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A Journey to a New Land

First people
Post secondary Level Resources

Cactus Hill

The Cactus Hill site, located about 70 km. south of Richmond, Virginia, is one of a handful of archaeological sites that contain convincing evidence of a pre-Clovis population in North America. The site is located in a sand dune and contains a stratified series of cultural layers that date from the 18th century back to the Clovis period and beyond.

Artifacts from the Clovis level included the typical fluted points, made of chert, and radiocarbon dated from a piece of associated charcoal to 10,920± 250 years BP. Below the Clovis layer and just above sterile clay, archaeologists discovered several blades, projectile points and a scraper, all made of quartzite. A soil sample associated with one of the blade clusters was radiocarbon dated to 16,670±730 years BP.

Critics have suggested that the artifacts found in this early layer may have been disturbed by burrowing animals or some other natural process that caused them to move down through the sand from a higher level.

However, analysis of several sand samples indicated that no vertical mixing had taken place, and the early radiocarbon dates have been confirmed by optically stimulated luminescence dating of sand grains. (This dating method measures the amount of time that has elapsed since the sand grains were exposed to light).

Further Reading:

McAvoy, J.M. and L.D. McAvoy
1997 Archaeological Investigations of Site 44SX202, Cactus Hill, Sussex County, Virginia. Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Research Report Series No. 8 Richmond.

Site photos at: