America's Clovis vs Pre-Clovis Controversy and
Japan's Early Palaeolithic Controversy:
A Comparison in Approaches

Home | Index by Charles T. Keally
January 10, 2001

I have been watching the American "Pre-Clovis" controversy rather closely for the past 15 years or so. There is much about it that makes it similar to the Japanese "Early Palaeolithic" controversy, and I feel it is very helpful for getting ideas about how to conduct the research in Japan.

The National Geographic magazine recently published an article on the "Hunt for the First Americans" (Parfit 2000), which gives a good overview and introduction to the Pre-Clovis controversy. It is very much worth reading for comparison to the Japanese Early Palaeolithic controversy.

The level of academic and sceintific research going into the Pre-Clovis controversy makes the Early Palaeolithic controversy look like the work of novices playing at grown-up archaeology. If it were baseball, it would be the major leagues compared to the neighborhood kids in the sandlot. This National Geographic article makes clear that the Japanese Early Palaeolithic research and controversy have a long ways to go to reach international standards.

The Pre-Clovis research is extremely interdisciplinary. It is also extremely scientific and academic. Both publications and conferences purposefully include contributors from both (all?) sides of the controversy. Many independent archaeologists and groups are working on both/all sides, too. Criticism is common and public, and often heated, and sometimes nasty. But criticisms are answered directly, and a large amount of time, labor and money often go into seeking answers for the criticisms. All of these characteristics of the Pre-Clovis controversy seem to be largely missing from the Japanese Early Palaeolithic controversy.

Quotations from the National Geographic article will help make clear some of the differences. These quotations express the ideas that the archaeologists involved in the Clovis vs Pre-Clovis controversy feel that (1) controversy is exciting and useful, (2) most ideas are speculation, (3) questioning is and should be common, (4) solid scientific evidence is required, (5) vigorous and public debate is normal, (6) people can, do and should change their minds with new evidence or arguments, and (7) people should enjoy having their ideas criticized. Most of these ideas and quotations cannot be applied to a description of the way Japan's Early Palaeolithic controversy is being conducted (the emphases in red are mine).

You can get a preview of the National Geographic's article at:

Other related links:

Some of the publications I have on the Pre-Clovis controversy are:

References Cited


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