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A Journey to a New Land

Berry Picking

Monte Verde

Monte Verde is one of the few pre-Clovis sites in the Americas to have earned acceptance from the archaeological community. This very early site is located beside a small creek in southern Chile about 56 km from the Pacific coast. Radiocarbon dates put human occupation of the site at about 12,500 years BP, more than a thousand years earlier than the Clovis sites in the central United States.

After its early occupants left Monte Verde, the site became buried by a water-saturated peat bog, resulting in excellent preservation of organic materials. Principal investigator Dr. Tom Dillehay discovered the foundations of several shelters, each consisting of a framework of poles draped with animal skins. Incredibly, some of the fallen pole frames have been recovered with the fragments of the animal skins still attached to the poles.

Plant remains recovered from the site include edible seeds, berries, stalks and even potatoes. Some of these plants had been brought to the site from the coast, 56 km to the west. The remains of inedible plants were also found, and it is possible that these plants may have been used for medicinal purposes.

Stone tools such as bifaces and choppers were found along with several willow-leaf shaped stone tools. But perhaps the best evidence of a human presence at this early site was a footprint preserved in clay beside a hearth.

The controversy over the age of Monte Verde led Dillehay to invite a group of archaeologists to inspect the site and artifacts. The result of the site inspection was unanimous agreement that the evidence from Monte Verde is valid, and that people were present in southern Chile by 12,500 years BP.