16 October 2010

Racists and Pseudo-History: The Solutrean Hypothesis

Before we begin, we will remind our readers of the contest currently underway. You have until October 22 to vote.

Now then, there is a very good chance that the majority of our readers might be bored to tears should they decide to read the entirety of this particular blog post, however as some of us in the ARC Collective are closet history geeks, so we would ask you to indulge our guilty pleasure. Besides, we enjoy alternative avenues by which we can show how much "White Nationalist" are full of shit.

During one of our frequent forays onto Paulie's Facebook profile, we came across the following post:

Our friends in the Southern Poverty Law Center have a lot to say about Kyle Bristow, a past Michigan State University student (currently a University of Toledo College law student) and Young Americans for Freedom leader who in that capacity has invited Paulie to speak at a number of YAF gatherings. Bristow has now decided to add author to his dubious resume:

While we haven't read White Apocalypse, we do know that the premise of the novel is that Europeans crossing the Atlantic, not Asians crossing the Bering Straits land-bridge, were the real "First Americans." This claim is based on the interesting, though terribly flawed, Solutrean Hypothesis.

Solutrean Hypothesis?

In a nutshell, the Solutrean Hypothesis posits that, based on the superficial similarity between Solutrean European and North American Clovis lithic (stone) technologies, that the Clovis Culture is an extension of the Solutrean Culture. This means that Europeans made a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean between 22,000 and 17,000 BCE. Proponents of this hypothesis point to additional support, such as the discovery of Kennewick Man in 1996 and the presence of Haplogroup X in modern Native Americans peoples as further evidence for their claim.

We should stress that in and of itself the Solutrean Hypothesis, while we believe terribly flawed and not especially rigorous scientifically, is not racist. To be certain the history of the peopling of the Americas is complex and there may be a chance, albeit unlikely, that paleolithic Europeans may have contributed to the genetic make-up of present Native Americans in the Americas. However, when the likes of Bristow, Fromm and other "White Nationalists" subscribe to the hypothesis, it is further twisted into something that wreaks of racism.

In his novel, Bristow further claims that that the Solutrean Culture was mercilessly wiped out by the invading "Beringians" who have in modern times been involved in a massive conspiracy to withhold that knowledge from the public. The underlying purpose of the novel appears to be to deny "aboriginal" status to First Nations peoples and claim that status for the much later European colonizers. Paulie himself echos this claim in his review of the novel which Bristow posts on his blog:

“Kyle Bristow’s novel dedicated to North America’s ‘real Native Americans’—Europeans who have been here for more than 15,000 years—is a soaring inspirational dramatization of our people taking our continent back from the Third World invaders. From the very first cathartic scene in which the protagonist dispatches a gang of Hispanic thugs seeking to murder his family, I felt I was reading the actualization of Rudyard Kipling’s insightful poem ‘The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon.’” Paul Fromm
Director, Canada First Immigration Reform Committee

Paulie isn't the only person to provide a favorable review of the novel. Other "White Nationalists," including Billy Roper of White Resistance and Kevin Alfred Strom, founder of National Vanguard (and convicted sex offender) have also offered their unequivocal praise for Bristow's writing and scholarship.

But exactly how rigorous is Bristow's scholarship? Does the Solutrean Hypothesis really have a leg to stand on when subjected to historical and scientific scrutiny?

Let's take a look at the hypothesis now to determine whether it is worth legitimate discussion or dismissed for lack of convincing evidence.

For years, the proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis focused their attention on the lithic technology of the Clovis Culture. The Clovis Culture is named after the distinctive projectile points that were first discovered near Clovis, New Mexico in the 1920s but which were in fact wide spread throughout North America:

Clovis represents the earliest known culture in the Americas, dating back with accuracy to roughly 11,500 BCE (though this date might be pushed back with some recent discoveries). Some scholars have wondered how such an advanced lithic technology could have appeared so suddenly in the Americas with no seemingly apparent precursor technologies. Some of these scholars also noted that the Clovis point bares some similarities to the Solutrean Laurel Leaf points created between 22,000 and 17,000 BCE:

These points, which would have also taken hours of man hours and incredible skill to create, are often considered to be evidence that the Solutreans could have created the similar Clovis points found in the Americas. However, while both the Solutrean Laurel Leaf and the Clovis points might be the apex of lithic technology, they really are not as similar as proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis might claim.

