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Cactus Hill (USA)



Cactus Hill is a buried multicomponent site on the coastal plain of the Nottaway River in Sussex County, Virginia. The site has Archaic and Clovis occupations, but most importantly, below the Clovis and separated by sterile sand, is an apparent Pre-Clovis occupation.

Radiocarbon dates on wood from the preclovis level range between 15,070±70 and 18,250±80 RCYBP, calibrated to ca. 18,200-22,000 years ago. Luminescence dates taken on feldspar and quartzite grains in the various levels of the site agree, almost entirely, with the radiocarbon assays. The luminescence dates suggest that the site stratigraphy is primarily intact and has been little affected by movement of artifacts down through the sterile sand; but some doubt must remain. With the continuing discovery of additional preclovis sites in North and South America, however, these issues seem less compelling.

Excavations by Joseph McAvoy indicate the preclovis level has a stone tool assemblage with heavy percentages of quartzite blades, and pentangular (five-sided) projectile points. Data on the artifacts has yet to be published.


This glossary entry is part of the About.com Guide to Populating America and Preclovis Culture, not to mention the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Feathers, James K., Edward J. Rhodes, Sébastien Huot, and J. M. McAvoy 2006 Luminescence dating of sand deposits related to late Pleistocene human occupation at the Cactus Hill Site, Virginia, USA. Quaternary Geochronology 1(3):167-187.

Wagner, Daniel P. and Joseph M. McAvoy 2004 Pedoarchaeology of Cactus Hill, a sandy Paleoindian site in southeastern Virginia, U.S.A. Geoarchaeology 19 (4):297-322.

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