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Did humans migrate to the New World from Europe in Early Prehistoric Times?

Mar 12, 2017 | 0 comments

Mar 12, 2017 | Essays | 0 comments

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Did humans migrate to the New World from Europe in Early Prehistoric Times?



The last century has seen scientific and philosophical debate as to who owns the American continent. Stanford, Bradley & Collins (2012) indicated that the common belief amongst many people is the indigenous population or the American-Indian are the true descendants, before the Columbus voyage, of the first American people. This critical essay will analyze and discuss two opposing argument whether or not humans migrated in the Early Prehistoric Times from Europe to the New World. The proponents of the debate are Dr Bruce Bradley who is a researcher and an archeology professor at Smithsonian, and Dennis Stanford, an anthropologist and Paleo-Indian archeologist. They came up with the Solutrean Theory to support their arguments. The opponent to the claims by Bradley and Stanford is Laurence Guy Straus; an anthropology professor at New Mexico University with a claim that there is minimal evidence connecting Solutrean counterparts with Clovis points (Stanford & Bradley, 2004). The essay discussed both sides and but after critical assessment, supported the arguments of Stanford and Bradley that humans migrated in the early prehistoric times from Europe to the new world.

Views and arguments of Dennis Stanford and Brace Bradley

Stanford and Bradley (2000) believed that they have discovered evidence linking Stone Age Europe and North America. With their support for “Solutrean hypothesis,” they claimed that the first people that arrived in the new world originated from the prehistoric Spain. The first people came along with ways of making stone tools that are distinct. Moreover, they claimed that there is new interpretation of the evidence that exists with new technologies or there is new evidence, which challenges the most common belief that the people who first came to the continent of America were the Paleolithic Siberians.

The assertions of Stanford, Bradley & Collins (2012) has caused a stir in the community of academicians. However, the reinterpretation of evidence by Stanford and Bradley has shed some light on the group of people to America and where they could have come from. As much as many researchers and historians still cling vehemently on the traditional belief that the first people to migrate in north America  came from Siberia through Beringia, the new evidence, in form of Clovis and DNA research demonstrate that Paleolithic Europeans  may have migrated at possibly earlier or even the same time to the new world.

In their lecture in 1999 at Clovis and Beyond Conference, Stanford and Bradley proposed using Clovis point and Solutrean similarities, that the first people to migrate the continent of North America were the Paleolithic Europeans called the Solutreans. They claimed that the Solutreans migrated either by purpose or accident from western Eastern Europe to east of America along Ice Age route that is reduced. The journey was possible that time because of the lower level of the sea during the period of Ice Age latter half of about 20, 000 years BP (Stanford & Bradley, 2004). Moreover, Stanford and Bradley (2000) indicated that because of the lower sea levels, probably there would have been present land in the two continents, making the migration or journey easier. Similarly, the people who might have crossed would have trekked via ice packs or glacial.

Stanford and Bradley (2012) also indicated that the Solutreans inhabited the Iberian Peninsula between the ocean and glacier and were hunters and gatherers. Given that they lived by the sea and their hunting was seasonal, the Solutreans supplemented their diets occasionally with the foods from the ocean. This probably made the journey elaborated by Stanford and Bradley plausible. Moreover, for crossing through the ice bridge, it is possible because modern fishermen and hunters do it all the time.

The Solutreans supplemented their land mammals’ diet by hunting creatures of the sea like seals, small whales and fish. Apparently these large animals are not caught at the shoreline; therefore the Solutreans had to use crafts that are sea worthy. These crafts would have been made of animal fat and skin, and wood to make them water tight (Stanford and Bradley, 2004). This is a technology since antiquity and archeological evidence has pointed them out in Japan, Melanesia ad Australia and they even date back to 40,000 years ago. Stanford and Bradley (2000) explained that by Solutreans following the ice packs at the lower latitudes with their boats, they would be able to follow and track their prey as far as they could go, and eventually ending at the American continent shores.

When the Solutreans dwelled in the Iberian Peninsula, they used the skill of flint knapping technique. Surprisingly, Stanford and Bradley (2012) argued that the skill is very similar to the American Clovis point technology, especially on the eastern seaboard. Clovis and Solutreans flintknappers used almost identical technologies on stone working. There is high correspondence degree between the bone and stone tools and also the engraved limestone tablets.

Views and arguments by Straus

The arguments of Straus were basically to criticize the Solutrean hypothesis advocated by Stanford and Bradley. To begin, Straus (2002) indicated that evidence does not support origin of Europeans in early America. For instance, there is no single artifact of even remain of human from the early period that is European unambiguously. He stated that as much as Kennewick man was European, it was late by thousands of years (Straus, 2002).