First, the size and utility of the points are very different. While most Clovis points are between 1 and 4 inches in length, Solutrean Laurel Leaf points are often a foot long. The thinness of the finest examples of the Solutrean Laurel Leaf also calls into question whether it had any utilitarian purpose at all; microscopic examination of the large blade wear patterns indicate that they were not used for utilitarian purposes -- hunting or cutting -- likely because they were far to fragile. Rather, these blades would have been ceremonial in nature and perhaps created as religious offerings. Clovis, on the other hand, was clearly a robust projectile point used for hunting. They have been associated with kill sites and have even been found associated with the bones of megafauna. Much larger points, such as those found in a cache in a Washington orchard, were created as ceremonial offerings, however the majority of those found were used to hunt the megafauna that roamed the Americas. Smaller, utilitarian Solutrean points and tools (some examples of which are found below) don't look much like Clovis points at all:

An even more significant difference between Solutrean and Clovis points is that Clovis points are fluted while Solutrean are unfluted:

Making a fluted projectile point is a very difficult and dangerous part of the stone working process. The flintknapper created the flute on both sides of the projectile point by placing a precise, single blow to the point on both sides using an antler. One misplaced blow could shatter the point, wasting dozens of hours of labor. Obviously, the knapper would need to be incredibly skilled. The reason for creating fluted points is that it likely allows the point to be hafted onto a spear easier and makes the spear a little more aerodynamic when thrown:

Clovis, and Paleo-Indians who followed Clovis such as Folsom, fluted their points. Solutreans didn't.

We mentioned that Clovis is the earliest Paleo-Indian culture for which we have strong evidence, however there have been some sites that might represent a pre-Clovis culture. The earliest in North America which can be reasonably dated (though much controversy remains) is Cactus Hill. However, if our proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis want to point to the lithic technologies of Cactus Hill, they're going to run into problems explaining what appears to be a regression in lithic technology. A side by side comparison of the lithic technologies seems appropriate here:

Supporters of the Solutrean Hypothesis will need to explain how the advanced lithic technology
of the Solutrean culture appears to have regressed, only to advance once again in order to justify any effort to claim pre-Clovis cultures as Solutrean.

Still on the issue of culture, perhaps our Solutrean supporters could explain why Clovis culture does not produce cave art, even though cave art during the Solutrean culture is one of the most significant indicators of the culture:

Finally, proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis need to reconcile wildly different dates. The Solutrean Culture of Western Europe existed between 22,000 and 17,000 BCE while the Clovis Culture definitively emerged around 11,500 BCE. That leaves a gap between Solutrean and the Clovis of 5,500 years.

However there was a recent discovery that might push Clovis back to 13,500 BCE. Even if we were to grant a date of 13,500 BCE as the beginning of Clovis (and that really is up in the air) that still means that supporters of the Solutrean Hypothesis must explain a gap of 3,500 years.

To put that space of time in perspective, human advancements in technology have gone from the building of Queen Hatshepsut's beautiful mortuary temple near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt to the building of the International Space Station:

Supporters of the Solutrean Hypothesis have yet to adequately explain the gap between the end of the Solutrean in Europe and the emergence of Clovis in the Americas.

Supporters of the Solutrean Hypothesis seemed to get a bit of a boost back in 1996. In Kennewick Washington, the nearly completely intact skeletal remains of a human were found. One of the first physical anthropologists who examined the bones, James Chatters, initially believed that the remains were those of a European settler from the late 1800s based on morphological features that appeared Caucasoid. However, radio carbon dating placed the age of the remains at more than 9,000 BCE, indicating he was a Paleo-Indian.

