman found in Lagoa Santa, Minas Gerais, with 11,500 years of age, according to dating in 1998 is the oldest skull in the Americas, known as Luzia, who was part of the group of “men from Lagoa Santa”, which fed more vegetables, through the collection, than hunting. The measurement of Luzia’s bones revealed a prominent chin, a long narrow skull, and narrow, short cheeks. Thus, it suggests that, before the arrival of the Asian ancestors of the Amerindians, there was the first wave of immigrants that left Africa 120,000 years ago.
One group would have gone to Oceania 40,000 years ago and another group would have entered America through Siberia on an unknown date. Later, Asians would have exterminated Africans, leaving only bones, due to the dispute over hunting and territories. To reinforce this hypothesis, English researchers from the University of Manchester performed several tomographic examinations of Luzia’s skull, the result of these examinations being reprocessed by a computer from University College London, England, obtaining a three-dimensional image and producing a skull identical to that found. This model was sent to Professor Richard Neave, a specialist in facial reconstructions, at the University of Manchester, who coincided with the negroid model advocated by the Brazilian archaeologist. Luzia, therefore, would be a woman with black features, with a wide nose, rounded eyes, chin, and protruding lips, very different from the peoples of Asian origin, present when the European man arrived. To further reinforce this theory, Luzia’s cranial configurations were found in fossils about 9,000 years old near the Colombian city of Tequendama and in Tierra del Fuego, across the Strait of Magellan, territorially located at the end of South America Therefore, currently, the hypothesis of Walter Neves and Héctor Pucciarelli, adds yet another stir in the troubled history of the American population.
f) In 1996, in the vicinity of Kennewick, in the state of Washington, northwest of the United States, a skeleton of a middle-aged man was found by two students. Chemical analysis revealed that the fossil dates from 9,300 years and may be the material proof of the presence in the first waves of American ancestors from Europe or the Middle East. This hypothesis was reinforced by geneticist Douglas Wallace, from Emory University, Georgia, the United States, who detected in isolated groups of North American Indians, a type of DNA, found in Finland, Italy and Israel, but nonexistent in East Asia. Genetic analysis of the fossil may resolve the issue, but it is hindered by US justice, as it is the subject of a lawsuit, in which the Indians of the region claim ownership of the bones, claiming to belong to their ancestors.
4. Theories related to antiquity
a) Clovis’ theory: the first inhabitants would have arrived on the continent 12,000 years ago after crossing Beringia. This theory rests on the remains of the 11,200-year-old Clóvis or Folsom archaeological site, New Mexico, exactly the time it took hunters to make the journey from Alaska to New Mexico – 7,000 km in 800 years. This theory, currently, is not supported due to the discovery of two new findings. In 1976, woodcutters unearthed tusks of a mastodon in Monte Verde, southern Chile, where archaeologist Tom Dillehay has since been working and finding an invaluable archaeological treasure of a group with a paleo-Indian cultural horizon, ranging from stone tools to a footprint of a boy, 13 cm long, engraved in clay. If the Monte Verde group, lived in the region 12,500 years ago, as recognized in March 1998 by the American Society of Archeology and was 15,000 km from Bering, their ancestors would have spent about 15,000 years to cover the distance that separates Alaska. southern Chile. Therefore, it is concluded that man entered America at least 27,500 years ago. Another more recent discovery was announced by archaeologists at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, California, United States; John Johnson and Lisa Urone attested to the existence of two thigh bones from a woman named Arlington, found in California and dated to 13,000 years.
b) Linguistics is a science that greatly helps the study of the prehistoric movements of the population and linguist Johanna Nichols, from Berkeley University, United States, identified 143 linguistic trunks between Alaska and Patagonia. The languages are as different from one another as Polish is from Japanese and Arabic. Supported by this study, she concludes that in order to reach the current state of the diversity of American indigenous languages, even considering the occurrence of multiple migrations at different times, it would take 35,000 years, given that for two languages originating from a common ancestor to completely lose their similarity, it takes about 6,000 years.
c) Still in relation to the Amerindian antiquity, there are many archaeological discoveries still under discussion regarding authenticity and possibility, which question the entry into the past 12,000 years.
