Monte Verde

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Monte Verde is an archaeological site in southern Chile, located in the northern Patagonia near Puerto Montt, Chile, which has been dated to 14,800 years BP (Before Present).[1][2] This dating adds to the evidence showing that settlement in the Americas pre-dates the Clovis culture by roughly 1000 years. This contradicts the previously accepted "Clovis first" model which holds that settlement of the Americas began after 13,500 BP. The Monte Verde findings were initially dismissed by most of the scientific community, but in recent years the evidence has become more widely accepted in some archaeological circles,[2][3] although vocal "Clovis First" advocates remain.[4]



The site was discovered in late 1975 when a veterinary student visited the area of Monte Verde, where severe erosion was occurring due to logging. The student found a strange "cow bone" exposed in the eroded Chinchihuapi Creek that proved to be from a mastodon. Mario Pino, a Chilean geologist and Tom Dillehay, both teachers at the Universidad Austral de Chile at the time, started excavating Monte Verde in 1977. The site is situated on the banks of Chinchihuapi Creek, a tributary of the Maullín River located 36 miles (58 km) from the Pacific Ocean. One of the rare open-air prehistoric sites found so far in the Americas, Monte Verde was preserved as the waters of the creek rose a short time after the site was occupied and the peat-filled bog that resulted inhibited the bacterial decay of organic material and preserved many perishable artifacts and other items for millennia.


The Monte Verde site has two distinct levels. The upper level, MV-II, has been extensively characterized. Its occupation is dated to 14,800 – 13,800 BP.

The lower level, MV-I, is less well understood. It "was more ephemeral and came from ancient river sediments. Dillehay found charcoal scatters which may be the remnants of fireplaces next to possible stone and wood artifacts, and these were dated to at least 33,000BC. He himself remains cautious about MV-I..."[5]

Monte Verde Level II (MV-II)

According to Dillehay and his team, Monte Verde II was occupied around 14,800 – 13,800 BP by about twenty to thirty people. A twenty-foot-long tent-like structure of wood and animal hides was erected on the banks of the creek and was framed with logs and planks staked in the ground, making walls of poles covered with animal hides. Using ropes made of local reeds, the hides were tied to the poles creating separate living quarters within the main structure. Outside the tent-like structure, two large hearths had been built for community usage, most probably for tool making and craftwork.

Each of the living quarters had a brazier pit lined with clay. Around those hearths, many stone tools and remnants of spilled seeds, nuts, and berries were found. A 13,000-yr-old specimen of the wild potato, Solanum maglia, was also found at the site; these remains, the oldest on record for any species of potato, wild or cultivated, suggest that southern Chile was of the two main centres for the evolution of Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, the common potato.[6] Remains of forty-five different edible plant species were found within the site, over a fifth of them originating from up to 150 miles (240 km) away. This suggested that the people of Monte Verde either had trade routes or traveled regularly in this extended network.

Other important finds from this site include human coprolites, a footprint, assumed to have been made by a child, stone tools, and cordage. The date for this site was obtained by Dr. Dillehay with the use of radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone found within the site.

In the May 9, 2008 issue of Science, a team reported that they identified nine species of seaweed and marine algae recovered from hearths and other areas in the ancient settlement. The seaweed samples were directly dated between 14,220 to 13,980 years ago, confirming that MV-II was occupied more than 1,000 years earlier than any other reliably dated human settlements in the Americas.[7][8]

Comparison to other early Americas sites

MV-I has been reported radiocarbon dated to 33,000 years before present,[9][10] but like other sites with reported extremely early dates such as the Topper site in South Carolina, this deeper layer find remains controversial.

Other very early human settlement in Southern Chile sites of comparable age to Monte Verde are the Cueva del Milodón, Pali Aike Crater lava tube[11] and Chan-Chan which is relatively close (about 200 km).

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Monte Verde Archaeological Site". Tentative List of Properties of Outstanding Universal Value. World Heritage - United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "Ancient seaweed chews confirm age of Chilean site". Reuters. May 8, 2008. 
  4. ^ Tom D. Dillehay, Michael B. Collins, Mario Pino, Jack Rossen, Jim Adovasio, Carlos Ocampo, Ximena Navarro, Pilar Rivas, David Pollack, A. Gwynn Henderson, Jose Saavedra, Patricio Sanzana, Pat Shipman, Marvin Kay, Gaston Munoz, Anastasios Karathanasis, Donald Ugent, Michael Cibull, and Richard Geissler. "On Monte Verde: Fiedel's Confusions and Misrepresentations". Universtiy of Kentucky. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Mithen, S. After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC. Orion Books, 2003. ISBN 0-75381-392-0.
  6. ^ Donald Ugent, Tom Dillehay, and Carlos Ramirez, Potato remains from a late pleistocene settlement in southcentral Chile, Economic Botany, 41(1), 17-27, January 1987
  7. ^ Dillehay TD, Ramírez C, Pino M, Collins MB, Rossen J, Pino-Navarro JD (May 9, 2008). "Monte Verde: seaweed, food, medicine, and the peopling of South America". Science 320 (5877): 784–6. doi:10.1126/science.1156533. PMID 18467586. 
  8. ^ Salisbury, David F.. "New Evidence About Earliest Americans Supports Coastal Migration Theory". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  9. ^ Tom D. Dillehay and Michael B. Collins. "Early cultural evidence from Monte Verde in Chile". Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Wilford, John Noble. "Chilean Field Yields New Clues to Peopling of Americas". New York Times. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  11. ^ Hogan, C. Michael. "Pali Aike Cave or Rock Shelter". Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 

External links

Coordinates: 41°30′17″S 73°12′16″W / 41.50472°S 73.20444°W / -41.50472; -73.20444

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