Constructing the Solutrean Solution
Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley
Smithsonian Institution
University of Exeter


Abstract:

At the 1999 Clovis and Beyond Conference held in Santa Fe, we presented a hypothesis, now known as the "Solutrean Solution", to explain the origin of Clovis technology. The hypothesis is based on the fact that there is little commonality between Clovis and Northeast Asian technologies on the one hand, while on the other, there are many technological traits shared between Clovis and the Solutrean culture of Paleolithic Europe. In the past, scholars have rejected the idea of a historical connection between the two cultures because they were separated temporally by 5,000 years and geographically by 4,000 miles of North Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, it is clear that modern Native Americans are Asian in origin. Hence, the similarities were considered the result of independent invention.

We point out that the idea of independent invention is an unsupported opinion and not a tested hypothesis. In contrast, we outline a testable model with supporting evidence such as the occupation levels found at the Meadowcroft and Cactus Hill sites with pre-Clovis dates that fill the time gap. The pre-Clovis levels also contained biface and blade/core technologies that we would expect in an artifact assemblage transitional between Solutrean and Clovis. We argue that during the 20,000 years that lapsed between the beginning of maritime technology in Southeast Asia and the advent of Solutrean in Southwest Europe, major developments in sea going technologies and skills likely spread around the coastal waters of the inhabited world. We also point out that during Solutrean times lower sea levels greatly reduced the distance between the Celtic and the North American Continental Shelves and a connecting ice bridge eliminated the necessity of a 4,000-mile blue voyage between Lisbon and New York City. The southern margin of this ice bridge was a relative rich environment inhabited by migrating sea mammals, birds, and fish attracting Solutrean people. We reason that generations of Solutrean hunters learned to cope with ice and weather conditions to follow rich resources such as Harp seals and Great Auks that migrated north and westward along with retreating ice in late spring. Through such activities they ended up (by accident and/or design) along the exposed continental shelf of North America discovering a new land.

This paper summarizes the results of six years of intensive research in which we assessed the available interdisciplinary evidence to see if the Solutrean Solution Model is supported or should be rejected. Our conclusion is that there is strong and compelling supporting data and the model merits serious consideration. In this regard, we address the issues and opinions raised by other scholars who published negative "peer reviewed" papers seeking to "deconstruct the Solutrean Solution" before we completed our studies. Our paper concludes with evidence to support the view that Clovis developed out of an indented base biface tradition that existed along the Mid-Atlantic continental shelf.


Dr. Dennis Stanford
Dr. Dennis Stanford is Curator of Archaeology and Chairman of the Anthropology Department at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (www.mnh.si.edu/). He has devoted his career to early American prehistory, and done field work from Alaska to Monte Verde in Chile, where the oldest human remains in the Americas were found. With his Smithsonian colleague Bruce Bradley, he is working on the possibility that Clovis points, first found in North America around 11,000 years ago, derive from similar flaking techniques developed thousands of years earlier in Spain. The idea may have been brought here by an early visitor who travelled by boat. Such a traveler might have traveled along the edge of an icecap which rimmed the North Atlantic during the Ice Age. Dr. Stanford is also one of the eight archaeologists suing the U.S. government to make the Kennewick Man available for study. An article on his theories about the link between European and American flaking technology can be found at http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/arctic/html/dennis_stanford.html -- part of a Smithsonian web site called "Northern Clans, Northern Traces." His recent publications include the book Ice Age Hunters of the Rockies (1992, Boulder: University Press of Colorado), which he edited with Jane Day and to which he contributes an introduction and an article. He edited an earlier book, Pre-Llano cultures of the Americas: paradoxes and possibilities, with Robert L.Humphrey (Washington, DC : Anthropological Society of Washington, 1979) He is working on a book about his theory of an early North Atlantic crossing.

Dr. Bruce Bradley
Dr. Bruce Bradley is a professional archaeologist who is currently an independent consultant, Research Associate at the Carnegie Museum, and adjunct Professor at Augustana College. He received a BA in anthropology from the University of Arizona and a PhD in archaeology from Cambridge University. His experience has taken him to projects ranging from Stone Age digs in England, France, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, and Russia; Paleoindian sites, including Clovis, in Wyoming and Colorado; and he has conducted some of the research in the northern Southwest that is redefining ancient Pueblo history.

Bruce is also known throughout the world as a master flintknapper. Highly respected in the professional archaeology community, he is also active in the amateur community and leads archaeological excursions in the Southwest and Ireland, and has lead groups of amateurs and professionals in excavations in the Southwest, Texas, Russia and Spain.

He is proud to have received the C.T. Hurst Award from the Colorado Archaeological Society for outstanding contributions to Colorado archaeology. Bruce has been featured in numerous documentaries and is frequently sought out by authors and filmmakers for technical advice. He has received research support from the International Research Exchanges, National Science Foundation, and National Geographic, and worked for such prominent institutions as the Smithsonian, the University of Wyoming, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Institute of Material Culture History, St. Petersburg, and the Archaeological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Bruce is currently working on a book, with Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian, about the possibility that Clovis Culture had historical connections to the Solutrean Culture of Southwest Europe. This theory brings people across the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the last Ice Age.