Archaeologist Maria da Conceição Beltrão states, after excavations in the Bahian hinterland, Brazil, that between 20 and 30 millennia ago, the man already inhabited the place, supported by the bones of animals that exhibit marks of human action.
Niéde Guidon in 1971, in the Serra da Capivara, Piauí announced the discovery of traces of coal from a supposed fire dated 40,000 years ago, so that the first groups would have entered America through the Bering Strait at least 70,000 years ago. This theory has been seriously researched by the scientific archeology community, receiving support from important archaeologists.
The existence of a large number of archaeological sites that contain a lithium industry of projectile pre-tips, such as large heavy cutters, scrapers, flat scrapers, knives, and beaters, often in remarkable abundance, for example in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay; in others like El Jobo and Cumare, Venezuela, the artifacts occur on high and distant river terraces; in Farmigton, California, they are buried under 5 meters of alluvium. In Levi’s under-rock shelter in Texas, they are stratigraphically below the oldest projectile tips. Animal remains that were part of the diet, are associated with these artifacts in various areas. The dates of these sites are over 24,000 years old. However, despite two main factors attesting to their credibility, such as the existence of a land bridge prior to 37,000 years ago, which was crossed by the caribou and hairy mammoth and probably the man followed them; and the magnitude of dates from the north to the south, since the geographical expansion was very slow and the initial population very small; these findings are not considered to be man-made. There are several reasons for questioning: roughly chipped stones may have been made by natural action; they argue that in many places, dating by carbon-14 and cultural remains was not correct; the antiquity of the geological context or the artifacts are intrusive and of more recent origin; and, mainly, the absence of older human fossils, especially located in the North American region or even in any other region.
5. Reflections on the theories presented
The hypothesis that man evolved in the Old World and migrated to America on foot, leaving Siberia through the Bering Strait is one of the most likely and most accepted hypotheses by most scientists. For this to have happened, it is important to explain some considerations:
a) There would have to be a terrestrial connection between Siberia and Alaska, Beringia, which occurred at the Glacier Peak and was maintained like that for a long time. This happened when the sea level dropped about 200 to 160 meters from the current level.
b) There should also be a move away from the ice sheet, forming a green corridor, which life could be maintained by making the route between Northeast Siberia and the Yukon Valley accessible, along the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies and American, otherwise, migration in this area would be impossible. For about 10,000 years this passage was interrupted, as the glaciation acted as a barrier, preventing new migratory movements.
These two conditions occurred simultaneously on some occasions:
The last Glacial Peak dates from about 28,000 to 10,000 years ago when afterward the bridge was submerged again, a fact that lasts until today.
The penultimate Glacier Peak occurred between 50,000 to 40,000 years ago and was used by many species of large mammals in the Old World.
There was also an older earlier passage about 150,000 years ago. It is observed, in this period, the existence of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis in Asia.
This possibility of the entry of man in America for glacial reasons and of Mongolian origin, is a conception of scientists from the 19th century, due to deductive arguments in view of Asia being the closest region to America. A favorable argument that is presented to strengthen this hypothesis, are the biological characteristics of the Amerindian, as there was even, some evidence presented in the previous topic.
The archaeological evidence on the sites, however, is unaware of characteristic and specialized features of adaptations to the cold in the first immigrants. Therefore, the hypothesis would be closer to the biological than to the archaeological character, and, therefore, many have moved away from the possibility that man would come from Asia, leading to the thinking of different and diversified theories.
Regarding the theory of the origin of Polynesia or Australia, it can be said that both Australians and Polynesians have wavy or curly hair, biological characteristics that were absent in the American population when the European arrived in America. However, advanced genetic studies increasingly seek to clarify these doubts definitively
Theories regarding antiquity are the ones that generate the most controversy. While there are disagreements, there is a unanimous belief that the first immigrants were composed of small bands of related families and survived from hunting and gathering. The instruments for subsistence were not specialized and these were used to cut, scrape and beat.