News of a pre-historic European found in Washington state made international news (in reality there are other ancient human remains that have been found in North America with similar features). A number of articles have also stated that the reconstructed face bares a striking similarity to that of Patrick Stewart.

Local Native American groups claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor and demanded the return of the remains, in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), setting off a decade long fight over control of the remains. Scientists wanted to study them. Native Americans wanted to bury them with dignity. "White Nationalists" seem to believe this is a cover-up to prevent knowledge of European antiquity in the Americas from being disseminated to the public and, thus, the true "Native Americans" are White Europeans.

Simplistic would be a charitable way to describe the "White Nationalist" perspective here.

The reality is that, while Kennewick Man, as well as other ancient remains (such as the Spirit Cave mummy) do not appear to look like modern First Nations peoples, they really don't look like modern Europeans either. In fact, they don't look like any modern human ethnic group, though further study and comparison does indicate that the Kennewick Man skull is the closest to that of the Ainu of Japan:

The Ainu are the indigenous peoples of Japan and are believed to be linked to the Jōmon period. While we don't pretend to be experts in human osteology, he do notice the similarity between the Kennewick Man skull and Jōmon period skulls. Here we have the Kennewick Skull followed by two Jōmon period skulls:

We aren't going to claim that Kennewick Man's origins is found among the Ainu of Japan, but the fact is that no contemporary population looks like populations from the ancient past. The sharing of genetic information between populations changes those populations over time. In reality, had the remains of Kennewick Man looked exactly like modern Europeans, scientists would be at a loss to explain it, however they would be equally confused if they found a 9,000 year old skeleton of a modern looking European in Europe as well.

The Europeans of the Solutrean Culture were the Cro-Magnon. The Cro-Magnon were fully modern humans in all senses of the word; physically and intellectually. If you were to somehow transport a Cro-Magnon man (or woman) to the present, dress in in jeans and a t-shirt, and set him down in any modern, multi-ethnic city in Europe, no one would even notice him. However, there are some significant morphological differences between modern Europeans and Cro-Magnon. Cro-Magnon had a slightly larger cranial capacity than modern Europeans (this is not an indicator of a greater intelligence, by the way). Their cranium was more rounded and the eye sockets more rectangular-shaped. Below we have first the skull of a modern European and then that of two Cro-Magnon skulls:

In other words, just as we wouldn't expect modern European populations to look like their ancient counterparts, we should also not expect ancient Native Americans to look like their ancient counterparts.

The "White Nationalists" who have grasped onto the Solutrean Hypothesis claim that Native Americans who came later wiped out the pre-existing European peoples of the Americas. These White Nationalists write in such a way as to express the pathos of the alleged tragedy. They picture the last of the Solutreans, no doubt a double for Conan himself, fighting to his dying breathe the hordes of brown-skinned beast-humans who poured over the Bering landbridge overwhelming the Solutrean population. In a blog post from the online radio show, "The Right Perspective," which claims to offer more proof of the Solutrean Hypothesis, one of the program's hosts, Frank of Queens, wrote the following in the comments section:

You can thank TRP for carrying this article! We've been telling you this for years and have done so unapologetically. It is not America, but Nothern Great Solutrea. Southern Great Solutrea is the correct name for South America. Our people were here FIRST, and were murdered in a horrific act of genocide by the invading Beringians. We were here first, and those who don't like it, well, get over it!

