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  5. Lithic stage

Unifacial beveling on alternate edges appear simultaneously in NA and CA around 12, BP suggesting some transmission of knowledge related to this technological feature but more data from both stratified sites with bifacial stone tools and ancient DNA are needed to fully test these propositions. The Lowe tradition is a technological lithic complex unique to southern Mesoamerica.


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It shares features with contemporaneous stemmed point types found primarily in tropical areas of SA and lower CA, but is also related to ancestral Paleoindian complexes in NA. Its development corresponds with a pattern of regionalization and diversification reflected in similar age tools found throughout the Americas [ 98 ] at a time of changing Holocene environments.

Links to NA are complicated by a dearth of supporting data on early technocomplexes from the large geographic space encompassed by most of central and southern Mexico, making it hard to find evidence for lateral cultural transmission of technological knowledge from NA to southern Mesoamerica. Lowe complex tools are basally thinned, stemmed, and barbed bifaces. They are a flexible tool type well suited for the diverse set of early Holocene environments like those that emerged in Belize.

In particular, tropical forests offered new resources that were of economic importance including a wide variety of palms, tubers, and vines [ 99 , ]. Broad-spectrum plant and animal-based economies were likely well in place in the late Paleoindian period in CA [ ], much like they were in SA [ 62 , ].

Comparative data from Chiapas in southern Mexico suggest flaked stone tools of late Paleoindian age were used for plant and wood processing [ ] similar to proposed diversified plant-based economies in lower CA [ , ] and SA [ ]. We provide a chronology for the Lowe complex that is potentially years long, far exceeding any existing New World Paleoindian technocomplex.

Unifacial beveling on alternate edges, not found on other South or Central American points and not found on earlier Clovis or lanceolate types, may be the earliest characteristic of Lowe complex. Our biface tip from TY dates to calBP 12,—12, and is steeply beveled. This suggests that Lowe type bifaces were manufactured over a shorter time-period, while the overall complex that includes opposite edge beveling technology of large bifaces in Central America may have lasted significantly longer, though it is less clearly defined.

In this paper we argue that the Late Paleoindian period is a time of diversification in tool types as an adaptation to the range of environmental conditions found in southern Mesoamerica as well as increasing reliance on plant resources, and that this specialization is a feature you see very early on in the occupation of the neotropics, and likely in adjacent regions of South America. Further, our understanding of Paleoindian subsistence will be enhanced with more detailed analyses of other stone tools from these assemblages, including grinding, chopping, and cutting tools made of non-chert resources.

These studies accompanied by macrobotanical and residue analyses will clarify the range of subsistence resources exploited by early settlers. This reappraisal of the chronology of Lowe complex fills an important gap in the prehistory of southern Mesoamerica, a particularly diverse resource rich tropical landscape. It is also the first securely dated Paleoindian tool for this region. In southern Belize formal bifacial tools are not present in Archaic assemblages, as is the case for El Gigante [ 85 ]. This is again in stark contrast to NA with its robust Archaic technocomplexes. Southern Mesoamerica again looks a lot more like its tropical neighbors to the south [ ], suggesting little lateral technological transmission from NA to the tropics across this time period.

Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract From the perspective of Central and South America, the peopling of the New World was a complex process lasting thousands of years and involving multiple waves of Pleistocene and early Holocene period immigrants entering into the neotropics. Data Availability: All relevant data are within the manuscript. Introduction Lack of knowledge of the Paleoindian period in southern Mesoamerica, a critical early migration bottleneck, has impeded our understanding of the peopling of the Americas and how early New World migrants adapted to emergent tropical environments.

Download: PPT. Paleoindian chronologies in southern Mesoamerica In southern Mesoamerica even rudimentary absolute chronologies dating Paleoindian and Archaic period stone tools are lacking. Reassessing the chronology of the Lowe complex Since the s Lowe, and a suite of technologically similar bifaces, have become synonymous with the Late Archaic 4,—3, BP. Results We present results of excavations at two rockshelters in southern Belize where we recovered Paleoindian artifacts from well dated stratigraphic contexts.

Table 1. Table 2. Fig 3. Four Lowe complex artifacts recovered in controlled excavations in southern Belize. Discussion At the end of the Pleistocene, bifacial stone tool technologies were widespread across the New World [ 28 , 62 ]. Population structure, gene flow, and technological diffusion Transmission of Paleoindian stone tool techno-knowledge from NA to CA and SA has been proposed and discussed [ 82 ] but can now be informed by paleogenetic studies which demonstrate the timing and structure of waves of humans migrating from NA into and through the bottleneck of CA, then colonizing SA [ 1 , 58 ].