From 10,000 years onwards, according to archaeological information from sites across the continent, a large population of people is undeniable and very well adapted to environmental adversities. These groups would be part of the Paleo-Indian cultural horizon, with artifacts without similarity in the Old World and perfectly adapted to American fauna and flora. This leads to the following reflection: if the prehistoric American man arrived at the last Glacier Peak, in small flocks and taking into account that the migrations are extremely slow, due to the fact that to travel a few hundred kilometers they have to adapt and overcome innumerable environmental obstacles to survive, taking for that, on average, about 1,000 years, and if also, there is no Paleoindian horizon in Asia, as, in a few millennia, the culture of specialized hunters and gatherers spread so quickly throughout America? For a culture to spread quickly, receptors are needed to accept it and adapt it to the inhabited region and in large groups. Doesn’t this lead to the assumption that long before 15,000 years ago, Amerindians already inhabited these places? And that there would no longer be a pre-projectile tip culture?
Questions like these have yet to be proven to be answered. What is certain is that 13,000 years ago man was present in America, with irrefutable evidence of this statement. However, as can be seen in the most recent theories and discoveries discussed earlier, everything suggests that, long before this, there were distinct and successive migratory waves, most likely around four. However, there is no material and unquestionable evidence, such as, for example, human fossils older than 40,000 years, which would affirm this previous presence. Thus, the evidence presented continues to escape recognition and the carbon-14 samples, strongly favoring the hypothesis of Amerindian man entering the last Glacier Peak.
Little consideration is given to the arguments that, archaeologically, research has been minimal or that, in many places most likely to find these answers, current urbanization has destroyed several sites or makes further excavations impossible; or yet, and this is important to note, the fact that nothing more proving has been discovered does not mean that this evidence does not exist, only it has not yet been found.
Finally, as long as indisputable evidence, in all respects, does not arise, the mysteries and inconclusions will continue.
6. General concepts
Bands: small groups, less than a hundred people, which are characterized by local exogamy and are known for their limited conception of kinship. They are hunters and gatherers who periodically change their homes, as natural resources are depleted or in response to climate change. They have neither formal leaders nor differences in political and economic position. Livelihoods usually depend on communal property. The only difference is determined by age and sex.
Tribes: societies larger than gangs, multi-community, but without exceeding a few thousand individuals. They are found among farmers with relative or completely sedentary populations. When living in villages, the inhabitants are more compacted or when they are more dispersed, the designation is neighborhood. Individual communities are interconnected in a larger society, usually by descent or clans or by voluntary associations. Its members are linked by matrimonial ties, kinship, pacts of peace, and/or participants of the same culture. In some groups, there are internal hierarchies of members. They hold periodic ceremonies to renew their religious and political ties and ties. More organized tribes may have a host village and a hierarchy of tribal chiefs. Even in these cases, it lacks a basis for the economy and the exercise of power, given that the economic institutions of the tribes are very simple. The trade can be extensive, but without inhabitants specialized in this sector and full time.
Heads: from the heads, the hierarchy arises to integrate multi-community societies. It is believed that the members of the chiefs are descended from a single ancestor and that the hierarchical classification would be based on the principle of birthright. Society is based on kinship and the person of the chief is almost sacrosanct because he also performs priestly functions; contact with the boss is limited, full of protocols, and all crises of growth, marriage, and death are accompanied by a complicated public ritual – the sumptuous rules. All members occupy a unique position on the hierarchical scale, determined by the degree of distance or proximity to the boss, resulting in a stratified society. The economic base of the chief’s power consists of the role of redistributing assets. The production of raw materials and food, as well as the specialization in artisanal products, are highly developed.
The chief uses the surplus delivered for the maintenance of his court or for distribution to his subjects in case of famine. He also requests work for the maintenance or construction of public goods, temples or his house, or even his court. Due to the obligations of kinship, relations are reciprocal, especially for food. The market does not exist or is weakly developed and full-time craft specialization is linked to the court. Chiefs are larger societies than tribes, with thousands of individuals and may include entire villages or neighborhoods based on kinship. What clearly distinguishes a tribe from a chief is that it has a center or capital, where the temples, administrative buildings, and the chief’s residence are located, with all their direct lineage residing in the capital, the houses of their servants, artisans and priests. In the event of war, the entire population may also reside in this center, reaching an extraordinarily large population. The very small leaders enjoy a privileged position in relation to the great leaders, whose bosses are endowed with great charismatic strength and unusual skill.
