Archaeology of the Americas is the learning of the archaeology of North America, Central America (or Mesoamerica), South America and the Caribbean, which is to say, the pre-history and Pre-Columbian history of Native American peoples.Until recently, the most broadly established interpretation of the archaeological evidence suggests a series of migrations from Siberia over a land bridge near the end of the last ice age. However, current finds in Brazil have changed the way archeologists think about how the Americas were settled.
Among these finds is a 12,000 year-old skull which is closely related to the aboriginal peoples of Australia and Melanesia. Cave paintings show images of giant armadillos, which died out before the last ice age. They also show the oldest painting of a boat anywhere in the world. Archaeologists cogitate that the first Americans drifted unknowingly from Australia.
There is a variety of alternatives to that theory, and unconventional, unrelated defusionist theories abound. These alternative theories generally are based upon less confirmation and lack a large following.
Archaeology in the United States
In the United States, physical anthropology (archeological investigations based on the study of human remains) is complicated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, (NAGPRA), which provides for the bodies of Native Americans and grave goods to be turned over to their tribe. In some cases, especially, that of Kennewick Man, this has exaggerated human remains many thousands of years old which seem to have no connection to the modern tribes which are requesting relief under the act.
Mesoamerica or Meso-America is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Honduras and Nicaragua, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Prehistoric groups in this area are characterized by agricultural villages and large ceremonial and politico-religious capitals. This culture area included some of the most complex and advanced cultures of the Americas, including the Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Maya, and the Aztec.
Defined initially as a big-game hunting adaptation. In most places, this can be dated to before 8000 BC. Examples include the Clovis culture and Folsom tradition groups. .
Defined as cultures relying primarily on increasing intensive collecting of wild resources, after the decline of the big-game hunting lifestyle. Typically Archaic cultures can be dated from 8000 BC to 1000 BC. Examples include the Archaic Southwest, the Arctic small tool tradition, the Poverty Point culture, and the Chan-Chan culture in southern Chile.
Defined as "village agriculture" based. Most of these can be dated from 1000 BC to AD 500. Examples include the Dorset culture, Zapotec culture, Mimbres, Olmec, Woodland and Mississippian cultures.
Defined as "early civilizations," and typically dating from AD 500 to 1200. Willey and Phillips considered only cultures from Mesoamerica and Peru to have achieved this level of complexity. Examples include the early Maya and the Toltec.
Defined as "later prehispanic civilizations" and typically dated from AD 1200 onward. The late Maya and the Aztec cultures were Post-Classic.
Settlement of the Americas address the central question of when and how humans reached the Americas. The earliest definite human peoples visible in the archaeological record throughout the Americas are today known as the Paleo-Indians.
The Pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic to European colonization during the Early Modern period.
While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.
More than 12,000 years ago, in one of the greatest triumphs of prehistory, humans colonized North America, a continent that was then truly a new world. Just when and how they did so has been one of the most perplexing and controversial questions in archaeology.
The peopling of the Americas has become one of archaeology's most compelling and contentious subjects, as these new lines of evidence reveal a more complex solution. In this volume, distinguished scientists from the fields of archaeology, physical anthropology, paleoecology, genetics, and linguistics assess the latest evidence from Siberia to Chile and offer provocative ideas for how, when, and where humans entered the Americas.
This book presents a theoretically informed, up-to-date study of interactions between indigenous peoples of Mediterranean France and Etruscan, Greek, and Roman colonists during the first millennium BC.
American Archaeology is the only popular magazine devoted to the excitement and mystery of archaeology in the United States, with additional coverage of Canada and Latin America.
International organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas.