As to when the first people populated the American subcontinent is hotly debated. Until recently, the Clovis people, based on evidence found in New Mexico, were thought to have been the first to have arrived, some 13,000 years ago. Yet evidence gathered from other sites suggest the Americas had been settled at least 1,000 years prior to the Clovis. The "Clovis first" idea, nonetheless, was treated as gospel, backed by supporters who, at least initially, outright discounted any claims that suggested precedence by non-Clovis people. While such a stance smacked of fanaticism, proponents did have a solid claim: if the Clovis peoples crossed the Bering Strait 13,000 years ago, only after it had become ice-free, how would a people have been able to make a similar trip but over ice?
A recent school of thought, backed by Weber, provides the following answer: pre-Clovis people reached the Americas by relying on a sophisticated maritime culture, which allowed them to take advantage of refugia, or small areas in which aquatic life flourished. Thus they were able to make the long journey by hugging the coast as far south as to what is today British Columbia. Additionally, they were believed to have fashioned a primitive form of crampon so that they would be able to dock in these refugia and avail themselves of the microfauna. Still, how such a culture developed in the first place remains unanswered.
The Solutrean theory has been influential in answering this question, a fact that may seem paradoxical--and startling--to those familiar with its line of reasoning: the Clovis people were actually Solutreans, an ancient seafaring culture along the Iberian peninsula, who had--astoundingly given the time period--crossed into the Americas via the Atlantic ocean. Could not a similar Siberian culture, if not the pre-Clovis themselves, have displayed equal nautical sophistication?
Even if one subscribes to this line of reasoning, the "Clovis first" school still have an objection: proponents of a pre-Clovis people rely solely on the Monte Verde site in Chile, a site so far south that its location invites yet another question: What of the 6,000 miles of coastline between the ice corridor and Monte Verde? Besides remains found in network of caves in Oregon, there has been scant evidence of a pre-Clovis peoples. Nonetheless, Meade and Pizinsky claim that a propitious geologic accident could account for this discrepancy: Monte Verde was located near a peat bog that essentially fossilized the village. Archaeologists uncovered two wooden stakes, which, at one time, were used in twelve huts. Furthermore plant species associated with areas 150 miles away were found, suggesting a trade network. These findings indicate that the Clovis may not have been the first to people the Americas, yet more excavation, both in Monte Verde and along the coast, must be conducted in order to determine the extent of pre-Clovis settlements in the Americas.