Ancient states: sumptuous rules, hierarchical systems, and the dichotomy between the center and dependent settlements and the power concentrated in a single leader as a distributor of gifts and general goods based on reciprocity, are present in this society. The position of the leader, lord or king, is limited to a reigning lineage, of divine descent. Society is based not only on kinship relationships but also by farmers or tenants, although the territorial property belongs to the king. The relationships between them involve mutual rights, obligations, duties, and privileges through a legal contract. The king has a permanent army, a police force, and a judicial system, managing his assets through a bureaucracy of appointed officials. Contributions are recognized as rents or fees and although the king can order services and collect surpluses from his subjects, such things are considered obligations of relatives. Despite the reciprocity, the balance of payments is much higher for the king.
This establishes laws and can also exercise priestly functions, although most are exercised by the priests in the temples. There is a distinction between urban and non-urban states. Urban states are characterized by settlements called towns or cities, with vast residential concentrations and greater social and economic differentiation than in non-urban states; they have a large number of artisanal specialists and craftsmen without real ties, producing goods for a market economy. These states, urban or not, have only evolved thanks to very special environments, which have enabled a highly productive crop system that was able to sustain an increase in population. Non-urban states are large residence groups for royalty, bureaucrats, priests, royal craftsmen and soldiers; compared in function or structure to the leadership centers, the difference lies in their dimensions and internal complexity. At the heart of these urban centers or not, are government buildings, temples and markets. Ancient states could reach many thousands of people, about 50 million inhabitants, such as the Roman Empire.
Cacicados (Chefdoms): organizations from various tribes, with hierarchization subject to chiefs with coercive power, the imposition of taxes, or regular extractions, especially from densely populated and fortified villages and elites capable of mobilizing the workforce for large collective enterprises. The economy is based on the intensive exploitation of artisanal resources and raw materials.
Diffusion: the process by which a cultural innovation spreads, from its source to other areas, whose innovations are accepted as customs integrating into a cultural system, because they have been well-adapted, other groups residing in the same social and geographical environment end up adopting them too. Usually, they occur very quickly, in view of the proximity of contact and its success to the needs of survival.
Hunter-gatherer: refers to groups of individuals of generalized hunter-gatherers, which adapt flexibly to forested extensions on both continents and based on a wide variety of wild foods, as well as small game; thus favoring a balanced diet and safe amount.
Specialized hunters: formed by larger groups, which based their subsistence on hunting large animals, with a Paleoindian cultural horizon.
Horizon pre-projectile tips: groups older than 12000 years, which had roughly chipped stone artifacts, although quite diversified. They lived on hunting and gathering.
Paleo-Indian cultural horizon: Period spanning 12000 to 8000 years. Existing groups across the continent extremely adapted to the environment. They had more characterized artifacts and instruments that allowed greater efficiency in survival.
Fisherman-gatherers: groups that inhabited the coast and lived by collecting and small and occasional fisheries. They had no specialized artifacts for fishing. They ate little, but constantly.
Marine collectors (Sambaquis): appear around 6000 – 5000 years BC practically all over the American coast and very successful. They are the groups that form the Sambaquis. They were reasonably sedentary and with a sense of territoriality, which dominated a certain region. Their instruments were more specialized, which allowed for more productive fishing. In the period from 4000 to 2000 years, they already had polished stone art and also at this moment, they start to disappear. Sambaqui, Tupi’s name, derives from the expressions sambá ou tambá (shell) and qui or quire (sleeping, making). Its broad meaning can be translated as a cemetery. Most of them are located in humid climates, coastal or bordering rivers. It is a type of hill formed by deposits of sand, shells, shells of oysters and mollusks, as well as remains of bonfires, human and animal bones, artifacts of stones, bones, and teeth. They are camps of marine collectors, semi-permanent, which produced, for several generations, a mountain of limestone that could reach hundreds of meters in length and up to 40 meters in height.
Projectile tips: a diagnostic piece of the culture of a specialized Paleoindian hunter.
Lhano or Clovis tips: one of the main paleo-Indian artifacts, characterized by a groove or channel created by the removal of a splinter from the lower surface, on one or both sides in order to drain the blood of the prey more easily. In the Folsom variant, only the edges remain intact. The size varies from 7 to 12 cm in length, although points of up to 4 cm appear. Its width is approximately 1/3 to 1/4 of the length, producing an elongated outline, parallel to convex sides, and a concave base. It also has a “fishtail” variant.
