Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 30
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30 TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
o 1 2
A Clovis blade, sketched by Pam Headrick.
tween 20,000 to 15,000 years ago when a pathway between
two major North American glaciers would have been
However, the first settlers would have adapted their
sea-oriented culture to the coasts of the New World, sup-
plementing fishing with hunting and gathering inland.
Perhaps this culture lasted thousands of years.
When the climate changed, the temperature rose
and the glaciers receded. The ancient coasts were
flooded by the rising sea levels, destroying the environ-
ment that supported these first Americans. Although the
process would have taken decades, no trace of the early
culture would remain, for any artifacts would be under
water, far under in some cases, and also covered by sedi-
As human beings usually do, the sea-dependent peo-
ples would have adjusted their life styles to the new real-
ities. Rising sea levels would have pushed the coastal
inhabitants farther inland than they previously ven-
tured. This movement put them in contact with the
mammoth, mastodon, bison and other large animals.
The people would have turned to hunting the big beasts,
or perhaps scavenging the meat after the animals died.
From their experience, the new inlanders would
fashion adequate tools for killing and butchering their
new prey. Hence, the development of the Clovis point.
(By the way, no evidence of a Clovis-type culture has
been found on the west side of the Bering Strait. If the
people of Clovis were immigrants, would not they have
left some evidence at the beginning of their trek across
Maybe the people making the transition from sea-
dependency to hunting-gathering were more sophisticat-
ed than we realize. Clovis man left few artifacts, mostly
projectile points and other tools fashioned from stone.
Perhaps his tool kit was more comprehensive than the
archaeological record reflects.
The Windover site in Florida reveals why early man
may be underestimated by his modern counterparts.
This 8,000-year-old wetlands site produced 168 burials.
Among the artifacts were undergarments of the quality
of modern T-shirts but woven from plant fibers. Fishing
nets of several gauges were found in the graves with
wooden tools. What few stone tools they used were primi-
tive. Many of the corpses recovered from this peat-bog
like site still had brain material intact.
If this culture once had existed on the Texas coast,
few artifacts would have survived the hostile physical
environment. The evidence of the sophistication of the
culture would not be available. Probably all that would
be found would be the primitive stone tools. And from
them probably would have come a mistaken evaluation
of the culture.
Nevertheless, Banks would like to see some potential
underwater Clovis sites identified and investigated. Con-
sidering the fact that Texas' Gulf Coast would have been
tens of miles farther south 20,000 years ago, that would
be a big job.
One intriguing site might be near the West Flower
Bank Gardens, the coral structures that are to be pro-
tected by the federal government. The coral built the im-
pressive structures on top of what was a nice sized hill on
the Pleistocene landscape, a landmark that might have
attracted ancient Texans.
Banks may have a problem getting his theory of Clo-
vis as a secondary culture accepted, for archaeologists
fiercely defend the current thesis. So fiercely, in fact,
that some contemporaries claim a double standard is
used in judging sites that do not fit into the general
And well it should be, for scientific theories should
be well-founded and changes embraced only after most
exacting criteria are met. Dr. Meltzer thinks the first
site significantly older than the generally accepted 11,500
years must meet three criteria: The artifacts must be
good, the geology must be excellent and the dating of the
artifacts must be unassailable. That is a tall order, but
one that Dr. Dellihay may have fulfilled in at least the
upper level of the Monte Verde site in Chile.
As impassioned as the debate gets, what difference
does it make if early man reached the New World 11,500
or 20,000 years ago?
Not much, according to Dr. Meltzer. If earlier sites
are found, "it just means we were wrong by a few cen-
turies," he says.
Of course, if it turns out that man reached the New
World 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, as Louis Leakey, the
renowned paleontologist, asserted several years ago af-
ter viewing a site in California, well, that is a different
story. That is an age before homo sapien sapien (mod-
ern man) came on the scene. But no evidence of any
type human other than modern man has been found in
the New World. And certainly, no trace of Neanderthal
man, the modern human's predecessor in Europe, Afri-
ca and Asia, has been found in North or South America.
The presence of earlier men would call into question
present theories on the pace of evolution and on the mi-
gratory patterns of humans.
That is all well ahead of the present state of archaeo-
logical discovery in Texas and the Western Hemisphere.
The 11,500-year barrier has not yet been acceptably
breached, and until it is, man in the New World must be
considered only the younger cousin of those elsewhere in
If Banks' ideas prove out, however, it may be that
the Clovis people were actually native Texans, whose
forebears had made the difficult journey from northeast
Asia then along the coasts of the Pacific, the Atlantic,
and the Gulf of Mexico to the plains of Texas thousands
of years before it is thought possible today.
TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/34/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.