The SAA Archaeological Record The SAA Archaeological Record • March 2012 • Volume 12 • Number 2 : Page 10

ARTICLES SURVEY OF PROFESSIONAL OPINIONS REGARDING THE PEOPLING OF THE AMERICAS Amber D. Wheat Amber Wheat is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee. ithin the peer-reviewed literature concerning the peo-pling of the New World, there are numerous debates that are discussed persistently. Claims often are referred to as being “accepted” or “rejected” by a majority, some-times a vast majority, of researchers. For instance, the status of an archaeological site as “pre-Clovis” in age has long been the source of many debates. Researchers commonly assert that some sites are accepted (or rejected) as pre-Clovis by a majority of researchers. For example, Grayson (2004:379) stated, “the majority of archaeologists now seem to agree that Monte Verde has met the stringent excavation, dating, and reporting criteria that have long been in place for evaluating such sites” (empha-sis added). Similarly, Anderson (2005:32) argued, “while not all of these sites are universally accepted as early Paleoindian in age, most researchers accept that pre-Clovis occupations are increasingly probable” (emphasis added). This tendency to appeal to broad authority occurs in other top-ics relating to the human colonization of the Americas as well. Another debate concerns the number of migrations that took place in the occupation of the Americas. Christy Turner (2002:135) stated, “ most workers in archaeology, linguistics, phys-ical anthropology, and more recently, genetics, favor a few migrations rather than many” (emphasis added). Although some of these assessments of hypothesis statements may in fact be true, without quantifiable evidence these claims are essentially assertions and arguments from authority and opinion. Nevertheless, determining the number of researchers that accept or reject a claim is possible and can be quantified. Thus, this paper sets out to assess the percentage of researchers that “accept or reject” a claim pertaining to the peopling of the Americas. A web-based survey was provided to individuals who have con-tributed data or models relating to the peopling of the Americas through peer-reviewed publications and/or professional presen-tations. These survey participants were identified through a lit-erature and keyword search of archaeological and physical W anthropological journals and a search of the program for the 2011 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) annual meeting. This latter search assisted in locating the names of individuals who are graduate students without publications, but are involved in relevant current research. E-mail addresses of selected individuals were obtained through professional society directories and from personal contacts with people conducting research in these areas. The survey was pro-vided electronically via a website provided by the Qualtrics sur-vey program (www.qualtrics.com). A total of 215 individuals were contacted via e-mail. Nineteen questions comprised the survey. Survey Results A total of 145 survey invitees started the survey, and 132 indi-viduals completed the survey to the last question (whether they answered each question or not). More than 80 percent of the participants identified themselves as conducting the majority of f their research in archaeology ( n = 117; 171 invitations were sent to archaeologists). The remainder of participants identified as genetic anthropologists ( n = 11; 17 genetic anthropologists were solicited), skeletal biologists ( n = 3; 10 invitations were sent), lin-guists ( n = 2), and 15 others who conduct research in other areas, such as ecology and geology, were solicited to take the sur-vey; however, “other” was not given as an option of research (Table 1). Of the 145 respondents, 130 identified their current employment status (Table 2). There was some bias in this ques-tion, as some employment options, such as museum curation, were not included as response options. However, the majority of f the survey participants (89) were employed in a university aca-demic position. Six of the survey questions pertained to the acceptance or rejec-tion of assertions of pre-Clovis dates for six sites: Meadowcroft, Monte Verde, Topper, Cactus Hill, Paisley Cave, and Debra L. Friedkin (formerly Buttermilk Creek). Three response choices of agree, neither agree nor disagree, or disagree were given, and 10 The SAA Archaeological Record • March 2012

Survey Of Professional Opinions Regarding The Peopling Of The Americas

Amber D. Wheat

Amber Wheat is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee.

Within the peer-reviewed to being “accepted” or “rejected” by a majority, sometimes a vast majority, of researchers. For instance, the status of an archaeological site as “pre-Clovis” in age has long been the source of many debates. Researchers commonly assert that some sites are accepted (or rejected) as pre-Clovis by a majority of researchers. For example, Grayson (2004:379) stated, “the majority of archaeologists now seem to agree that Monte Verde has met the stringent excavation, dating, and reporting criteria that have long been in place for evaluating such sites” (emphasis added). Similarly, Anderson (2005:32) argued, “while not all of these sites are universally accepted as early Paleoindian in age, most researchers accept that pre-Clovis occupations are increasingly probable” (emphasis added).