Conclusions The Lowe tradition is a technological lithic complex unique to southern Mesoamerica. References 1. Why are there so many Plant Species in the Neotropics? View Article Google Scholar 3. The diversification of neartic mammals in the Mexican transition zone. Biol J Linn Soc. View Article Google Scholar 4.

Piperno D. Tropical Rainforest Responses to Climatic Change. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg; The origins of agriculture in the lowland neotropics. Academic Press; An ka record of climate change in lowland Central America. Quat Sci Rev. View Article Google Scholar 7. Quantitative estimates of tropical temperature change in lowland Central America during the last 42 ka.

Earth Planet Sci Lett. View Article Google Scholar 8. Moving into an arid landscape: Lithic technologies of the Pleistocene—Holocene transition in the high-altitude basins of Imilac and Punta Negra, Atacama Desert. Quat Int. View Article Google Scholar 9. Mobility, subsistence, and technological strategies of Early Holocene hunter-gatherers in the Bolivian Altiplano.

Rothhammer F, Dillehay TD. Ann Hum Genet. View Article Google Scholar New tools, new human niches: The significance of the Dalton adze and the origin of heavy-duty woodworking in the Middle Mississippi Valley of North America. J Anthropol Archaeol. Borrero LA. Paleoindians without mammoths and archaeologists without projectile points? The archaeology of the first inhabitants of the Americas. In: Morrow J, Gnecco C, editors. Paleoindian archaeology a hemispheric perspective. Gainesville: University Press of Florida; Dillehay TD. Profiles in Pleistocene history. In: The handbook of South American archaeology.

Springer; Klink C, Aldenderfer M. A projectile point chronology for the south-central Andean highlands. Adv Titicaca Basin Archaeol. Ramsey CB. Deposition models for chronological records. Dealing with outliers and offsets in radiocarbon dating. Kelly TC.

Preceramic projectile-point typology in Belize. Anc Mesoam. Climate change in lowland Central America during the late deglacial and early Holocene. J Quat Sci. Paleoindian settlement of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes. Justice ND. Stone Age spear and arrow points of the midcontinental and eastern United States: a modern survey and reference. Indiana University Press; Sci Rep. Acosta Ochoa G. Ice age hunter-gatherers and the colonization of Mesoamerica.

The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Lat Am Antiq. Observations on the patination process and the context of antiquity: A fluted projectile point from Belize, Central America. Lithic Technol. Coe MD. A fluted point from Highland Guatemala. Am Antiq. Preceramic occupations in Belize: Updating the Paleoindian and Archaic record. Anderson DG, Miller S. Nami HG. Research in the middle Negro river basin Uruguay and the paleoindian occupation of the southern cone.

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Curr Anthropol. Curr Res Pleistocene. Los Tapiales: a Paleo-Indian campsite in the Guatemalan highlands. Proc Am Philos Soc. Fiedel SJ. The Clovis-era radiocarbon plateau. In Smallwood A. Clovis: The Edge of a New Understanding. Assessing Fishtail points distribution in the southern Cone.

On the dating of the Folsom Complex and its correlation with the Younger Dryas, the end of Clovis, and megafaunal extinction. Stanford DJ. In: Bopnnichsen R, Turnmire K, editors. Ice Age Peoples of North America.

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Int J South Am Archaeol. Living on the river edge: The Tigre site K new data and implications for the initial colonization of the Uruguay River basin. MacNeish RS. Andover: R. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology; The Preceramic of Mesoamerica. J Field Archaeol. Sander D.

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Lithic material from Panama: fluted points from Madden Lake. Actas 35 Congr Int Am. Zeitlin RN. Am Anthropol. Early Agriculture in the Maya Lowlands. Formation of ancient Maya wetland fields: natural and anthropogenic processes. In: Fedick SL, editor. Lohse J. Archaic Origins of the Lowland Maya. Rosenswig RM. J Archaeol Res. Res Rep Belizean Archaeol. Pre-Clovis projectile points at the Debra L. Sci Adv.

Hart JP, editor. The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana. Early human dispersals within the Americas. Science [Internet]. High-precision chronology for Central American maize diversification from El Gigante rockshelter, Honduras. Proc Natl Acad Sci. Ramsey CB, Lee S. Earliest hunters and gatherers of South America. J World Prehistory. Flegenheimer N, Weitzel C. Fishtail points from the Pampas of South America: Their variability and life histories. The peopling of southeastern South America: cultural diversity, paleoenvironmental conditions, and lithic technological organization during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene.

