Paleoindian Period

The first humans appeared in the North American Southwest/US Southwest in the Ice Age (archaeologists call those people Paleoindians and the time period as Paleoindian). Evidence now suggests that they were migrated from northwestern Asia (Siberia and Chukotka) to northwestern North America and Alaska (through the land called Beringia that was existed during the Ice Age). It was not fueled by a desire to discover new lands but was motivated by a natural tendency to follow the migrating animals that people hunted.

Two main theories regarding the chronology of when people appeared in the Americas have emerged. The “pre-Clovis” theory suggests that human arrivals began as early as forty thousand years ago, while the “Clovis-first” theory posits that humans did not appear in the New World until about thirteen thousand years ago. It is difficult to reconstruct when did the first people come to America, but it seems that they were there at least ca. 20 000 years ago (in 2022 new data was published that emphasize the presence of humans in the US Southwest even around 37 000 years ago).

First Paleoindians were hunter-gatherers. The largest animals hunted by Clovis hunters were mammoths and mastodons. The mastodons were slightly smaller than the mammoths (about three meters tall, similar to Asian elephants, compared to mammoths that stood just over four meters). From the other hand Folsom people hunted mostly on bison, caribou, and deer.

The Southwest marks an extremely important starting point for research on the Paleoindians and the appearance of the first people in America. This is the area where the first eponymous sites of Clovis and Folsom Paleoindian cultures were discovered in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Blackwater Draw near Clovis or Folsom, both in what is now New Mexico, and the Dent and Lindenmeier sites in Colorado. Here too the foundations for the academic and university’s archaeology of the Paleoindian period were laid.

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