20120206-Mammoth_carved ivory.png
carved mammoth ivory from Florida
Brazil — 41,000–56,000 years before present — Pedra Furada — Charcoal from the oldest layers yielded dates of 41,000-56,000 BP. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Canada — 25,000–40,000 years before present — Bluefish Caves — Human-worked mammoth bone flakes found at Bluefish Caves, Yukon, are much older than the stone tools and animal remains at Haida Gwaii in British Columbia (10-12,000 BP) and indicate the earliest known human settlement in North America. +

United States — 16,000 years before present —Meadowcroft Rockshelter — Stone, bone, and wood artifacts and animal and plant remains found in Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Earlier claims have been made, but not corroborated, for sites such as Topper, South Carolina.) +

Chile — 18,500-14,800 years before present — Monte Verde — Carbon dating of remains from this site represent the oldest known settlement in South America. +

Climate at the Time of the First Americans

Based on genetic information scientists estimate that the first Americans left Asia about the 25,000 years ago, ye the earliest evidence of human habitation on North America dates to 15,000 years ago. In part to answer this question, Joseph Stromberg wrote in smithsonian.com, scientists “drilled into the Bering Sea between Siberia and Alaska and recovered sediment cores, and found that they contained plant fossils and pollen from a wooded ecosystem. Such an ecosystem, the authors argue, would have been an ideal place for humans to live. And with ice covering much of Alaska, the ancestors of Native Americans needn’t have just strolled through Beringia, they suggested—they could have lived there for about 10,000 years before moving on.” [Source: Joseph Stromberg, smithsonian.com, March 12, 2014]

Kevin Short wrote in the Daily Yomiuri; At the time the first Americans arrived “the earth was locked into a glacial period. Global temperatures were much lower than today, and many regions were covered with open grasslands that supported great herds of mammoth, bison and other large herbivores. Our ancestors made their living following these herds on their seasonal migrations, hunting the big animals with wooden spears tipped with sharp stone points. [Source: Kevin Short, Daily Yomiuri, October 25, 2012 ***]

“About 12,000 years ago, the Earth's climate began to turn warmer and wetter. The dry grasslands gradually disappeared, giving way to immense tracts of dense forests. The great herds of grass-loving herbivores also disappeared along with their preferred habitat, and our ancestors shifted their lifestyles accordingly, taking up more intensive hunting and gathering patterns based on the newly emerging forests. Their favored hunting weapons changed from spears to bow and arrows. ***

“Sometime around 10,000 years ago, a new lifestyle emerged that would change the ecological equations forever. Until then, people had gathered a wide variety of edible wild plants. Now they realized that certain nutritious plants could actually be planted and grown. Thus was born agriculture. The productivity of the new crops was so great that farmers could grow a surplus beyond what was needed for their immediate families. ***

“Surplus food led to enormous population increases, and to the development of towns and then great cities. Urban civilization had arrived. Since then, most of our food has come from domesticated plants and animals. But old habits do not die easily, and people throughout the world have continued to supplement their diet with hunting of wild animals and gathering of wild plants. In the modern world, hunting and gathering has become more of a pastime than a dietary necessity.” ***

First Americans: A Rough Bunch?

James Chatters of Applied Paleoscience, a consulting firm in Bothell, Washington, Joel Achenbach wrote in the Washington Post, “believes that these early migrants were an aggressive breed — risk-takers and novelty-seekers. They chased wild game, including megafauna such as mastodons and saber-toothed cats, into unpopulated lands far from their ancestral hunting grounds. But later, as their descendants settled down and adopted agriculture, natural selection favored a gentler sort of personality, and men and women took on softer, more feminine features, Chatters argues. This tendency toward “neotony,” or natural selection of more childlike features, has been seen across much of the world, he said. [Source: Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, May 15, 2014]

Glenn Hodges wrote in National Geographic: “By all appearances, the earliest Americans were a rough bunch. If you look at the skeletal remains of Paleo-Americans, more than half the men have injuries caused by violence, and four out of ten have skull fractures. The wounds don’t appear to have been the result of hunting mishaps, and they don’t bear telltale signs of warfare, like blows suffered while fleeing an attacker. Instead it appears that these men fought among themselves—often and violently. The women don’t have these kinds of injuries, but they’re much smaller than the men, with signs of malnourishment and domestic abuse. “[Source: Glenn Hodges, National Geographic, January 2015 /~]

To Chatters “these are all indications that the earliest Americans were what he calls “Northern Hemisphere wild-type” populations: bold and aggressive, with hypermasculine males and diminutive, subordinate females. And this, he thinks, is why the earliest Americans’ facial features look so different from those of later Native Americans. These were risk-taking pioneers, and the toughest men were taking the spoils and winning fights over women. As a result, their robust traits and features were being selected over the softer and more domestic ones evident in later, more settled populations. /~\

