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The recent and now indisputable findings at Monte Verde in southern Chile present the strong possibility that people were living in South America more than 12,000 years ago. If so, the long-cherished scenario in which the Americas were populated by big-game hunters crossing the Bering land bridge and then making their way slowly down the Americas may no longer be true. Other, still-disputed, South American sites may even date to 33,000 BP or earlier.
The First South Americans presents all current evidence and claims for the early traces of human presence on the continent. Surveying the territory from Tierra del Fuego to the Caribbean shores of Columbia and from Brazil to Ecuador, Danièle Lavallée presents and discusses the cultural development of the entire continent from the first occupants through the hunters of the Holocene, the rise of horticulture and animal domestication in the Andes, Amazonian developments, maritime adaptations, the Andean development of ceramics, weaving, and stratified society, and finally the emergence of the first Andean civilization in Chavin.
Little by little, people occupied this mosaic of territories over the millennia, sometimes yielding to the constraints of the environment, sometimes controlling and transforming it. Lavallée shows how the first South Americans accomplished this at different rates and with methods whose diversity equaled that of their natural settings.