Monte Verde
Monte Verde is an archaeological site
Archaeological site
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved , and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record.Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a 'site' can vary widely,...

 in southern Chile, located in the northern Patagonia
Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

 near Puerto Montt
Puerto Montt
Puerto Montt is a port city and commune in southern Chile, located at the northern end of the Reloncaví Sound in the Llanquihue Province, Los Lagos Region. The commune spans an area of and had a population of 175,938 in 2002. It is located 1,055 km to the south of the capital, Santiago...

, Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, which has been dated to 14,800 years BP (Before Present
Before Present
Before Present years is a time scale used in archaeology, geology, and other scientific disciplines to specify when events in the past occurred. Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use AD 1950 as the origin of the age scale, reflecting the fact that radiocarbon...

). This dating adds to the evidence showing that settlement in the Americas pre-dates the Clovis culture
Clovis culture
The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture that first appears 11,500 RCYBP , at the end of the last glacial period, characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools...

 by roughly 1000 years. This contradicts the previously accepted "Clovis first" model which holds that settlement of the Americas began after 13,500 BP. The Monte Verde findings were initially dismissed by most of the scientific community, but in recent years the evidence has become more widely accepted in some archaeological circles, although vocal "Clovis First" advocates remain.


The site was discovered in late 1975 when a veterinary student visited the area of Monte Verde, where severe erosion was occurring due to logging. The student found a strange "cow bone" exposed in the eroded Chinchihuapi Creek that proved to be from a mastodon
Mastodons were large tusked mammal species of the extinct genus Mammut which inhabited Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Central America from the Oligocene through Pleistocene, 33.9 mya to 11,000 years ago. The American mastodon is the most recent and best known species of the group...

. Mario Pino
Mario Pino (geologist)
Mario Pino Quivira is a Chilean geologist specialized in geoarchaeology and sedimentology that has been involved in several studies of early human settlements in Southern Chile...

, a Chilean geologist and Tom Dillehay
Tom Dillehay
Tom Dillehay is an American anthropologist who is the Rebecca Webb Wilson University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Religion, and Culture and Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. While working at Universidad Austral de Chile he was involved in the excavations at Monte Verde...

, both teachers at the Universidad Austral de Chile
Universidad Austral de Chile
Southern University of Chile is a research university in Chile based in Valdivia although it has some institutions and careers in Puerto Montt. Founded by decree on 7 September 1954 it is one of the eight original Chilean Traditional Universities...

 at the time, started excavating Monte Verde in 1977. The site is situated on the banks of Chinchihuapi Creek, a tributary of the Maullín River
Maullín River
Maullín River is a river of Chile located in the Los Lagos Region. The river originates as the outflow of Llanquihue Lake, and flows generally southwestward, over a number of small waterfalls, emptying into the Gulf of Coronados...

 located 36 miles (57.9 km) from the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. One of the rare open-air prehistoric sites found so far in the Americas, Monte Verde was preserved as the waters of the creek rose a short time after the site was occupied and the peat
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter or histosol. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world...

-filled bog that resulted inhibited the bacterial decay of organic material and preserved many perishable artifacts and other items for millennia.


The Monte Verde site has two distinct levels. The upper level, MV-II, has been extensively characterized. Its occupation is dated to 14,800 – 13,800 BP.

The lower level, MV-I, is less well understood. It "was more ephemeral and came from ancient river sediments. Dillehay found charcoal scatters which may be the remnants of fireplaces next to possible stone and wood artifacts, and these were dated to at least 33,000BC. He himself remains cautious about MV-I..."

Monte Verde Level II (MV-II)

According to Dillehay and his team, Monte Verde II was occupied around 14,800 – 13,800 BP by about twenty to thirty people. A twenty-foot-long tent-like structure of wood and animal hides was erected on the banks of the creek and was framed with logs and planks staked in the ground, making walls of poles covered with animal hides. Using ropes made of local reeds, the hides were tied to the poles creating separate living quarters within the main structure. Outside the tent-like structure, two large hearths had been built for community usage, most probably for tool making and craftwork.

Each of the living quarters had a brazier pit lined with clay. Around those hearths, many stone tools and remnants of spilled seeds, nuts, and berries were found. A 13,000-yr-old specimen of the wild potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

, Solanum maglia, was also found at the site; these remains, the oldest on record for any species of potato, wild or cultivated, suggest that southern Chile was of the two main centres for the evolution of Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, the common potato. Remains of forty-five different edible plant species were found within the site, over a fifth of them originating from up to 150 miles (241.4 km) away. This suggested that the people of Monte Verde either had trade routes or traveled regularly in this extended network.

Other important finds from this site include human coprolite
A coprolite is fossilized animal dung. Coprolites are classified as trace fossils as opposed to body fossils, as they give evidence for the animal's behaviour rather than morphology. The name is derived from the Greek words κοπρος / kopros meaning 'dung' and λιθος / lithos meaning 'stone'. They...

s, a footprint, assumed to have been made by a child, stone tools, and cordage. The date for this site was obtained by Dr. Dillehay with the use of radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 of charcoal and bone found within the site.

In the May 9, 2008 issue of Science, a team reported that they identified nine species of seaweed and marine algae recovered from hearths and other areas in the ancient settlement. The seaweed samples were directly dated between 14,220 to 13,980 years ago, confirming that MV-II was occupied more than 1,000 years earlier than any other reliably dated human settlements in the Americas.

Comparison to other early Americas sites

MV-I has been reported radiocarbon dated to 33,000 years before present, but like other sites with reported extremely early dates such as the Topper
Topper (archaeological site)
Topper is an archaeological site located along the Savannah River in Allendale County, South Carolina in the United States. It is noted as the location of controversial artifacts believed by some archaeologists to indicate human habitation of the New World earlier than the Clovis culture,...

 site in South Carolina, this deeper layer find remains controversial.

Other very early human settlement in Southern Chile sites of comparable age to Monte Verde are the Cueva del Milodón
Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument
Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument is a Natural Monument located in the Chilean Patagonia, northwest of Puerto Natales and north of Punta Arenas. The monument is situated along the flanks of the Cerro Benitez Mountains...

, Pali Aike Crater
Pali Aike Crater
The Pali Aike Crater is an extinct volcano cone within a series of such craters in the Pali-Aike National Park. The locale of this crater is a semi-desert. This crater within the Pali-Aike Volcanic Field has an extant lava tube which has yielded archaeological traces termed by C...

 lava tube and Chan-Chan
thumb|right|300px|View of the beach of Chan-Chan and the forested Tren-Tren peninsula south of the main archaeological site.Chan-Chan is an archaeological site and beach on the coast of the commune of Mehuín in southern Chile. Chan-Chan is known to have been inhabited by hunter-gatherers during...

 which is relatively close (about 200 km).

See also

  • Patagonia
    Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

  • Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
    Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
    Theories of Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact are those theories that propose interaction between indigenous peoples of the Americas who settled the Americas before 10,000 BC, and peoples of other continents , which occurred before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492.Many...

  • Archaeology of the Americas
    Archaeology of the Americas
    The archaeology of the Americas is the study of the archaeology of North America , Central America, South America and the Caribbean...

  • Models of migration to the New World
    Models of migration to the New World
    There have been several models for the human settlement of the Americas proposed by various academic communities. The question of how, when and why humans first entered the Americas is of intense interest to archaeologists and anthropologists, and has been a subject of heated debate for centuries...

  • Lagoa Santa
    Lagoa Santa
    For Lagoa Santa, a municipality in Goiás see Lagoa Santa, GoiásLagoa Santa is a municipality and region in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil...

External links

  • Monte Verde at UNESCO World Heritage
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