ON MONTE VERDE: FIEDEL'S CONFUSIONS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS

Tom D. Dillehay (University of Kentucky), Michael B. Collins (University of Texas), Mario Pino (Universidad Austral de Chile), Jack Rossen (Ithaca College), Jim Adovasio (Mercyhurst College), Carlos Ocampo (Universidad de Chile), Ximena Navarro (Universidad Catolica de Chile), Pilar Rivas (UCA, S.A.), David Pollack (Kentucky Heritage Council), A. Gwynn Henderson (Kentucky Archaeological Survey), Jose Saavedra (Casa de la Cultura, Chile), Patricio Sanzana (Consejo Nacional de Desarollo Indigena, Chile), Pat Shipman (Penn State University), Marvin Kay (University of Arkansas), Gaston Munoz, Anastasios Karathanasis (University of Kentucky), Donald Ugent, (Southern Illinois University), Michael Cibull (University of Kentucky), and Richard Geissler (University of Kentucky).

Preface

In October 1999, the Editors of Scientific American Discovering Archaeology, a new popular magazine, published a lengthy unjuried SPECIAL REPORT, entitled "Artifact Provenience at Monte Verde: Confusions and Contraditions," by Stuart Fiedel of John Milner Associates, a private archaeological contract firm in Alexandria, Virginia. His lengthy review of the second volume on the Monte Verde site in Chile is full of accusations, errors, and misrepresentations of the scientific evidence. Fiedel's review was accompanied by short commentaries by several Paleoindian specialists and short responses by Dillehay et al. and Collins.

By publishing his review in a non-refereed magazine, Fiedel was able to make many unfounded accusations and to lead the reader to believe that the scientific evidence in the Monte Verde volumes is inadequately documented, inconsistent, and confusing. Fiedel seemingly attempted to discredit the compelling archaeological evidence from Monte Verde in defense of the Clovis model. His review is inflammatory, with "a belligerence rarely seen in scientific spats" (Science 286:657). We strongly encourage fair and constructive criticism, but our objection in this case is that Fiedel's review is neither fair nor constructive--and is often highly misleading. In this website, we respond to Fiedel's allegations and correct his numerous factual and interpretive mistakes.

The Editors of Discovering Archaeology rushed Fiedel's review to publication, because:

one of the most important conferences on New World prehistory in more than 50 years--the Clovis and Beyond symposium in Santa Fe October 28-31--will assemble most specialists on the topic to discuss the statement of knowledge about when and how the New World was settled. We felt it was extremely important that participants in that conference have this information available in its entirety.

Scientific American Discovering Archaeology has absolutely no position on the issues raised in this special section, and publishing it in no way implies confidence or doubt about any opinions expressed. Our only purpose is to present this information accurately, fairly, and quickly. (The Editors of Discovering Archaeology 1999:1)

A more detailed response to Fiedel was not written at the time of his review, because the editors of Discovering Archaeology limited us to 700 words. The editors of Discovering Archaeology would not publish the long response provided below. Since Fiedel's review was published in Discovering Archaeology and avoided peer review, we have been unable to make this reply available through conventional avenues (i.e., technical scientific journals). In addition, Fiedel's factual and interpretive errors are so numerous, the response we've had to produce to rebut him is prohibitively long for most journals. Thus, this website.

If Fiedel had applied his critical eye to his own review, we would not have to correct his numerous mistakes. Nor would we have to respond to the remarks of some commentators. Provided below is our response and an errata list that corrects our editorial oversights in Volume 2. We do not present a point-by-point rebuttal to all of Fiedel's accusations. In order to do this, we would have had to have written an even longer response than the current forty-nine single-spaced page report. Additional co-authors, who worked on the Monte Verde project and who currently are in the field on other projects, will add their comments as they have the time to read and respond to Fiedel's review.

This webpage is divided into six parts. Part 1 is an introduction. Part 2 addresses general issues in Fiedel's review. Part 3 is our long reply to Fiedel's accusations and to those of some commentators. Part 4 is an errata list for Volume 2 (Dillehay 1997). Part 5 is a brief conclusion. Part 6 shows nine photographs of in situ projectile points and excavation procedures.

Detailed Response to Fiedel: Parts 1-5

The following is a pdf file, you will need Adobe® Acrobat Reader to view it

 Response to Fiedel

Part 6

Below are some photographs that illustrate in situ projectile points and excavation procedures.

 

 


This figure shows the south wall of Test Pit 15 in Zone D where projectile point X-15-0001 or D-10-1-1 was excavated. The arrow shows the in situ location of the point close to the pit wall and resting on the gray sandy surface of stratum MV-7.

In situ location of the point in Test Pit 15 (arrow is used as a scale, not as a direction indicator). Note the plant fibers of the basal and overlying MV-5 peat layer.

The Wishbone Structure in Zone A. Point A-1-26 or A0100026 is located in the MV-7 use floor next to the northwest corner of the structure (see arrow).

In situ location of point A-1-26 in the MV-7 use floor.

Polyhedral Core A0104001 or A-1-41 showing the flaking facets and burning. This core was recovered from the burned fill below and around Brazier or Feature A-1-4.

In situ shots of a specimen of scraped wood and the percussion struck flaked probably used to work it, located next to a burned and chopped fragment of wood in Zone D, Areas 10 and 11.

 

In situ shot of a wooden stake in Zone D. Note the diagonally cut tip, the straight and flattened head and the knotted cordage wrapped around it (arrows). This stake was found slightly dislodged against a timber (to the right) which formed part of the wooden architectural frame of the tent like structure in Zone D.

 

Excavation of one area in Zone D, showing the use of propanol alcohol and other chemicals used during the field work to conserve the wood and other perishables materials. When an area was not undergoing excavation, all perishable materials were covered by plastic to prevent solar radiation and wind from dehydrating the perishables.

All perishables, especially the wooden artifacts and the soft tissue remains of animals, were placed in chemical baths to preserve them in the field. This photograph shows wooden artifacts from Zone A being placed in baths and sealed in containers for transport to the laboratory for further processing.