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America’s Stone Age Explorers: Where did the First Americans Come From? cover image

America’s Stone Age Explorers: Where did the First Americans Come From? 2004

Highly Recommended

Distributed by WGBH Boston, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134; 617-300-2000
Produced by Gary Glassman and Nigel Levy
Directed by Alan Ritsko
DVD, color, 60 min.

Jr. High - Adult
American Studies, Anthropology

Date Entered: 04/14/2005

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

When the first Clovis point was discovered at Clovis, New Mexico, in 1932, archaeologists developed the “Clovis-first” theory that during the Ice Age, big-game hunters migrated via a land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. The theory held that these people traveled through an ice-free corridor, and thus populated the Americas. These were considered the first Americans and their arrival was estimated at 13,500 years ago. When the glaciers melted, the land bridge disappeared. The Clovis-first theory maintained that these people were then isolated until the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The perfection of this theory was marred by the discovery that massive ice sheets apparently blocked the route south. And then some scientists began to looker further back in time, beyond the 13,500 Clovis-first designator.

The first Clovis point was discovered next to a mammoth skeleton. Since then, Clovis points have been found in all forty-eight states and part of Mexico. Experts in this field discuss the distinctive flake (bifacial) that makes the Clovis point such an important tool. Described as a “projectile with a serrated edge,” used as a weapon, the Clovis point could take down any Pleistocene animal. Eventually, Clovis points were found that dated back to 16,000 B.C., and this, coupled with the ice sheets challenged the Clovis-first theory.

The documentary explores several theories which challenge the previously accepted Clovis viewpoint. Coastline studies now show that instead of being frozen and lifeless as previously thought, the coastline now shows evidence of plant life, bears, and caribou that date back 50,000 years ago. This would seem to indicate man could survive that far back as well. Some scientists argue that a temperate climate that sustained bears and plants would also support man.

DNA research traces four lineages back to Siberia and Northeast Asia. Those lines diverged from that part of the world approximately 20,000 years ago. This would seem to indicate at least three waves of migration occurred in the Americas.

The remainder of the film details other theories that are being posited that include possible ice-age explorers from Europe as early as 15,000 years ago or migrants from Siberia as far back as 20,000 years ago.

This is a fascinating overview of the scientific debate currently taking place related to the populating the Americas.

Special features on this DVD include access to the NOVA Web site and printable materials for educators. This DVD also has closed captions and described video for the visually impaired. Hyperlinks to are displayed in appropriate places throughout the program, providing viewers with additional information.

The technical aspects are of the highest quality, and support the high standards of NOVA programming. Maps, graphics, and simulations enhance the information delivery. An appropriate soundtrack accompanies the film.

Suitable for general collections and schools where anthropology or American studies are taught.

This program is highly recommended.