MONTE VERDE: MIGRATION TO THE NEW WORLD
“From Whence Came Those Aboriginals Of America?” Thomas Jefferson, arguably the first scientific investigator of the past, wrote that question in his field notes as he was excavating a mound at Monticello in 1787(Jefferson 1998). When and how humans arrived in the far flung parts of the world--that is, far flung from our Homo sapiens sapiens origins in Africa--is part of the essential problem that interests most archaeologists and paleontologists, and all people for that matter. After all, creation myths are in part attempts to answer the question "Where did we come from?" Origin myths are ancient oral history, and are by nature wrapped in uncertainty and vagueness; they often contradict one another and although there is certainly cultural truth in them, they are, in the end, unsatisfying to the scientific importance. This research paper will focus on one of the most important debates in American archaeology, which centers on finding the first people to enter the Americas.
In the spring of 1976, a great archaeological discovery was made. The site of Monte Verde was reported by Dr. Tom Dillehay of the University of Kentucky at Lexington (Dillehay 1989). His discovery shook the foundations of what archaeologists understand about how the Americas were populated. The Monte Verde site is an open locality situated on the banks of Chinchihuapi Creek, 33 km southwest of Puerto Mott in south-central Chile. Four discrete zones of buried cultural materials containing two carbon components, MV-I and MV-II, were identified in the site deposits. About 450 square meters of the total estimated site area of 800 square meters was excavated during the 1979, 1981, 1983, and 1985 field seasons (Adovasio and Pedler 1997). The site deposits contained remains of 12-13 residential structures apparently made of poles and branches and draped with animal skins (probably mastodon), as well as braziers and hearths (Dillehay 1989: 11-13).