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Stone circle at Burnt Hill, Massachusetts, USA
The glaciersThe archaeology of the Americas is the study of the archaeology of North America, Central America (or Mesoamerica), South America and the Caribbeanmarker. This includes the study of pre-historic/Pre-Columbian and historic indigenous American peoples.

Archaeological time periods

One of the most enduring classifications of archaeological cultures was established in Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips' 1958 book Method and Theory in American Archaeology. They divided the archaeological record in the Americas into five phases. These are:
Defined initially as a big-game hunting adaptation. In most places, this can be dated to before 8000 BC. Examples include the Clovis culture and Folsom tradition groups.
Defined as cultures relying primarily on increasing intensive collecting of wild resources, after the decline of the big game hunting lifestyle. Typically Archaic cultures can be dated from 8000 BC to 1000 BC. Representative examples include, the Archaic Southwest the Arctic small tool tradition, the Poverty Pointmarker culture and the Chan-Chan culture in southern Chile.
Defined as "village agriculture" based. Most of these can be dated from 1000 BC to AD 500. Examples include the Dorset culture , Zapotec culture, Mimbres, Olmec, and Mississippian cultures.
Defined as "early civilizations," and typically dating from AD 500 to 1200. Willey and Phillips considered only cultures from Mesoamerica and Peru to have achieved this level of complexity. Examples include the early Maya and the Toltec.
Defined as "later prehispanic civilizations" and typically dated from AD 1200 onward. The late Maya and the Aztec cultures were Post-Classic.
Since these simplistic periods were defined, numerous regional and sub-regional divisions have been created to break up the cultural landscape through time and space. Later archaeologists recognized that these linear stages did not adequately correspond to the cultural variation that existed in different locations in the Americas. Although the Formative/Classic/Post-Classic distinction is still used in the archaeology of Mesoamerican chronology , this division has been replaced in most of North America by more local classifications.

Pre-Columbian era

The Pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic to European colonization during the Early Modern period.

While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.

Archaeology in the United States

In the United Statesmarker, physical anthropology and archaeological investigations based on the study of human remains are complicated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, (NAGPRA), which provides for the bodies of Native Americans and associated grave goods to be turned over to the recognized tribal body most legally affiliated with the remains. In some cases, notably, that of Kennewick Man, these laws have been subject to close judicial scrutiny and great intellectual conflict.
Exact location of Mesoamerica


Archaeology in Mesoamerica

Mesoamerica or Meso-America ( ) is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexicomarker to Hondurasmarker and Nicaraguamarker, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Prehistoric groups in this area are characterized by agricultural villages and large ceremonial and politico-religious capitals This culture area included some of the most complex and advanced cultures of the Americas, including the Olmec, Teotihuacanmarker, the Maya, and the Aztec.

Humans entering the Americas

Models of migration into the Americas address the central question of when and how humans reached the Americas. The earliest definite human peoples visible in the archaeological record throughout the Americas are today known as the Paleo-Indians.

Genetic classification

Haplogroup Q1a3a is a Y Chromosome haplogroup generally associated with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Q1a3a-M3 mutation is on the Q lineage roughly 10 to 15 thousand years ago, as the migration throwout the Americas was underway by the early Paleo-Indians.

See also



Further reading

  1. Bones, Discovering the First Americans Elaine Dewar, Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 2002, ISBN 0-7867-0979-0
  2. "Meso-America." Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 2nd ed. (rev.) 2002. (ISBN 0-19-860652-4) Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; p. 906.
  3. (2000): Atlas del México Prehispánico. Revista Arqueología mexicana. Número especial 5. Julio de 2000. Raíces/ Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. México.
  4. http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/hohokam/Glossary.htm The University of Arizona
  5. Forgotten Civilizations of Meso-America



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