Late date of human arrival to North America: Continental scale differences in stratigraphic integrity of pre-13,000 BP archaeological sites

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By 13,000 BP human populations were present across North America, but the exact date of arrival to the continent, especially areas south of the continental ice sheets, remains unclear. Here we examine patterns in the stratigraphic integrity of early North American sites to gain insight into the timing of first colonization. We begin by modeling stratigraphic mixing of multicomponent archaeological sites to identify signatures of stratigraphic integrity in vertical artifact distributions. From those simulations, we develop a statistic we call the Apparent Stratigraphic Integrity Index (ASI), which we apply to pre- and post-13,000 BP archaeological sites north and south of the continental ice sheets. We find that multiple early Beringian sites dating between 13,000 and 14,200 BP show excellent stratigraphic integrity. Clear signs of discrete and minimally disturbed archaeological components do not appear south of the ice sheets until the Clovis period. These results provide support for a relatively late date of human arrival to the Americas.