Virginia Archeological Sites May Predate Clovis Sites In The Western US
Monterey, VA – The past several years have been especially exciting times in Virginia archeology. This was the message that Dr. Michael Barber, the state archeologist of Virginia, brought to the Highlands chapter of the archeological society of Virginia in Monterey recently.
Over the past 15-20 years a major change has occurred in our ideas of how and when the first people arrived in north America. The previous theory was that humans crossed the Bering strait land bridge from Asia sometime around 12,000 years ago and spread across north America. Based on stone tools found near Clovis new mexico, this culture has been called Clovis.
Now, stone tools found at the Meadowcroft rock shelter site in Pennsylvania, the Topper site in South Carolina and two sites in Virginia, the Clovis First theory is being challenged. The sites in Virginia are Cactus Hill, near Petersburg and Saltville-2. Stone tools at these sites have been dated to more than 15,000 years old and have been designated preclovis because of their age and structural differences. Some of these stone tools have been dated to more than 18,000 years ago.
It is not likely that pre-Clovis people occupied areas of Virginia’s highlands because the climate was too cold during this glacial period. However, Dr. Barber does think that there are sites in our area with stone tools with ages of more than 6-7,000 years old that would provide valuable information about these early residents.
If anyone finds what they believe to be stone tools in the Highlands, Dr. Barber suggests that these items not be removed from their location, but that the finder notify some in the Archeological society of Virginia, or their state archeology society so the site can be recorded and studied using scientific methods. Once artifacts have been removed from a site they lose much of their scientific value, because they can no longer be accurately dated and the information found in the adjacent soil is lost.