For years, archaeologists have debated the issue: Were the people who lived near what is now Clovis, New Mexico, in prehistoric times the first in North America—or simply the first scientists knew about?
Now, an answer is at hand, thanks to an international team of researchers that included archaeologists Mike Waters and Ted Goebel of Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of First Americans in the College of Liberal Arts.
The team found that modern-day humans entered North America as part of a single migration wave no earlier than 23,000 years ago, and likely around 15,000 years ago, but they split into two separate branches 13,000 years ago.
“In other words,” says Waters, “the genetic evidence is confirming the archaeological evidence we have been working on for the past 10 to 15 years here at Texas A&M, and confirms that there were people here before Clovis, which has long been considered to be the first North American culture.”
The genetic evidence shows that the first Native Americans came from one population that arrived around 15,000 to 16,000 years ago and then split into two different branches around 13,000 years ago. The team came to this conclusion, in part, after analyzing the remains of a boy from 12,600 years ago associated with the Clovis culture.
“It’s very gratifying to see our archaeological work has been shown to be correct,” Waters says.