Ancient Hunters, Modern Controversy

Between Clovis and Portales, New Mexico is the Blackwater Draw archeological site and museum.  It was closed, but the old guy running the place let me in anyway and we talked about archeology.  This is the place where they found the “Clovis Points,” a particular type of spear point used by the people who lived around here 13000 years ago.  They didn’t have bows and arrows.  Those came only around 3000 years ago.  Instead they used spear throwing sticks – an atlatl.  The stick essentially extends the arm and gives a man leverage to throw harder and farther than he could with just his muscle alone.
It gave our prehistoric ancestors enough firepower to drive the North American megafauna – mammoths, giant sloths, cave bears, saber tooth tigers etc – into extinction.

There is a lot of controversy about the Clovis people.  Nobody knows what they were like, since no human remains have been found.  Scientists used to just assume that they were ancestors of today’s Native Americans, but recent archeological discoveries, such as the Kennewick man (who looked a lot like Jean-Luc Picard), have called some of that into question.   

What happened in America 13000 years ago – before anybody around today was here – is a bigger issue today than you might think.  Some Native American creation myths hold that their people were original to the area or even sprung from the earth. Scientific evidence to the contrary bothers some people. Some have even gone so far as to essentially try to destroy evidence, or at least prevent its study. It is really a species of racism.

It strains credulity to believe that they particular native people inhabiting this place a hundred years ago were the same ones living here 12000 years ago. Linguistic and historical evidence alone would preclude that.  But evidently creationism dies hard no matter where it is rooted. And sometimes political correctness demands that we pretend to believe the believers.

I have a simple view of history. After around a century, when events have passed from living memory, ALL human achievement becomes the common heritage of all humans. In other words, we cannot take special credit or blame for anything that nobody alive actually remembers. I studied and appreciated ancient Greeks and Romans, despite probably being more related genetically to the barbarians that destroyed their civilization. It is great when someone from China can claim inspiration from Thomas Jefferson as I may from Lao Tzu. The Clovis people were our human ancestors. It really doesn’t matter who can or cannot make a silly claim to being genetically more similar.