Surprising News about the Solutrean Hypothesis Should Give Fringe History Believers Pause (But Likely Won't)
Racists around the country will have some explaining to do after news reports confirmed what many have suspected for many years now, that the Solutrean people of Europe did not possess white skin. Worse, the evidence for the Solutrean hypothesis, regardless of who the Solutreans were, received a serious blow last week. Special thanks go to Andy White and Terry the Censor for linking me to the article’s I’m discussing today.
The Solutrean hypothesis, first put forward in the 1930s and revived more recently by Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce Bradley, suggests that the Solutreans, a group of prehistoric Spaniards from around 15,000 BCE traveled across the Atlantic and gave rise to the Clovis culture of the Americas around 11,000 BCE. The argument rests on the perceived similarity between Clovis stone tools and Solutrean stone tools. I discussed some of the problems with this hypothesis in an article for Skeptic magazine a decade ago.
Fringe history believers have long used the Solutrean claim as evidence for European primacy in the Americas, a belief that stretches back at least as far as the lost white race of Mound Builders the first European colonists imagined had been killed off by bloodthirsty Natives. As Scott Wolter told it on America Unearthed, the Solutrean hypothesis explains that white Europeans were the first Americans, long before Native Americans crossed over from Asia. White supremacists like John de Nugent, Kyle Bristow, and radio host Frank from Queens have gone still farther and proposed on these grounds that America was once a white cultural homeland, possibly the Garden of Eden, before “Beringians”—i.e., non-white Native Americans—crossed over and killed them all in a violent race war. As de Nugent put it:
The enemy of truth has a big problem with the issue of the Solutrean whites being here first and then the red man genociding him, for the whole story is didactic and instructive for white people today. It is the story of the first whites to build a great culture, and how they were crushed and died in slavery and agony after they became a minority in their own country.
Well, it turns out that the newest research indicates, according to Science (the magazine and the field of knowledge), that as recently as 6500 BCE the residents of Spain lacked the genes associated with white skin. Since this is also the case for the original population that settled Europe 40,000 years ago, the conclusion is that the Solutreans of 22,000-15,000 BCE must also have been dark-skinned. Light skin was a trait associated with an influx of Near Eastern farmers after 4000 BCE. In short, the Solutreans were not “white” “Europeans” in the modern sense, but much closer to the African populations they descended from.
Here’s Andy White’s blog post on the findings.
This is just one of several new challenges to fringe history’s view of the Solutrean invasion, and indeed to the Solutrean hypothesis itself. According to Dennis Stanford’s and Bruce Bradley’s 2012 book Across Atlantic Ice, the single most compelling artifact in support of the Solutrean hypothesis is the Cinmar blade, a stone tool dredged up from the ocean off Virginia in the 1970s by the trawler Cinmar along with a mastodon bone. Operating under the assumption that the two artifacts were associated with one another, carbon dating of the mastodon bone to around 25,000 BCE implied that the Cinmar blade was the oldest stone tool ever found in the Americas and therefore important evidence connecting New World stone tools to Solutrean tools made around the same time.
Critics have long complained that there is no evidence that the two artifacts were associated with one another and not, for example, the coincidental catch of the dredging from different layers or deposits. But a new article in the Journal of Archaeological Science has added fuel to the critic’s fiery complaints by uncovering discrepancies and apparent problems with the story of the fishing trawler that accidentally overturned history. According to the article by Metin I. Eren, Matthew T. Boulanger, and Michael J. O’Brien, nearly all of the facts presented by Stanford and Bradley are wrong:
Jennifer Raff has a terrific breakdown of the article and its implications here. The long and short of it is that it is now much more difficult to accept the claim at face value, or the value of the artifacts for determining anything about Solutrean involvement in the Americas.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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