Lanceolate tips: also from the Paleo-Indian cultural horizon, however, they are less uniform and have two typical varieties: one has parallel sides and a straight base or an incipient peduncle; the other is oval in shape, narrow and elongated, tapering at both ends. The size variation is comparable to Clovis.
Formative period: the period in which the New World civilizations, in Mesoamerica and Central Andes, reached their development independently or with a minimum of communication. During this period, the most significant features began, including the manufacture of ceramics and only a few domesticated plants moved from one region to another.
Transition period: the period in which the glaciers retreat to the north, causing changes in ecological conditions that have led to the extinction of many Pleistocene species. These transformations were reflected in the culture, creating new forms of subsistence, settlement patterns, and technology. It also appears that it was during this period that the sea rose to the level found today.
Recent archaic: period covering the years 2000 to 1000 B.C., whose inhabitants located in the Great Lakes area were the only ones to manufacture copper instruments as well as stone. The copper was extracted from the mines with the aid of a stone instrument and worked by hammering to produce various artifacts such as spear heads or projectile tips, harpoons, adze, ax blades, knives, chisels, spatulas, awls, needles, hooks, pins, and beads.
Desert culture: standard of living with more specialized subsistence and emphasizing wild plants. In some regions, potatoes, acorns and pine nuts, grass seeds, roots, and edible blackberries provided an abundant annual harvest, although resources were smaller and more dispersed. Despite the abundant presence of projectile tips, hunting was not seen as an important activity, as the typical traits of this way of life were baskets for collection and grinders to remove hard shells and spray the seeds in flour.
7. The Paleo-Indian cultural horizon and its spread across the American continent
The Paleo-Indian cultural horizon, with the “projectile tips” as a diagnostic piece, developed around 12000 to 8000 years ago, reaching the whole continent and countless primitive groups. These groups were formed from 15 to 100 individuals, highly adapted to the environment and as a subsistence base, mainly, the hunting of large animals, such as the mammoth, mastodon, and the giant sloth, among others; in addition to the generalized collection.
The groups of this culture sought as main adaptive niche the lush pastures and the forested valleys of the North American fields, with mild summers and mild winters, and the broken landscape of streams, lakes, and swamps.
For the great hunting, they developed several artifacts, among them the projectile tips (Clovis or lanceolate tips) a weapon that associated to the darts thruster, quadrupled the power and precision in the launches, increasing the range and the penetration of the dart, making the most efficient hunting. The places where this occurred are called “killing sites”, where mammoth, bison, mastodon, and other bones are mixed with the instruments used to remove the skins and dismember the carcasses.
This efficiency allowed an increase in the population density since when killing a large animal, its meat was not fully used and therefore there was no need for attitudes to control the population, allowing it to multiply naturally.
Another point to note is the probability of these hunters having contributed to the extinction of the animals already mentioned.
In the camping sites, there are stone instruments of well-defined types, such as beaters, straighteners, raptors, knives, chisels, projectile tips, and also, bone awls, needles, and spatulas.
This intense diversification is attested and corroborated in the discovery of several archaeological sites that stretches from north to south of America, the most common artifact being the lanceolate tips. Another evidence of this culture is the very well-represented rock paintings, indicating a high degree of development.
With this great adaptive success, culture spread rapidly over an interval of about 2500 years in most geographical areas of the New World. This diffusion implies a question: how can a small flock populate an extensive region in such a short time, even considering its efficiency? In response to this question, one can admit a previous culture – pre-projectile tips – which would explain this rapid diffusion. A culture formed by hunters and gatherers of small animals and wild plants, with a very rudimentary but quite diversified lithic industry, but roughly chipped and, therefore, contested to the point of claiming to be a work of natural action, would have inhabited the continent earlier 12000 years. And therefore, Paleo Indian culture was immediately adopted.
Paleo-Indian sites are more easily recognized than those on the “pre-projectile tips” horizon, given that the former have undergone less geological disturbance and their instruments are better characterized.
Despite this intense and extensive diffusion, there are places where the oldest hunting and gathering model has hardly changed, probably from a habitat where large mammals were rare or nonexistent.
