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Rethinking Views on Clovis Man in Florida

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One thing I really enjoy about moving up to Tallahassee is the local anthropology society meetings. Here are the best or most well-known archaeologists in Florida pre-history. So the presentations at the meetings often have the appearance of a dissertation and get very technical, but are full of excellent information. I find it very rewarding.

A few months ago, one of the presentations was of a small, portable new device that can point at an object and tell the chemical make-up. With this, they can trace the source where pottery originated from, knowing the composition of the minerals, elements, and chemicals that make up the object. This is also a helpful tool to quickly determine if an object in a museum was curated by arsenic in the past—a once common practice that often went unrecorded, but very important to know if objects are handled.

This past week was a talk by Michael Faught, former FSU professor, and one of the most knowledgeable people on Clovis and Paleo man in Florida. What he said about Clovis man, was that we need to forget everything that we learned.

The culture of people known as Clovis, were expert flint knappers. Their spear points have what is known as fluting, a groove along the bottom that makes it easier to tie the point to a shaft. It was a highly complex way of flint knapping that is difficult for modern flint knappers. This method of knapping indicates a culture that was taught and passed down, and might even include a common language.

The common theory, was that people who are labeled Clovis Man, named after an archaeological site in Clovis, New Mexico, came down the land bridge from Siberia sometimes around 12,000 to 9,000 years ago, and populated north and south America. What is proving out over the years by archaeology, is that it might have been different.

There is little evidence that Clovis people crossed over Beringia, or the strip of land between the glaciers in Canada. The artifacts have not been found. There are Clovis sites from Canada to Chile, but many more sites in the eastern US than in the west. Wherever they came from, it is probably more likely that they came from the south, than the north. Or, I wonder if we will find out that they originated here in Florida?

There are areas of rich habitation of Clovis people, and Florida is one of them. In fact, the Tampa Bay area is one of the richest areas where Clovis artifacts have been found, more than anywhere else in the country. This is something that artists Hermann Trappman has said for years.

Dr. Faught also said that Clovis people spread very rapidly across the continent, in only about 100-200 years. All people have migrated from one place to another, but this is much quicker than previously believed.

And also, that there were people in Florida before the Clovis culture. Florida was populated at some times more than others, due to environment, weather, and the animals the hunters were following. Florida was never void of people, as long as this strip of land has surfaced out of the sea.

People can be traced by artifacts, and Dr. Faught referenced this as proposed by Dr. Julian Granberry. (I saw Dr. G give this presentation back in 2000.) And we have the flint knapping examples of the Clovis people, and those who were before and after, all in Florida.

Many of these new theories on Clovis man agree with Native American oral history that has been passed down for thousands of years. A few of these stories that I have heard myself. Archaeology has been changing the last few years, and it seems more lively a subject than ever. My Mom was an anthropologist, but a social / cultural anthropologist. She said that she was more interested in what the living people were doing than digging up their bones after they have died. Although artifacts can talk, with new technology they are saying more than ever before. Many old theories of archaeology are being looked at once again. Many archaeologists / anthropologists are saying that the golden age was not C.B. Moore, Goggin, or Bullen in Florida Archaeology, but that the golden age is going on now.
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