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New fossil find suggests Clovis culture may have originated in Mexico

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The oldest and most southern site of Clovis culture along with the first evidence that Clovis peoples hunted a now extinct elephant-like mammal called gomphotheres has been found in Sonora, Mexico. A local rancher led Vance T. Holliday from the University of Arizona and colleagues from Mexico and Germany to this new discovery. The fossil find was reported in the July 14, 2014, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Clovis culture is well documented in North America. Previous studies have agreed that Clovis people branched away from their Asian kindred after crossing the Bering Land Bridge. The oldest previously discovered Clovis artifacts date to between 12,900 years ago and 13,200 years ago. The remains found at El Fin del Mundo in Sonora were dated to 13,900 years ago.

The fossil site presented an array of Clovis spear points that are the archetypal sign of this hunter-gatherer culture. The site also revealed the remains of two juvenile gomphotheres. The gomphothere bones show signs of having been hunted and killed for food by the Clovis people that inhabited the site. The gomphothere remains date to the same time frame as the Clovis artifacts.

This site is the most southern Clovis site ever found in the Americas. The find indicates that Clovis culture may have first developed in the North American Southwest after crossing the Bering Land Bridge. The Clovis culture migrated eastward into what is now the United States at some time between 13,900 years ago and 13,000 years ago.

Anthropologists have argued about the path of migration of Clovis people since the discovery of the first Clovis artifact in 1927. This new find adds evidence to the idea that Clovis people moved south along the Pacific coast of North America before they ventured into the East. The discovery shows Clovis people were in the Americas at least 700 years earlier than ever known before.