Monte Verde Archeologist Prevails In Dispute Over Settlement's Age

Tom Dillehay's claim that the Chilean site is the oldest known New World excavation finally gains acceptance Thirteen years ago, archeologist Tom Dillehay was teaching at the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and pursuing his interest in early Andean cultures. Then a student asked the young researcher to identify several large bones found at Monte Verde, a wet and boggy site in south central Chile. Dillehay recognized the bones immediately as belonging to a mastodon. Dillehay had no wa

Virginia Morell
Jan 19, 1990


Tom Dillehay's claim that the Chilean site is the oldest known New World excavation finally gains acceptance
Thirteen years ago, archeologist Tom Dillehay was teaching at the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and pursuing his interest in early Andean cultures. Then a student asked the young researcher to identify several large bones found at Monte Verde, a wet and boggy site in south central Chile. Dillehay recognized the bones immediately as belonging to a mastodon.

Dillehay had no way of knowing that his exploration of the site where the prehistoric animal had been butchered by Indian hunters would challenge long-held theories about the peopling of the Americas - or threaten his own budding career.

"What we found was really the best window we've ever encountered on the ways of early hunter-gatherers. It's the Machu Pichu of the Ice Age," says Dillehay, now at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. Other...