The only region with little production of pre-pointed projectile or Paleoindian culture is the Amazon region, due to two factors: the absence of available stones limited the inventory of artifacts, and perishable artifacts are not preserved in a humid tropical climate. However, it is important to note that even though there is a small existence of these objects, this does not rule out the hypothesis that this area has been avoided by the old groups of hunters and gatherers.
8. Climate change and adaptive culture changes
The cultural diversity that occurred in the lands of the New World, is due to the fact that the climatic and environmental varieties forced the groups to adopt cultural behaviors according to the regions to which they were inserted.
In the cultural universe of hunters and gatherers, the environment determined some adaptive variations in terms of instruments and food. The need to use hunting tools led them to use wood and ivory to make weapons. For the collection of vegetables, as they still did not have the knowledge of metal, they used animal skins in the manufacture of their containers.
The ceramic pieces were not in evidence, since they were fragile in nature, they did not support the constant wanderings.
What made one group different from the other was the natural environment and the environmental resources present, as the instruments for both hunting and gathering depended on the material that was most accessible. As a result, the quality and quantity of clothing, the existence or not of more durable dwellings, and the length of stay of the groups, varied according to the environment.
The Arctic hunter group was required to be able to adapt to the cold and specific techniques for obtaining food. The Eskimos were housed in skins and fixed, solid rooms with a well-designed internal structure, protecting them from the cold and great snowstorms. For locomotion, boats made with fur were used in summertime and sleds pulled by dogs in winter periods. The diet was based on marine mammals caught with bone or ivory harpoons.
The hunters of the northern forests were flocks concentrated in the Canada region and were adapted to the boreal forest of low population concentration and poor diet. Subsistence technology resembled those of the Eskimos. Hunting was the basis of subsistence and their techniques consisted of traps and ambush aided by bows and arrows. Polished stone and chipped stone were used as cutting instruments. In the social division, the flocks were divided into two groups, some hunting in the interior of the forests and others migrating to the tundra guided by a chief in hunting operations.
Western food collectors covered part of the western United States (California, highland, Great Basin and Southwest). In this area, survival was based on feeding native plants and seeds. Cultural behavior was characterized by the amount of food in the environment. For example, in central California, the abundant existence of seeds, acorns, and grasses allowed for sedentarization, established a social system that involved individuals in a greater fraternity. On the other hand, where food was scarcer, the flocks started to adopt more nomadism, in order to search for places that offered sufficient food supplies for survival.
In general, the collecting groups used chipped and polished stone and millstone artifacts to knead and grind the seeds, storing them for later periods.
Chilean seafood collectors lived in an environment relatively poor in natural resources and the amount of supplies (seafood) varied constantly. The flocks were small and nomadic.
The Pampean and Patagonian hunters lived in constant migration and were formed by a number of people ranging from 40 to 120. They hunted guanaco and the rhea with the help of their bow and arrow and also boleadeiras. They used the chipped stone as a cutting tool and their clothes, containers, and shelters were made from the skin of these animals.
The group of hunters and gatherers in the tropical savannah, also called fledgling farmers, were those who lived in the Greater Chaco region. The small amount of resources (with the exception of the Grande Chaco) made this group occupy areas close to the rivers, but of short duration, even dispersing to the fields when the rainy periods occurred. By becoming incipient growers, they incorporated agriculture into their culture, but without changing their way of life. Their diet included shellfish, mollusks, and fish, although they did not dominate the nautical industry and did not use rivers as a transport system.
In the regions of the Central Andes and Mesoamerica, the climate, the relief, and the biological aspects provided the transformation of collecting and hunting groups (nomads) into sedentary peoples. This only happened due to the unfavorable conditions, which led us to develop more elaborate agricultural techniques such as irrigation, terracing, and level curves. The shelters were more durable, the tools better worked, and which served as the first step in the emergence of urbanized and more culturally developed civilizations.
On the other hand, the flocks that remained in nomadic conditions continued to subsist on the basis of wild collection and hunting, without the development of more elaborated instruments for these practices. This implied a culture that was not very technologically developed and that the distinction was more pronounced in relation to the group previously explained.
Therefore, climatic and environmental variations are factors that cannot be overlooked when talking about cultural diversity. This is because survival in a given region is closely linked to the individual’s predisposition to adapt to the conditions offered by the environment.
