The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Clovis tools or Clovis people? a new approach using time-series conversion and dynamic time warping


1Anthropology, University of California at Riverside, 2Computer Science, University of California at Riverside

Saturday 120, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The peopling of the Americas has been studied extensively, but no decisive conclusion has been reached as to whether the people of the Clovis culture were the first inhabitants of the Americas. Recent archaeological finds suggest that both North and South Americas were inhabited prior to the emergence of the Clovis culture. In this paper, we ask, “Was the spread of Clovis a biological (migratory) or cultural process?” If it were cultural, the Clovis-first hypothesis would be incompatible.

Using an innovative method from computer science, we transformed photographs of Clovis tools into time-series. We analyzed them with dynamic time warping, a method of comparison. We analyzed Clovis tools (n = 31) from four North American Clovis sites (Anzick, MT, East Wenatchee, WA, Lehner, AZ, and Murray Springs, AZ). Variation in tool morphology within a site was compared to variation between sites. Preliminary results show that East Wenatchee has the lowest within-site variation (consistent with it being the earliest of our sites), but all sites have low within-site variation compared to the between-site values. Anzick and Murray Springs show the greatest between-site variation. The degree of difference between early and later sites (about 150 years separation) indicates that Clovis technology spread too rapidly and with too much variation to be spread by migration alone. The Clovis tool kit spread via cultural exchange, and we conclude that there were people already living in North America prior to the appearance of the Clovis culture, rejecting the Clovis-first hypothesis.

This research was supported by NSF 0803410.

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