In: Robinson E, Selelt F, editors. Lithic Technological Organization and Paleoenvironmental Change. Continent-wide or region-specific? A geometric morphometrics-based assessment of variation in Clovis point shape. Archaeol Anthropol Sci. Canales EL. In: Camps M, Chauhan P, editors. Folsom ultrathin biface and radial break tools in the Knife River Flint quarry area. In: Amick DS, editor. Goodyear AC. The chronological position of the dalton horizon in the southeastern United States.

Introducing the Cody complex. Paleoindian lifeways of the Cody complex. Plains Anthropol. Beveled projectile points and ballistics technology. How atlatl darts behave: beveled points and the relevance of controlled experiments. Sollberger JB. A technological study of beveled knives. Pearson GA. Paleo-Indians of Ohio. Columbus: The Ohio Society; Early human settlement of northeastern north America. Rondeau MF. Fluted point studies in the far west. In: Clovis: On the edge of Understanding.

Bird J. Kroeber Anthropol Soc Pap. Gnecco C. Fluting technology in South America. Mayer-Oakes WJ. Trans Am Philos Soc. The human colonization of the Southeast Plains of South America: Climatic conditions, technological innovations and the peopling of Uruguay and south of Brazil. Rethinking early objects and landscapes in the Southern Cone: Faishtail-point concentrations in the Pampas and Northern Patagonia. In: Paleoindian Odyssey. Scheffler TE. PhD Dissertation.

Valdez F, Aylesworth G. Mono Conejo. A Fluted Point from Costa Rica. Snarskis MJ. Maggard GJ. The Chaco Canyon Visitor Center is open daily from a. The ruins are open from sunrise to sunset.

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Salmon Ruin, a major early 12th century Chacoan outlier near Bloomfield, New Mexico, has several large two-story rooms, some smaller rooms and a "great kiva" a large ceremonial chamber. It also has replicas of a pit house structure, a Navajo hogan and sweat lodge, and an Apache wickiup. The ruin is open daily from a.

The 12th and 13th century Aztec Ruins National Monument, a large pueblo which was possibly founded by Chacoan migrants soon after the abandonment of the Chaco Canyon region, has been only partially excavated. Located at Aztec, New Mexico, it has at least 28 kivas, including a restored great kiva. Aztec is open daily from a. Chimney Rock, a ruin perched on a foot high ridge in south central Colorado, about 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs, may have served as a place of Chacoan spirituality and lunar observations.

It lies in the shadows of a pair of towering pinnacles, "Chimney Rock" and "Companion Rock," which had evident ritual significance. It consists of Chacoan-style living quarters and ceremonial chambers as well as a number of earlier ruins. It is open for four scheduled guided tours daily from May 15 through September Box Pagosa Springs, Colorado Phone or during off season.

The Mesa Verde National Park entrance half way between the communities of Cortez and Mancos has seven major 12th and 13th century ruins sequestered in alcoves of canyons, and it has many other ruins, some of them thousands of years old, located on the tops and flanks of the mesa. Through the restorations of ruins and the museum exhibits and dioramas of prehistoric life in Mesa Verde, the National Park Service has constructed an excellent overview of the sequence of Native American cultural developments in the Southwest.

Mesa Verde is open every day of the year, with ranger-guided tours for some of the ruins and self-guided tours for other ruins. The most striking features of the ruins are the towers, some square in floor plan, others roughly circular, some singular, a few paired. The towers served an unknown purpose. Hovenweep is open all year. Except for winter holidays, the visitor center is open all year from a. The Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a monumental natural sculpture in red sandstone, encompasses several major 12th and 13th century Kayenta cliff dwellings and perhaps small village sites.

Its Native American history extends continually from early pit house farmers through the Kayenta Puebloan period into modern Navajo occupations. The visitor center, at Chinle, Arizona, is open from a. Navajo concessionaires offer daily guided jeep tours through the canyon. Unlike the ruins at Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep and other locations, the fragile ruins of Canyon de Chelly cannot be entered by visitors. Tsegi Canyon, part of the Navajo National monument, has two major 13th century ruins, Betatakin and Kiet Siel, the largest and best preserved cliff dwellings in Arizona.

Two fairly strenuous hikes, guided by National Park Service rangers, are required to reach the ruins, although Betatakin can be viewed from an overlook. The 5-mile, 5-hour hike to Betatakin, limited to 25 people, begins at a. The mile overnight hike to Kiet Siel, limited to 20 people, can be joined through reservations only. The hikes are conducted from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The visitor center is open daily from a. Sinagua Pueblo Sites North Central Arizona The Sinagua people evidently descended from Yuman hunting and gathering ancestors and drew culturally from various Puebloan traditions. They built the three-story Wupatki now partially restored and several neighboring pueblo villages near the Sunset volcanic crater northeast of Flagstaff in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Part of the Wupatki National Monument, the pueblo ruins are open from sunrise to sunset.


