Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Seaweed at Monte Verde

The NY Times has a piece today on seaweed quids that have been discovered at a 14,000 year old level at the site of Monte Verde in Chile. Monte Verde is about 50 miles from the coast, so this shows that there was travel to the coast or trade with people who lived there.

Tom Dillehay, the lead researcher at the site, asserts that this discovery supports the coastal migration theory for the population of the New World, a topic we have discussed here many times. I suppose you could say that, but only very indirectly. Demonstrating that people were familiar with the coast and its resources during this period of the peopling of the New World might indicate that they traveled down that way. I find discoveries like Arlington Man from the Channel Islands in California (who dates a few hundred years after the Monte Verde finds) more convincing proof of Paleoindian seafaring.


Mike Spies said...


Why the resistance to the idea of people spreading to the New World by sea? Is the operant assumption that watercraft or navigation was to 'advanced' for earlier cultures?

Does the settlement of Australia (apparently by boat) about 60,000 years ago not disprove the idea that dispersion by sea was not an accident?

Surely Arlington Man was not the first, and was not alone.

Reid Farmer said...

Mike - I have no resistance to the coastal migration theory and actually find it very persuasive. I just think that this Monte Verde example isn't particularly supportive of it. By contrast, Arlington Man had to get across 7-10 miles of open water (even at low Pleistocene sea levels) to get to the island he is on, giving more direct evidence of Paleoindian seafaring.

Mike Spies said...


I did not mean to suggest that YOU were resistant to the settlement by sea idea.

There was a lot of skepticism about Monte Verde even after evidence was presented and good arguments made. Perhaps skepticism is a tool, but a reactionary stance isn't useful.

I see some academics who invest heavily in an entrenched position - possibly published by them or a colleague - and seem to deny reasonable and well supported ideas with the argument that early man was 'not as smart as we are'.

If early man wasn't able to interact with his environment intelligently, overcome significant barriers, and live successfully on the Earth, WE wouldn't be here!

Sorry for the mini-rant. It was not directed at you. I enjoy reading about your work.