This tendency to appeal to broad authority occurs in other topics relating to the human colonization of the Americas as well.Another debate concerns the number of migrations that took place in the occupation of the Americas. Christy Turner (2002:135) stated, “most workers in archaeology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and more recently, genetics, favor a few migrations rather than many” (emphasis added).

Although some of these assessments of hypothesis statements may in fact be true, without quantifiable evidence these claims are essentially assertions and arguments from authority and opinion. Nevertheless, determining the number of researchers that accept or reject a claim is possible and can be quantified.
Thus, this paper sets out to assess the percentage of researchers that “accept or reject” a claim pertaining to the peopling of the Americas.

A web-based survey was provided to individuals who have contributed data or models relating to the peopling of the Americas through peer-reviewed publications and/or professional presentations.These survey participants were identified through a literature and keyword search of archaeological and physical anthropological journals and a search of the program for the 2011 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) annual meeting.This latter search assisted in locating the names of individuals who are graduate students without publications, but are involved in relevant current research.

E-mail addresses of selected individuals were obtained through professional society directories and from personal contacts with people conducting research in these areas. The survey was provided electronically via a website provided by the Qualtrics survey program (www.qualtrics.com). A total of 215 individuals were contacted via e-mail. Nineteen questions comprised the survey.

Survey Results

A total of 145 survey invitees started the survey, and 132 individuals completed the survey to the last question (whether they answered each question or not). More than 80 percent of the participants identified themselves as conducting the majority of their research in archaeology (n = 117; 171 invitations were sent to archaeologists). The remainder of participants identified as genetic anthropologists (n = 11; 17 genetic anthropologists were solicited), skeletal biologists (n = 3; 10 invitations were sent), linguists (n = 2), and 15 others who conduct research in other areas, such as ecology and geology, were solicited to take the survey; however, “other” was not given as an option of research (Table 1). Of the 145 respondents, 130 identified their current employment status (Table 2). There was some bias in this question, as some employment options, such as museum curation, were not included as response options. However, the majority of the survey participants (89) were employed in a university academic position.

Six of the survey questions pertained to the acceptance or rejection of assertions of pre- Clovis dates for six sites: Meadowcroft, Monte Verde, Topper, Cactus Hill, Paisley Cave, and Debra L. Friedkin (formerly Buttermilk Creek). Three response choices of agree, neither agree nor disagree, or disagree were given, and Results are presented in Figure 1. A major research article (Waters et al. 2011) on the Friedkin site was published during the time period in which the survey was administered, and so responses to the survey question associated with the site have been excluded from analysis on account of biased responses that could have occurred as a result of the publication. Of the five remaining sites, Monte Verde has the greatest rate of acceptance as a pre-Clovis site with 67 percent accepting it as pre-Clovis, 10 percent rejecting its dating, and 23 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing that it is a pre-Clovis site. Paisley Cave was the second most accepted pre-Clovis site, with 43 percent acceptance. Topper had the highest number of rejections, with 37 percent disagreeing with its dating as a pre-Clovis site, 15 percent accepting it as pre- Clovis, and 48 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

Following the questions pertaining to the pre-Clovis sites, participants were given the opportunity to list other sites not included in the survey that they accept as pre-Clovis. Sixty participants responded and the top five most mentioned sites were Swan Point (n = 10), Schaefer (n = 9), Heboir (n = 9), Page-Ladson (n = 8), and Gualt/Buttermilk Creek (n = 7); note that Buttermilk Creek was recently renamed Debra L. Friedkin, reinforcing the decision to exclude it from analysis.

One hundred twenty-eight responses were obtained for the question that asked, “When do you think people first arrived in the Americas?” Fifty-eight percent chose before 15,000 cal year B. P., while 42 percent chose after 15,000 cal year B.P. When just examining the archaeologist’s responses a slight majority of the 111 archaeologists favor an earlier arrival (56 percent) over a later arrival (44 percent). In contrast, of the remaining 17 responses from individuals from other disciplines, 71 percent favored an earlier arrival. In other words, archaeologists that responded to the survey were less likely to accept an earlier arrival than those individuals of another discipline.

Figure 2 shows the results of the survey question in which participants designated the number of discrete human migratory events that took place into the Americas during the Late Pleistocene. The majority of respondents (35 percent) chose “more than four,” followed by 28 percent choosing the “two migrations” response. Of the archaeologists that answered this question (n = 106), 39 percent argued for two migrations, and 37 percent argued for more than four migrations. The genetic anthropologists (n = 8) had a different opinion, with 50 percent arguing for one migration, and 25 percent arguing for two and three migrations. “Migration” was not explicitly defined, and so there may be some ambiguity in how survey participants defined a migratory event, which in turn may have influenced the differences in responses between groups.