9. Agriculture and its cultural consequences
Agriculture started to be part of the American inhabitant in a very incipient way from the climatic changes that occurred, when the glaciers retreated for the last time, between about 8000 to 5000 years.
By this time, hunting large animals has become increasingly rare. As there were no domesticated animals that could guarantee group survival, it was necessary to react to the environment by emerging new forms of subsistence, population patterns, and technology.
With the replacement of forests instead of fields and better-drained regions becoming increasingly arid, man learned, through the direct observance of nature, to select the collection and provide better productivity, through the domestication of plants, making them the main source of food. This process took thousands of years, establishing itself as agriculture itself, from around 2000 BC.
Most New World crops are different from those of the Old World. It is not yet known whether domestication was the result of an independent sequence of incidents or whether it was spread from a single world center, adapted to environmental conditions.
American flora has enormous diversity. Foods like corn, beans, potatoes, avocados, peanuts, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, cassava, tomatoes, peppers, chocolate, and also plants like rubber, tobacco, quinine, and coca are unique to America and are part of, currently, the universal diet.
Initially, the primitive groups cleared the land around the selected plant, preventing weeds from harming productivity. Gradually, the importance of irrigation and other agricultural techniques became apparent, such as terracing and contour lines. Subsequently, the wild plant no longer survived without human interference, thus becoming the principle of agriculture.
At that time, the flocks were semi-nomadic and, only gradually, did they become sedentary as the advances progressed in order to establish an increase in plant productivity, making it capable of being a safe and efficient food source for survival.
Material culture has changed to adapt to this new activity. Baskets were developed for the preservation of food, grinders, carved ax blades, mortars, and pestle hands, among others.
Due to the long period of domestication, the effects of this new food source on population size and socio-political organization were mild. It is believed that from irrigation this crop has reached a significant expansion.
Intensive agriculture in Mesoamerica and the Andean area took centuries to develop and incipient cultivation in the Mexican highlands arose between 7000 and 4000 years BC and, according to some experts, the fundamental aspect was a large amount of non-arable land. , as well as population pressure on finite agricultural resources. As for the Andean area, there are doubts as to whether the initial steps developed independently of those seen in Mesoamerica or whether they were stimulated by contact with them.
The origin of corn, which has become the staple food of the New World, has been discussed for a long time. The most complete information comes from the Teotihuacán Valley, beginning around 5000 years BC. A large number of varieties were produced, differing not only in sizes, color, and subsistence properties but also in viability under various conditions of humidity, soil, and duration of growth. The bean first appeared in the Andes, and its association with corn, provided one of the most important achievements for population growth and cultural development, due to biochemical circumstances. Corn has a high protein and energy value, but it is deficient in lysine, a substance essential to Homo sapiens to carry out an efficient protein metabolism. Beans are rich in lysine, supplying this deficiency.
Cassava is considered to be a cultivable root in poor soils, caused by heavy and constant rains. It arises in the humid tropical lowlands of Central and South America, where beans and corn were less productive. It is particularly interesting because the species differ in relation to the accumulation of concentrated hydrocyanic acid in the tubers.
Cotton and Cucurbitaceae are the traces of the domestication of older plants, although they are not edible.
Finally, it is worth noting that the technological development of agriculture through irrigation, terracing, crop rotation, and contour lines, is directly related to urbanization and the transformation of construction societies.
10. Agricultural rites
The changes caused in the Transitional Period implied changes in the diet of the primitive groups of the New World. Incipient agriculture started to be part of the behavioral process, interfering in the size of the population and in the social and political organization, even if in a less accentuated way.
Agriculture, as a technological process, has been internalized through long learning and even though it is a safe source for obtaining food, it is susceptible to climatological phenomena, pests, and other factors. As a result, existing religious rites prior to agriculture were being adapted according to agricultural needs. A clear example can be seen in regions with low rainfall, where agricultural rites were adopted in order to obtain rainfall and improve productivity. These cults were related to the ancestors, seen as beings that make rain and productivity.
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Paperback)
- The Maya (Ancient Peoples & Places)
- The Incredible Incas and Their Timeless Land (Library Binding)
- The Aztecs (Paperback)
- America BC: Ancient Settlers in the New World (Paperback)