Our great White Solutrean Ancestors came here, not 1,000 years ago, but more like 30,000 years ago! Meadcroft Rock Shelter in Pa. proves this overwhelmingly! The reason that the incredibly savage Meso-Amerikan Maya pressed and elongated the skull of the royalty was because of the race memory of the Great White Gods who we now know to be our Great White Solutrean Ancestors! Think of it. How many tens of thousands of years were our people here? It took thousands for them to traverse the continent and come to the Columbian river in Kennewick Washington State. There were no horses to carry them. They walked! Our ancestor, the Kennewick Man was brutally slaughtered by the Beringians and his people also! They found a spear point in his hip. Please tune into The Right Perspective on the week of April 20 for World Solutrean Day! Please, tell your children that Our Great White Solutrean Ancestors settled this land and were destroyed! Ours were a peaceful people, who welcomed the Beringians in peace, and were paid back in DEATH! They left little trace, because they honoured nature and lived lightly on the land. Their great cities were organic entities that blended with nature, not against it! They had no word for WAR, but were a kind, peaceful, gentle, loving people. Our elders teach us this, and you must teach others! One People, One Culture, One Race!

Remember, the Berigians teach of "Great White Gods" who taught the arts of civilization to them. These are the history of Solutrean Ancestors told in myth. The proof is here as it always was, but is being suppressed. Mexico will find more Solutrean proof, and the proof won't be buried as it is happening here! They aren't P.C. idiots who are afraid to "offend" the Beringians. Civilizations build upon the older ones. Thus, as ever, it is proved. So therefore, I predict that deep with the Mexico valley where Mexico City is, they will one day find the remains of a vast Solutrean City! Our ancestors have slept for tens of thousands of years, but their voices won't be stilled!

The "Myth of Atlantis" and the story of "The Garden of Eden" are right beneath your feet! Those who returned to Europe, told of the wonderous land beyond the Pillars of Hercules, our Solutrea! It was a paradise, "The Garden of Eden". No war, no famine, no hatred, a land of incredible peace and plenty of all! Hail Solutera! It is the REAL Atlantis!

There are two problems with this believe (besides the lack of any physical proof to verify their claim of an ancient ethnically-based genocide). The first problem has to do with the mythology created by White Nationalists themselves.

Many White Nationalists claim that their ancestors, Aryans, were a superior warrior race. These same White Nationalists ascribe this characterization to the Solutreans as well. But if the Aryan/Solutreans really were a superior warrior race, and one which had close to 5,500 years to settle the continent (and the accompanying increase in population that goes with that), then how could this superior people be exterminated by relatively few bands of less technologically advanced, "Beringians"? Wouldn't the Solutreans be able to wipe out these small, isolated groups as soon as it looked like they were going to become significant competitors for resources?

In their efforts to make Europeans into the victims of an ancient race war, "White Nationalists" inadvertently provide evidence that they aren't exactly on the top of the human hierarchy.

Still, claiming to be the victims of genocide by a less advanced, fewer in number and genetically inferior (their claims) population is actually preferable to the alternative.

Perhaps the best evidence that ancient Europeans might have made their way across the Atlantic at one time (and the evidence is still flimsy at best) is found not in material remains, but in genetics. Among the five main genetic markers found in modern First Nations peoples, four are clearly Asian in origin. However there is a fifth known as Haplogroup X which, in addition to being found in the Americas, is found in Western Asia and in Europe. This marker is found in all Native American groups in North and South America, but it is most pronounced among the Algonquian peoples.

Even though this is perhaps the best evidence for the Solutrean Hypothesis, one will rarely hear a "White Nationalist" proponent of the hypothesis discuss it. Of course, our readers can guess the reason why.

Rather than wiping out the Solutrean peoples of the Americas, the "Beringians" and Solutreans shared their genetics. In other words, they regularly knocked boots... or moccasins if you will.

Based on the genetics, the Solutreans would still be here in the genetics of their decendants who intermarried with those nasty "Beringians." In other words, and using the rhetoric of the "White Nationalists" the Solutreans would be the first race traitors of the Americas.

See why they would rather claim to have been wiped out?

Luckily for the "White Nationalists," it appears that the genetic markers, like the material remains (projectile points, human skeletal remains, etc) looks to be a dead end as well since evidence now indicates that all five haplogroups, including x, are from Asia and represent a single founding population. So we suppose they can rest a little easier with that knowledge.

