Archaeology Magazine

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When Did People Reach South America?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GOING SOUTHSERRA DA CAPIVARA NATIONAL PARK, BRAZIL—Sharp-edged stones, found at Brazil’s Toca da Tira Peia rock shelter, have been dated to 22,000 years ago using luminescence techniques. Geochronologist Christelle Lahaye of the University of Bordeaux and archaeologist Eric Boёda of the University of Paris think that the stones are tools made by humans. “We have new, strong evidence that the Clovis-first model is out of date,” said Lahaye. Similar tools have been found at Chile’s Monte Verde site. Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University estimates that Monte Verde was settled by 14,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 33,000 years ago. The Toca da Tira Peia rock shelter is located in the same national park as the Pedra Furada rock shelter, where sharp-edged stone tools and bits of burned wood have been dated to 50,000 years ago. If people were living in South America at this time, “this is the type of archaeological record we might expect: ephemeral and lightly scattered material in local shelters,” commented Dillehay.