Abstract and Keywords
Identifying definitive evidence of the “first” peoples in the Americas, much like finding the first of any temporally distant phenomenon, is a difficult task. Because colonization is a process involving the spread, occupation, and growth of a population, multiple firsts must be identified. The earliest site, date, or artifact offers evidence merely of a human presence on a continent—but it does not necessarily indicate colonization. It is possible, if not probable, that multiple human groups ventured into North America without establishing a permanent presence. The archaeological signature of colonization, then, may not open an easily navigable spatiotemporal trail of artifacts, but could involve a more complex record of human explorations prior to, concurrent with, and postdating actual colonization. Consequently, Early Paleoindian archaeology is fraught with contentious claims, debates, and theories regarding the expectations and interpretations of evidence concerning the timing of human presence versus colonization.
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