The history of North America starts with groups of nomadic peoples wandering across the continent. One of these groups is known as the Clovis people, a group of prehistoric hunters that established themselves in widely different areas, ranging from the southern United States to northern Canada. They lived between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, and for some time they were thought to be the earliest people to have lived in North America. They are known for tool making and remarkable spear and arrow points, and for big game hunting of such animals as the mammoth and the mastodon.
In the San Pedro Valley, Arizona, there is an archaeological Clovis culture site that dates back about 11,000 years. Currently managed by the United States’ government’s Bureau of Land Management, the site was first excavated in 1966 by Professor C. Vance Haynes, Jr. Evidence of the Clovis culture is abundant here, found buried under more than two meters of loose sediment deposits known as alluvium. The artifacts at the site have maintained their integrity better than many other sites due to a uniquely occurring black algal mat that covers the entire site. To date there have been thousands of Clovis-type point fragments and tools located, and thousands of wasteflakes prove that many more were created at this location.
Located on the site is a hunting camp, with remains from the kill of a mammoth and a bison in evidence. Other parts of the site have remains of kills from other animals. And an animal bone rendered into a tool possibly for use in straightening dart shafts gives great insight into the development of the culture of these people.
What have not been found at this site are skeletal remains of the people who resided here. This raises many questions. Chief among them is the mystery of where they went, and if they left for a specific yet unknown reason, or if they simply moved on. Did the Clovis people deplete the big game in the area by overhunting? Or did some unknown environmental disaster make the area unlivable? These mysteries remain to be answered.
The Bureau of Land Management maintains a hiking trail through this area. Along the trail there are ten exhibits depicting what is understood about life during the Ice Age. Fossils of the extinct animals of the day, such as mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, can still be found here, but are protected by federal law and are not to be removed by tourists. Future generations should be able to visit this site and be able to see for themselves this glimpse into what life was like for one of the first groups of hunters in the New World.