Now we've gone on long enough here, but to sum up, even when you have a racist who tries to couch his or her racism in scientific language, it really doesn't take much to punch holes in their arguments. "White Nationalism" really is based on a very weak foundation of myth and twisted truths.

UPDATE: Turns out Mr. Bristow has graduated from Michigan State and is now enrolled in the University of Toledo College law program; he isn't an MSU law student. Changes have been made as appropriate.


Anonymous said...

best/most interesting article you've written yet. i'd like to see more like this

Davegeek said...

Excellent and interesting article. I wasn't too up on the Solutrean Hypothesis before reading this.

One part of the WN position on Solutrea that I found of interest was where Frank from Queens states "Ours were a peaceful people, who welcomed the Beringians in peace, and were paid back in DEATH! They left little trace, because they honoured nature and lived lightly on the land. Their great cities were organic entities that blended with nature, not against it! They had no word for WAR, but were a kind, peaceful, gentle, loving people." As you pointed out there exists no evidence of such a genocide. Also how exactly is Mr from Queens able to determine all these "facts" about the civilization of the Solutreans? Given that they left "little [if any] trace", particularly in the way of written records, I am amazed that he knows so much about their language and architecture.

Or maybe he's indulging in some pseudo-anthropological onanism.

Troy Thomas said...

Owch! I heard the ass-kicking from all the way here in Slammin Arm.
I gotta say, the arguments these white nationalists are fronting aren't just a bit nutty, but also a little fruity, too.
Between science, which has us immigrating from Asia across a frozen, but is likely correct, and the Jehova Witnesses which has us arriving from Israel, and these jerks, who have a part of us arriving from Europe, one would have to wonder what people's imaginations get up to under the influence.
Good post, and thanks.

Dr.Dawg said...

An entertaining read on a Sunday evening. Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else hear Donovan saying "hail solutrea?"

Thanks for this exhaustive piece.

Ekko said...

Probably one of the most fun articles I have seen yet. Beautifully researched, and a real delight to read. Seeing Frank's comments did produce some bile though. It could not echo your point in the WN's constructing a pseudo-mythology for themselves; on that has more holes than Swiss Cheese.

Excellent work you guys!

Anonymous said...

Haha wow, those four paragraphs in red contained so much speculation. Great article, I enjoyed it very much.

Anonymous said...

Wow. These white power goofs are none-too-smart. Did anyone else read the quotes on the cover?? "This EVIDENCE could be the jolts whites need..."

Boneheads know the difference between fiction and non-fiction, correct? They understand a novel isn't evidence of anything? Except Jurassic Park... that shit is real.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that you are using very poor logic to make your point. Your point is a good one (racism is stupid) but as an archaeologist my teeth tightened a touch reading through your post.

(I'm reading the book that proposes the Solutrian migration right now and was googling a point type when I came across this blog.)

Equating the '3,500 year gap' between solutrian and clovis to Egypt to present time is ridiculous when you're suggesting that "not much happened and that's really a long time so your theory is stupid and wrong." Howabout Gobleki Tepe? It's 12,000 years old, and there's more time between it and Egypt's pharoic height than between Now and Egypt. Does that constitiute proof that modern-day Turkish people have the right to claim all of Europe as their own? No, it doesn't.

What does that prove? Nothing. That's my point. I'm using the same logic and you're not proving anything.

You're also seriously cherry-picking photos. Comparing the shots of one well-made Clovis point to French Laurel-leaf Solutrian points is pretty bloody poor in my opinion. Did you read the book this theory comes from or just read about it and then cobble some photos together? Because those Solutrian points come from an area the writers of the book state is not the area they think the Clovis people came from.

I get the idea that racists using a theory to forward their idiotic agenda is something you'd want to argue against, but you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

A unique perspective on an old and problematic question is good, not bad, and damning a theory because you don't like the political fallout that is happening because of it is anti-science, or at the very least a lack of clear thinking on your part.

