, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 313-359

Clovis Hunting and Large Mammal Extinction: A Critical Review of the Evidence

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Abstract

The North American archaeological phenomenon known as Clovis is famous for the fact that a number of sites that contain diagnostic Clovis artifacts also contain the remains of mammoth and perhaps other extinct genera. In the past, this has led many to assume that Clovis subsistence adaptations were organized around large, now-extinct mammals. It has also seemed to support the argument that the colonization of the Americas by hunters about 11,500 years ago caused the extinction, either directly or indirectly, of some 35 genera of primarily large mammals. Here, we review all sites known to us that have been suggested to provide evidence for the association of Clovis-age archaeological material with the remains of now-extinct Pleistocene mammals. Of the 76 sites reviewed, only 14 provide strong evidence that Clovis-aged people hunted such mammals. Of these sites, 12 contain the remains of mammoth, while two contain the remains of mastodon. Although the prime focus of the analysis we present is on Clovis-age archaeological associations with now-extinct mammals, we conclude that there is no evidence provided by the North American archaeological record to support the argument that people played a significant role in causing Pleistocene extinctions here.