Currently, North America has natives with clear genetic origins not from Europe but Asia. Straus (2002) explained that given that the first migrants to North America were few in number, evolutionary mechanisms such as the founder effects and other genetic bottlenecks could have affected easily haplogroup X frequency.

Straus (2002) also echoed the old questions that were unanswered in the 1930s during the first Solutrean theory. For instance, why were the points of cloves flute while not the Solutreans points? For the thousand s of years, what were they doing that separated the cultures of Clovis and Solutrean? The Solutreans are known not to have boats, how did they came to North America? However, this was answered by Stanford and Bradley that they arrived by boats while travelling along the great Ice Age glaciers. However, Straus (2002) questions how and why the boats failed to survive for the archeological records

Straus also presented logical problems while opposing the debate. First, Straus (2002) explained that culture is not identical to technology, and culture is not also identical to geographic or genetic origins. He gave an example of an individual traveling to Amazon forest and find people wearing Nike merchandise. This does not imply that the people in Amazon forest are Americans given that the garments were made in United States. From the logic of Stanford and Bradley, Straus indicates that conclusions have been made that the inhabitants of North America were Solutreans since the indicators of culture like the stone tools must travel with their inventors. Their logic makes a premature conclusion that these indicators were handed from one person to the other through trade, commerce and interactions. In summary, Straus argues that if the Clovis people happened to use the technology from the Solutreaans, it does not make them Spaniards.

Another argument by Straus (2002) based on assumption is an imagination that the Solutreans travelled along the glaciers edge and arrived in America according to Stanford and Bradley. Upon arrival they found a population of Paleo-Indians whom they share their technology. Out of joy, they share the new technology from the Spaniards with their friends. The Solutreans then turn around and travel back home leaving back the technology. This implies that not the genes or the people have travelled to the new world, but the new technology. This is mere assumption and there is no factual evidence to show that the Solutreans travelled to America to spread their technology and go back home (Straus, 2002).

Critical assessment

Both camps that have been discussed in the essay have valid points. However, from the critical analysis of both arguments of Stanford and Bradley verses Straus, it is evident that the duo argues based on evidence, research and facts. On the other hand, Straus opposes the views of Stanford and Bradley based on assumptions with no tangible evidence. This makes his arguments weak compared to the arguments proposed by the duo.

The argument by stratus that today the natives in North America have genetic traces in Asia and not Europe is valid. However, Malhi & Smith (2002) refuted this claim by pointing out a study on haplogroup X, a type of mitochondrial DNA found in higher percentage among the Asians compared to the Europeans or Native Americans populations. This indicates that there is thin link between Native Americans and the Asians but great link between Europeans and Native Americans.

As much as Straus raises questions concerning Solutreans and Clovis such as why Clovis are fluted while Solutreans are not, the fact remains that they have physical similarity and features. Stanford and Bradley explained their origin and Straus even conceded that they are not of North American culture. Possible explanation of the differences is that for thousands of years, Solutreans in American hangs and gradually develops the Clovis technology


In conclusion, the essay discussed two contrasting views whether or not humans migrated in the early prehistoric times form Europe to the new world. The essay discussed in favored of the arguments proposed Stanford and Bradley under the Solutreans theory because their arguments are based on facts, evidence and research, compared to arguments by Straus which are merely assumptions ad imaginations. Some of the arguments that support that early immigrants to the new world came from Europe is the similarity between Solutreans and Clovis, artifacts including Caucasian remains before the native Americans, and genetic similarity. However, despite the fact that no clear evidence exists that relates Clovis people to Solutreans or other earlier inhabitants of North America, the similarities between the two cultures could also be coincidental. That is two different and independent groups of people having similar solutions when solving similar problems (Clark, 2000). The main setback of archeology according to Straus (2002) is the belief in notion that if things resemble each other, then they have the same source, and the latest Solutreans hypothesis to the Clovis people. 



Bradley, Bruce and Dennis Stanford. (2004). The North Atlantic Ice-Edge Corridor: A Possible Paleolithic Route to the New World. World Archaeology 36(4): 459-478. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/‌stable/‌4128281

Clark, G. A. (2000). Deconstructing the North Atlantic Connection. Current Research in the Pleistocene, 16.

Malhi, R. S., & Smith, D. G. (September 01, 2002). Brief communication: Haplogroup X confirmed in prehistoric North America. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 119, 1, 84-86.

Stanford, D. J., Bradley, B. A., & Collins, M. B. (2012). Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America’s Clovis Culture. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press.

Stanford, Dennis and Bruce Bradley. (2000). The Selutrean Solution–Did Some Early Americans Come from Europe? Discovering Archaeology, February. Reprinted in Clovis and Beyond. Retrieved from http://www.clovisand beyond.org/articles1.html

Straus, L.G. (2002). Archaeology Solutrean Settlement of North America? A Review of Reality. American Antiquity 65, no. 2: 424


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