The Solutrean Hypothesis – were Europeans the first North American Settlers?
The Solutrean Hypothesis:
Most in the scientific community argue that the Native American population of North America was settled by people groups from the Asian continent who crossed the Bering Sea land bridge that existed during the Ice Age. However, a 1998 hypothesis by Dennis Stanford (Smithsonian) and Bruce Bradley (University of Exeter) proposed a different theory as to the origins of the first Native Americans. Stanford and Bradley believe that a group known as the Solutreans were the first settlers of the North American continent. The Solutrean Hypothesis suggests that the Solutrean group migrated to North America during the Ice Age (approximately 15,000 – 17,000 years ago) via a land bridge that existed from Europe to the North American Continent. The Solutreans then migrated down into the North American Continent, establishing the first known inhabitants of the continent.
Who are the Solutreans? The Solutreans are a group from France, Spain, and Portugal that existed nearly 20,000 years ago in Europe. This group was distinguished by its stone toolmaking skills which were labeled as bifacial. Bifacial tools are characterized as the earliest tools utilized by man. The bifacial axe is one of the first known such tools. Bifacial characteristics include a dual sided, pointed, stone, which has been shaped by a pressure flaker to create the traditional arrowhead shape. The impressions left by the percussion device give specific characteristics, making it bifacial. How does the bifacial axe or tool indicate a Solutrean origin for the first North American Settlers? How does this evidence contribute to prove the Solutrean Hypothesis?
Solutreans utilized bifacial tools. Bifacial tools have been found in Virginia (Cactus Hill and coastal waters), Maryland, and Pennsylvania (Rockshelter) archaeological sites. Stanford and Bradley believe the presence of bifacial tools indicates the presence of the Solutreans. It should be noted that bifacial tools were the first tools known, and predate the Clovis tools which are attributed to civilizations that existed nearly 14,000 years ago. Clovis tools were created later than Solutrean tools and thought to be derived from the bifacial methods. The Solutrean tools are documented on the European continent more than 15,000 years ago. However, Solutrean tools ceased to exist in Europe after this time period. Solutrean Hypothesis supporters lend further credence to the theory, noting that Solutrean tools such as bone needles, have also been found in archaeological sites which indicate Solutreans were among the first to have entered the continent. Bone needles are still utilized by the Inuit.
Additional support for the Solutrean Hypothesis includes the genetic makeup of Halogroup X. This genetic group is not associated with Asian origins and is, therefore, thought to be significant to the frequency in the Algonquin, Sioux, Yakama, Nuu-Cha-Nulth, and Navajo Native American populations. While the scientific community argues the reason for the presence of o the Halogroup X as a culmination of cultures, supporters of the Solutrean Hypothesis have valid arguments based on the bifacial tools found in archaeological sites.
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