Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 145-204

First online:

Earliest hunters and gatherers of South America

  • Tom D. DillehayAffiliated withUniversidad Austral de Chile
  • , Gerardo Ardila CalderónAffiliated withDepartamento de Antropología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • , Gustavo PolitisAffiliated withDivision de Arqueología, Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias, Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Bosque del Paseo
  • , Maria da Conceicao de Moraes Coutinho BeltrãoAffiliated withSetor de Arqueología, Museu Nacional, Universidad Federal do Río De Janeiro

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Traditional syntheses of the archaeology of the late Pleistocene period in South America have focused primarily on the peopling of the continent by North American cultural groups and on identifying associations among regional sites. This focus has tended to ignore the widespread culture diversity of the period and the possible effects of different paleolandscapes on human migration and colonization, such as the presence of unglaciated tropical and temperate environments in the northern lowlands, the gateway to the interior. The earliest known cultural assemblages are characterized by various unifacial and bifacial lithic industries that may represent regional processes reminiscent of an Archaic lifeway. The major archaeological sites and associated artifact assemblages are examined in terms of regional and continental patterns of environmental and cultural change. Results suggest that the Pleistocene archaeological record of South America must be explained in its own terms and that the events and processes producing this record either occurred earlier than previously thought or are very different from those in North America.

Key words

human colonization Pleistocene hunter-gatherers South America lithic analysis paleoecology animal extinction Andes Amazonia