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  • The visitor center is open daily, typically from a. The Sinagua built the five-story room Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling which had nothing to do with the Aztec ruler named Montezuma , in a high limestone balcony overlooking Beaver Creek, just north of Camp Verde during the 14th century.

    The imposing centerpiece of the Montezuma Castle National Monument, the fragile ruin, perched high above the flood plain, cannot be entered, but it can be viewed from a trail along the creek. The Salado people, who stitched together a complex cultural tapestry from Mogollon, Hohokam and Anasazi traditions, occupied the Tonto Basin in east central Arizona from the 13th through the 15th centuries. Its room Upper Cliff Dwelling ruin can be visited with a ranger-guided tour which will require a reservation.

    Except for Christmas, the visitor center is open all year from a. Special presentations are scheduled from November through April. Unfortunately, half of the ruin was bulldozed in and in to make room for a city park. Nevertheless, Besh Ba Gowah conveys a sense of Salado architecture. A major trade and ritual center, Paquime would become the largest, most influential community in the entire desert region for the next two centuries. It included, not only a major apartment complex and an apparent outdoor market and trade center, but also ceremonial mounds and ball courts.

    For those unaccustomed to traveling in Mexico, I recommend that you contact a travel agent, preferably one with representatives in the desert Southwest, for additional information about visiting Paquime. Late Prehistoric and Historic Puebloan Sites By the middle of the second millennium, the Puebloan people had largely abandoned their ancestral homes in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, the northern Sonoran Desert and the Colorado Plateau.

    While some apparently reverted to the late Desert Archaic hunting, gathering and casual farming lifestyle in their traditional lands, most migrated to aggregated pueblos in the upper Rio Grande drainage basin, west central New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the deserts of the Southwest in the 16th century, they discovered about communities with thriving Puebloan populations and numerous others, abandoned decades earlier, with walls still standing.

    Abuses by Spanish colonists, diseases from Europe, and incessant raiding by Apaches and other tribes triggered new abandonments. All that remain today are 19 living pueblos in New Mexico and the Hopi pueblos in northeastern Arizona. Fortunately, several of the living pueblos share their heritage with visitors. For instance, Acoma, the spectacular crown of a mesa about 70 miles east of Albuquerque, offers tours of the ancient village and invites visitors to its annual Harvest Dance and Annual Feast of San Estevan.

    Similarly, the Hopi, with villages located at the base and on the top of three mesas, offer tours and share some events. A number of pueblos abandoned in late prehistoric times or after Spanish colonization are open for tours and visits. Some of the more spectacular late prehistoric ruins include the 15th century two-story Tyuonyi Pueblo along with numerous other ruins located in Frijoles Canyon in the Bandelier National Monument in north central New Mexico and the 13th through 16th century room Puye Pueblo plus numerous other ruins located at the mouth of Santa Clara Canyon near Espanola, New Mexico.

    Among the most impressive historic ruins, with Spanish mission church walls still standing, include Pecos, about 15 miles east of Santa Fe, and the Salinas Pueblos Gran Quivira, Quarai and Abo , near the community of Mountainair, New Mexico. Main Street Farmington, New Mexico Phone or Other Sites to See While the Puebloans recall their village and farming heritage, the other tribes stage traditional dances, ritual celebrations, intertribal powwows, feasts, fiestas, games, rodeos, beauty pageants, street fairs and arts and crafts festivals.

    Box Apache Junction, Arizona Phone DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. It's Free. Beyond that point is BLM land. Several old mines are located near this road. Take a tour of the magnificent rooms and see the castle's fantastic furnishings.

    Hear the organ in the music room as you experience this place of legend first-hand.

    Lithic stage

    The road becomes steeper and narrower as it approaches Red Pass, amply named for its red rocks and dirt. Enjoy the ride! Take a look at our Animals index page to find information about all kinds of birds , snakes , mammals , spiders and more! Learn about desert biomes while you discover how desert plants and animals learn to adapt to the harsh desert environment. Find travel information about national parks, state parks, BLM land, and Southwest cities and towns located in or near the desert regions of the United States.

    Toggle navigation. Native American Locations In the Deserts Archaeological record of the Native American At tens of thousands of sites across the deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, we find a rich archaeological record of the Native American peoples.