First Native Americans #3 – Solutrean Theory – David Haysley

Solutrean Theory

The Solutrean Theory proposes that the migration into the North America was from the continent of Europe 17,000 to 21,000 years ago. This theory hypothesizes that this migration was accomplished by travel using primitive boating along the ice packed land of the North Atlantic Ocean. It was proposed in 1998 by its notable proponents Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution and Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter.

Solutreans to North America

1. General View of Solutrean Migration Path

Some background information on the European Solutrean Culture helps with understanding and acceptance of the Solutrean Theory.  Solutrean artifacts are found primarily in southwestern France and in northwestern Spain.  The culture began about 25,000 years ago and appears to have lasted until about 13,000 years ago. It existing during the Pleistocene Epoch with the bitter cold climate conditions of that time frame and ocean levels were much lower meaning that many of the coastal Solutrean sites are now underwater which restricts archaeological efforts.

 Solutren Culture in Europe

2. European Location for Solutrean Culture

Their lithic technology was advanced and evident in the refinement of discovered artifacts. They have also been credited with inventing the bow and arrow (a hard to prove fact). The hypothesis is primarily based on: 1.) the strong similarities between the European Solutrean Culture and the Clovis style culture found on the eastern coastal area of North America; 2.) the physical possibilities that there was a route; 3.) and Solutrean capability for the migration.

Comparison spear points -Solutrean to Clovis        Comparison spear points -Solutrean to Clovis - 1.jpg

3. Comparison – Clovis and Solutrean Spear Points

The ice age conditions meant that the Solutrean populated coastal areas for their source of food and life substances. The Solutrean cave paintings included drawings of shellfish, seals, and ocean fish which imply that they were a maritime people. Being adapted to Arctic conditions and having sea bearing skills, it appears that they could be capable of migration along the ice packed North Atlantic into North America.

Solutreans Migrating via North Atlantic

4. Sketch Depicting Migrating Solutreans Across North Atlantic Ocean

With North Sea ice packed condition during the Pleistocene Epoch it appears very feasible that a migration path did exists for a stout sea bearing culture which is how the Solutreans have been defined.  This routing is debated, however it remains a possibility and as presented by theory proponents hard to disprove (or approve) due to the lack of archaeological sites that, if existed, were taken away with climatic changes since the end of the last ice age.

Solutrean Migrartion Path

  1. Suggested Migration Route for the Solutreans to North America

Supporters of the Solutrean hypothesis refer to recent archaeological finds in North America that predate the other cultures as evidence of the habitation of the Solutrean culture before the Clovis culture.  Three of the more significant findings are:

  • Page-Ladson is an archaeological site in the Big Bend region of Florida.  In 1959 scuba divers began retrieving Pleistocene artifacts which included animal bones with butchering marks from the Aucilla River. From 2012 and 2014 further excavation yielded six lithic artifacts (bifaced and flaked) made from local coastal plain chert.  These artifacts were dated to approximately 14,550 years ago which indicate human habitation of North America earlier than the Clovis culture by 1000 to 1500 years.

Paige Ladson Site - Map           Paige Ladson Diver with Artifact

  1. Artifacts from Page-Ladson Site
  • Cactus Hill in southeastern Virginia is an archaeological site in North America discovered in the mid 1990s. The site has yielded multiple artifacts of early Paleo activity showing that the area was inhabited 18,000 to 20,000 years ago. It provides evidence supporting the Solutrean hypothesis but, to date, this evidence has not been accepted by mainstream archaeologist.

Cactus Hill Site - Map      Cactus Hill Site Artifacts

  1. Cactus Hill Site with Some of Artifacts Discovered There
  • Topper, archaeological site located along the Savannah River in Allendale County, South Carolina, was excavated in 2004 by Albert Goodyear, University of South Carolina. Some archaeologists believe artifacts found here indicate human habitation of North America earlier than any other culture by 3000 years. Among the objects discovered and dated to 16,000-20,000 years ago is a large piece nicknamed the “Topper Chopper”.  It was observed that a French Solutrean chopper incorporates essentially the same design and form and Topper Chopper appears to be the same as the lithic tool of the Pleistocene Solutreans in Europe.  This comparison is debated among leading archaeologists.  If correct it provides significant evidence supporting the Solutrean hypothesis.

Topper Chopper                    Topper Chopper - Solutrean Likeness

8.  Topper Chopper                                                            9. French Solutrean Chopper

Topper Chopper - form 10. Form Simulation for Comparison          

It is proposed that these finds provide evidence that the Solutrean Culture was in North America and it was before other cultures by as much as 1500 to 5000 years.  Promoters of the Solutrean Theory believe that the Solutrean Culture predated the Clovis Culture and transitioned into, or merged with, the Clovis Culture.

As mentioned above as part of the Beringia Theory, there are five haplogroups found in the genes of present-day Native American, labeled A, B, C, D, and X. The origin of fifth haplogroup X is significance for the Solutrean Hypothesis. It is less common than haplogroups A, B, C, and D but it is wide spread.  Its largest frequency of occurrence among Native Americans within North America is in the Northeastern United States. This marker cannot be traced back to a shared ancestry anywhere in Siberia or eastern Asia, but it can be traced to a haplogroup within the European populations. The possible connection of haplogroup X to the Solutreans is easily perceived.

Solutrean Haplo Group - X - Map

  1. Native American Haplogroup “X”

Additionally the haplogroup X has been found in people of the Orkney Islands, an island chain in the Northern Isles of Scotland, situated off the north coast of Great Britain and part of the North Sea shelf.  These islands would have been accessible to the Solutreans during their sea and ice packed land migrations.

Orkney Islands - Map

  1. Map Showing Location of Orkney Islands

It is proposed that based on these archeological and anthropological finds provide evidence that the Solutrean Culture was in America and it was before other cultures by as much as 1500 to 5000 years.

Solutreans - Life Style Image

  1. Image of Possible Solutrean Life Style

Promoters of the Solutrean Theory believe that the Solutrean Culture pre dated the Beringian migration into the interior of North America and the establishment of the Clovis Culture. The theory proposes the Solutrean Culture transitioned into and or merged with the Clovis Culture.   For the novice it is very difficult to see a comparison or pass judgment on this claim.  .

Solutrean Spear Points Comparison To Clovis Spear Points.jpg

  1. Comparison of Solutrean and Clovis Paleo-Lithic Spear Points

                          (Can you see the comparison or difference????)

This novice, after initial research, believes that the Solutrean Theory definitely has merit and should be part of any study of the Native American migration.  

11 Comments

  1. Have you considered a Table that compares the different theories? I know that after I read each theory it would be a good summary to see a table with the dates, names, archaeology finds that support, major strengths and weaknesses of each theory. Just a thought.

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    1. Right on – already have an addition which I will publish after last theory (Coastal Theory) which compares the three theories (with a table like you describe) and makes concluding remarks on the theories. Thanks

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  2. David you are very well informed for a novice. A fun subject, well researched. Looking forward to the next blog. Enjoyed talking to you at the Burger Barn.

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