New Archaeological Evidence for an Early Human Presence at Monte Verde, Chile

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 18;10(11):e0141923. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141923. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

Questions surrounding the chronology, place, and character of the initial human colonization of the Americas are a long-standing focus of debate. Interdisciplinary debate continues over the timing of entry, the rapidity and direction of dispersion, the variety of human responses to diverse habitats, the criteria for evaluating the validity of early sites, and the differences and similarities between colonization in North and South America. Despite recent advances in our understanding of these issues, archaeology still faces challenges in defining interdisciplinary research problems, assessing the reliability of the data, and applying new interpretative models. As the debates and challenges continue, new studies take place and previous research reexamined. Here we discuss recent exploratory excavation at and interdisciplinary data from the Monte Verde area in Chile to further our understanding of the first peopling of the Americas. New evidence of stone artifacts, faunal remains, and burned areas suggests discrete horizons of ephemeral human activity in a sandur plain setting radiocarbon and luminescence dated between at least ~18,500 and 14,500 cal BP. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including sedimentary proxies and artifact analysis, we present the probable anthropogenic origins and wider implications of this evidence. In a non-glacial cold climate environment of the south-central Andes, which is challenging for human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, these horizons provide insight into an earlier context of late Pleistocene human behavior in northern Patagonia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology*
  • Carbon
  • Chile
  • Culture
  • Human Migration*
  • Humans
  • Paleontology*
  • Radioisotopes

Substances

  • Radioisotopes
  • Carbon

Grant support

This research was funded by the National Council of Monuments, Chile, the National Geographic Society, Vanderbilt University, SERNAGEOMIN, Chile, Instituto de Geociencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil. The funding organizations had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The funders provided support in the form of only travel, salary, field and laboratory costs for some authors [MP, CO, JS, RV, LSC], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. The Paleo Research Institute provided analytical services for only the pollen and phytolith studies. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.