Related to the question about migratory events, a follow-up question was asked about the migratory route or routes used by humans to travel into the Americas during the Pleistocene.Each respondent could select multiple answers for this question, and 129 individuals responded.

An overwhelming majority (86 percent) selected “coastal migration,” and “Interior passage migration (Ice free corridor)” was chosen by 65 percent of participants.

Tied to both the timing of entry into the Americas, the survey asked participants to identify the major cause for the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna. Sixty-three percent of the participants favored “a combination of factors.” Of the 112 archaeologists that responded to this question, only one person chose “A comet/asteroid impact” as a response: a recent theory that has itself generated appreciable controversy (Buchanan et al. 2008; Firestone et al. 2007; Kerr 2008, 2010).

The last three questions of the survey pertained to the Beringian Standstill Hypothesis (Tamm et al. 2007), which proposes that New World populations were isolated from their Old World source populations for a long period of time (10,000–20,000 years) creating distinct mitochondrial and Y-chromosome haplotypes not seen in the Old World source population (Anderson 2010; Kemp and Schurr 2010; Meltzer 2009; Tamm et al. 2007).This was a filtered set of questions so that only those participants that were actually aware of the hypothesis were asked further questions. Therefore, the first question asked, “Are you aware of the Beringian Standstill hypothesis?” Of the 129 respondents that answered the question, 73 of them chose “yes” as their response and were subsequently directed to answer two more questions. The first stated, “The Beringian Standstill hypothesis is correct.” Of the 73 total respondents, 67 percent chose “neither Agree nor disagree,” 23 percent agreed, and 10 percent disagreed.

The last question, “do you think the Beringian Standstill hypothesis is an adequate explanation for the biological and linguistic diversity of the New World?” was answered by 71 of the 73 respondents. Forty-eight percent of the respondents were undecided, and 32 percent did not think the hypothesis offers an adequate explanation, while 20 percent did. When only looking at the responses from those participants that conduct the most research in archaeology (i.e., individuals that indicated their research pertained to archaeology; n = 60), 50 percent chose “undecided,” 33 percent chose “no,” and 17 percent chose “yes.” This was very different from the respondents that conduct the most research in genetic anthropology (n = 8). Fifty percent of the genetic anthropologists chose “yesm” 38 percent chose “undecided,” and 13 percent chose “no” as their response to the last question (Figure 3).

Implications of the Survey

The results of this study indicate that a variety of views exist about the peopling of the Americas. While scientific results are not determined by popularity, an examination of general consensus surrounding major topics of inquiry regarding the peopling of the Americas is informative and relates to how researchers decide which scientific questions should be pursued.Thus, this paper succeeds in its stated goal of quantifying the opinions of researchers concerning particular topics of regular debate.

Despite qualitative arguments made by Anderson (2005:32) and Grayson (2004:379) that asserted a majority of researchers accept a pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas, the survey indicated that this acceptance is dependent on the site under consideration.Monte Verde is the most widely accepted with 67 percent of survey respondents supporting a pre-Clovis occupation.It is apparent that the majority of the researchers sampled is unsure or have yet to form an opinion about the “pre-Clovis” assignment of the four other sites analyzed. In fact, for each of these sites higher percentages of participants chose “neither agree nor disagree” over the “agree” and “disagree” choices, with some sites, such as Topper, receiving very little acceptance among respondents. Results also show that there is a nearly direct relationship between the number of researchers accepting a site as Pre-Clovis and extent of detailed publications available for that site, with the possible exception of Paisley Cave (Adovasio and Carlisle 1988; Adovasio et al. 1990; Adovasio et al.1978; Dillehay 1989, 1997; Dillehay and Collins 1991; Dillehay et al. 2008; Grayson 2004).

Although Turner (2002:135) stated that “most workers in archaeology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and more recently, genetics, favor a few migrations rather than many” (emphasis Added), the current survey suggests that this is not the case. In fact, 35 percent of researchers favor more than four migrations, while only 28 percent of respondents favor two migrations.

Moreover, archaeologists tended to be split in their support of “two migrations” and “more than four,” while 50 percent of the genetic anthropologists chose “one migration.” This high degree of support for “one migration” among geneticists echoes the current genetic research that argues for a single founder event giving rise to all genetic diversity in New World indigenous populations, therefore making more than one migration (from a genetic perspective) unlikely (Kemp and Schurr 2010; Tamm et al. 2007).

