January 4, 1997

The term "Paleoindian" has been part of my archaeological vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I am as comfortable with it as I am with my own name. On the other hand, I have recently received some comments and criticisms concerning its use. Since I intend to continue using the term in the foreseeable future, I would like to quote from Dr. H. M. Wormington's 5th Edition of ANCIENT MAN IN NORTH AMERICA.

The term "Paleo-Indian" (Paleo = Old) is often used to refer to the earliest inhabitants of North America in order to differentiate them from the later peoples (Roberts, 1940). It is an undesirable term if we give it a racial connotation. The later American Indians were Mongoloids, but this is not necessarily the racial type of the first comers to the New World. Some physical anthropologists think that the Mongoloid race represents a relatively recent development in Asia. Since we do not know when men first reached this Hemisphere, we are not in a position to say what their racial type may have been. However, if we use the term Paleo-Indian simply in the sense of a designation for the oldest inhabitants it seems acceptable. It will be used here to refer to people who hunted animals which are now extinct, to the people who occupied the western United States prior to about 6,000 years ago, and to the makers of the fluted points found in the eastern United States. (1964:3)
Dr. Wormington's definition and comments still work for me.

I will add that in the central New Mexico there is a "bright line" separating the Paleoindians from the Archaic. The Paleoindians used crytocrystalle rocks and the Archaic used basalt. In other locations where basalt was not available and of which I have knowledge, there still appears to be a difference based on material selection. The Paleoindians imported material unless the local material was extremely desirable and the Archaic were content to use the local stuff.

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The above 1940 Roberts' reference is from "Developments in the Problem of the North American Paleo-Indian". Essays in historical Anthropology of North America. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 100(51-116).