I'm sorry if I"m being harsh about a three year old post, but reading some of the responses that are pretty much 'Today I Learned... ' is frustrating to say the least.

You're trying to be anti-racist, which is excellent. You're a Canadian, which is also excellent (but neither more or less excellent than being from another place) and you're trying to make a good point: archaeological theory and unbelievably stupid racism don't really have much to do with each other.

But you're attacking a theory that you apparently haven't actually read using bloody poor arguments and highly questionable logic and I for one would like to ask you to stop.

Thank you, feel free to burn me in effigy if you musht.

Nosferatu200 said...

Hey there. I created a blog post asking for you to contact us, but I want to quickly address a few points.

Regarding the Ancient Egypt reference, the purpose was to note that there was a significant gap between the end of Solutrean and the beginning of the Clovis Culture. I'll be generous and narrow the gap to 3000 years. If one is going to claim that Clovis is a North American continuation (or extension) of Solutrean, you need to explain why there is a 3000 year gap in which projectile points of either kind are not being made. Cactus Hill MIGHT be a bridge in the gap, but even the best lithic work from the site doesn't appear to have much in common with Solutrean at all.

As for the points I used in the article, they are, by and large, represent the typed of points being discussed, so I'm not sure that your criticism is fair. A significant diagnostic feature of Clovis is that the points are fluted. Nowhere is a point in the Solutrean tool kit fluted. This is a significant difference that proponents of the Solutrean Hypothesis can't just shrug off.

I wasn't damning the theory because boneheads have decided to try to justify their racism with it. I don't damn evolution because boneheads have tried to use that theory either. But, unlike evolution, the Solutrean Hypothesis is highly speculative in light of the current evidence, and that is just an observation as someone with an interest in pre-history. It doesn't mean that it's impossible, but so far the evidence is at best circumstantial. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and if you are going to overturn Beringia as the primary route for the peopling of the Americas then you need to provide a much stronger case.

That being said, I agree that the peopling of the Americas is likely a lot more complicated and that future discoveries may change the way we think about how it occurred. All I'm asking is that I'm shown concrete evidence to support the claims and, thus far, I find the Solutrean Hypothesis interesting, but lacking.

Holly Stick said...

I've certainly seen comments at the National Post from people who seem to hold the supremacist version of the Solutrean hypothesis. I wonder if there is a link with the Mormon version of prehistory. I'm not sure, that may have changed over the years - there's an interesting discussion about DNA here: http://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/dna-tests-contradict-mormon-scripture-the-church-says-the-studies-are-being-twisted-to-attack-its-beliefs/

Anonymous said...

"Refuting the Technological Cornerstone of the Ice-Age Atlantic Crossing Hypothesis"


Anonymous said...

Wow so many anti-white idiots on here. Face it Solutreans were on North America FIRST. The most likely got slaughtered by asiatics, (and certainly got no reservations) but thankfully their offspring back in Europe came back and slaughtered the Indian tribes!

As soon as you quote anything the Southern Poverty Law Center (completely biased and an anti-white hate organization you lose all credibility!)

Nosferatu200 said...

We posted the above comment to illustrate the mindset of the typical bonehead.

Thanks for that. You do our job for us with comments like that. ;)

Anonymous said...

I haven't laughed this hard in a while, thanks for the post man i really enjoyed it, and you nationalists keep posting too, we all find you guys hilariously stupid. and it brightens our day (at least mine) to see such imaginative minds at work. seriously that mythology you whipped up is something. xD

cri sis said...

thanks for this article!!...i´m no expert at all, and i can not tell what may be right or may be wrong...

what bothers me is, that one is not able to gather information on the solutrean-technology and the beautiful flintknapping work they did without jumping on to a racist, white power..shit page!!

so, thank you for reflecting on the theory!!

to me there are just tribes, no matter if they came to america or not, they did an amazing job prepairing the way for us now...and for sure they did live a much more sustainable life then we do nowadays! thanks to all the people that came before us...

and again, liked the article very much!