The researchers were able to choose more than one answer for the migration route question, and the two most popular answers were the coastal migration and the interior passage migration. A coastal migration route was the most supported by researchers (86 percent in the sample), which is especially interesting, as this model has gained significant ground only in the last three decades (Fladmark 1983). These responses are consistent with the most current archaeological and genetic data. If the single migration argument is accepted, the approximate timing for entrance into the Americas that is consistent with genetic data is 15,000–20,000 cal yr B.P.; this was prior to the inferred opening of (and therefore passage through) the ice-free Mackenzie Corridor (Kemp and Schurr 2010; Mandryk et al. 2001; Meltzer 2009), and would be consistent with a Pacific coast migration. However, the archaeological evidence, notably the presence of early sites in the Nenana Valley ca. 14,000 years ago (Hoffecker et al.1993; Powers and Hoffecker 1989), is likely the reason why a majority of participants also agree with inland migration through the Mackenzie Corridor, which became passable around that time.Therefore, both routes are plausible given the evidence at hand (Anderson and Gillam 2000; Mandryk et al. 2001; Meltzer 2009; Pitblado 2011; Surovell 2003).

In relation to the single migration model, the Beringian Standstill Hypothesis, or Beringian Incubation Model (BIM), proposes that New World populations were isolated from their Old World source populations for a long period of time (10,000–20,000 years) (Anderson 2010; Kemp and Schurr 2010; Meltzer 2009; Tamm et al. 2007). Fifty percent of the genetic anthropologists that participated in the study accepted the Beringian Standstill Hypothesis as an adequate explanation for the biological and linguistic diversity of the New World. In contrast, 67 percent of the archaeologists rejected the hypothesis, as well as all of the linguists and skeletal biologists. This is not a surprise due to the lack of archaeological evidence for a long occupation of Beringia (Goebel 2004; Goebel and Slobodin 1999) as well as a lack of evidence to support the morphological diversity among early and late Pelaeoindian crania (González- José et al. 2008; Hubbe et al. 2011; Jantz and Owsley 2001,2005) .

This is the first systematic survey of researchers who work on questions relating to the peopling of the Americas that addresses topics that are contentious and debated in their area of expertise.These results, while admittedly limited by sample size and degree of response, indicate that some agreement on at least some topics exists across different subdisciplines, but that appreciable differences of opinion exist within and among researchers in differing areas of anthropology.

Overall, it is important to point out that there is a majority consensus on some debates. For instance, there seems to be a high degree of acceptance (86 percent) for a coastal migration route.Also, there is a majority acceptance for a pre-Clovis occupation of Monte Verde, with 67 percent of participants agreeing and 11 percent disagreeing. However, while there is some consensus about several issues, there is an appreciable amount of uncertainty for many of the topics of inquiry. For instance, there is more uncertainty about the status of most of the pre-Clovis sites than there is either acceptance and/or rejection. This is perhaps as it should be, since dogmatism or absolute certainty can at times be antithetical to good science, and suggests support is only given or denied after careful consideration and adequate access to the data. A more significant result of this study is that it demonstrates that scholars should take care when making pronouncements about the general acceptance or rejection of a claim without some type of quantifiable evidence. More surveys should be conducted to provide numerical data to support claims of majority opinions as well as to better understand the diversity in opinions held by researchers. As noted above, the perceptions of researchers about the validity of various hypotheses dictate which are examined. If these opinions differ among Researchers and disciplines, this divergence in thought may create impediments to collaborative investigations. Auerbach (2010:9) recently argued this point, stating that “better resolutions to these questions [about human colonization of the Americas] are inevitable” only with discourse and collaboration among disciplines. The only way to obtain a 100 percent agreement concerning these topics is to continue to collaborate so that improved research will direct us to the most accurate understanding of the peopling of the Americas.

Acknowledgements. A special thanks to David G. Anderson and Benjamin M. Auerbach for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Thanks to all of my fellow classmates from the Peopling of the Americas course in which the idea of this survey evolved in part through conversations with all of you.
Also, thank you to the anonymous respondents to the survey.

For a complete list of references cited, please contact Amber D. Wheat at awheat@utk.edu. Raw survey data is accessible at www.pidba.org.

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Survey+Of+Professional+Opinions+Regarding+The+Peopling+Of+The+Americas/1009154/104941/article.html.

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