“Chatters’s wild-type hypothesis is speculative, but his team’s findings are not.” Paleo-American skulls have “facial features typical of the earliest Americans as well as the genetic signatures common to modern Native Americans. This signals that the two groups don’t look different because the earliest populations were replaced by later groups migrating from Asia, as some anthropologists have asserted. Instead they look different because the first Americans changed after they got here.” /~\

Early Inhabitants of Northwest America

If the theory that the first Americans were Asians who traveled along the coast from Siberia then the first places they would have come to were Alaska and British Columbia. Jude Isabella wrote in Archaeology magazine: “In British Columbia, the oldest known archaeological sites point to continuous human occupation on the coast for at least 11,000 years. Since the coast is rugged fjord land at the mercy of shifting tectonic plates and rising sea levels, countless sites likely remain either underwater or are only revealed when the tide is out. [Source: Jude Isabella, Archaeology, September/October 2011 |*|]

“Although the archaeological record of this early period is sketchy, these “wet sites” potentially hold some of the richest information about the first people who arrived on North America’s west coast, probably hailing from northeastern Asia. It is believed that ancient people moved in as the glaciers moved out and the landscape became more hospitable to them and other animals. |*|

“Digs at sites like the one at Glenrose Cannery on the Fraser River, which dates to over 8,000 years ago and was first excavated in the 1970s, suggest that people lived in small groups that ranged across the landscape. They were seasonal locavores, eating what was available and moving around to find it. Twelve miles from the sea, the Glenrose riverbank is littered with fire-cracked rocks that once lined hearths; evidence of lithic artifacts such as hammerstones, scrapers, and leaf-shaped knives; and bone and antler tools. These were likely used to catch a menu heavy on bay mussels and other shellfish, salmon, and smaller fish, as well as deer and elk. Remains of all these animals were found at the site. |*|

“At some point—the date varies from site to site—these foragers settled down. In southeastern Alaska, evidence points to settlement at least 4,000 years ago, whereas on British Columbia’s central coast, the archaeological record points to settlement at a minimum of 7,000 years ago. On the lower Fraser River, settling is noted about 5,000 years ago, roughly when sea levels receded to closer to what they are today. |*|

“From the various settlements emerged distinct cultures that formed the beginnings of an ecologically diverse coastal landscape occupied by complex communities that had strong ties to the marine world. Salmon runs were important to all, yet each group responded to the unique challenges of their own environments, from storm-filled expanses of rough ocean up north to the open waters on Vancouver Island’s west coast. The most hospitable of these environments is the Mediterranean-like climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters found in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish, a group of First Nations (non-Inuit aboriginal Canadians) who occupied land from the northern end of the Strait of Georgia to the southern end of Puget Sound in Washington state, along Vancouver Island’s eastern shores, the mainland coast of British Columbia, and along the Fraser River.” |*|

Seafood Harvested by Early Inhabitants of Northwest America

Jude Isabella wrote in Archaeology magazine: “Until recently salmon has tended to overwhelm the record. A mid-1950s archaeological dig by a group from the University of Oregon turned up salmon bones along the Columbia River in northwestern Oregon. These bones showed evidence of human consumption and dated to as early as 9,300 years ago. The finding prompted further fieldwork in the region to focus on salmon when searching for faunal remains. According to anthropologists at Portland State University and Western Washington University, the archaeological work dovetailed with anthropologists’ descriptions of Pacific Northwestern livelihood as being largely dependent on salmon. Further, R.G. Matson, professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of British Columbia, wrote in 1992 that salmon harvesting and storage were long believed to be the “economic underpinning of the Northwest Coast. [Source: Jude Isabella, Archaeology, September/October 2011 |*|]

“But evidence is piling up that smaller fish—herring, smelt, and anchovies—in addition to clams, waterfowl, and fish roe, were part of a diverse bounty that fed entire villages. For instance, archaeological work done over 10 years on California’s Channel Islands uncovered evidence that Paleoindians were likely manipulating the coastline to spur measurable changes in local shellfish populations. “It’s hard to believe that Native Americans, who were keen observers of the natural world, didn’t figure out management techniques,” says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon. He and his team collected reams of data from a large range of sites and species and concluded that, for example, a noticeable jump in the size of mussel shells didn’t appear to be simply the result of natural fluctuations in local environments. “Native peoples were generally in it for the long haul and developed more sustainable practices over time,” he explains.” |*|

“In almost every estuary that’s been scoured in” British Columbia “archaeologists have turned up evidence of wooden or stone fish traps. They’ve also uncovered clam gardens, which were an unknown technology to archaeologists until a geomorphologist on an aerial survey of the coast in 1995 identified the rock formations as made by humans. On Quadra Island, the territory of the Laich-Kwil-Tach (Kwakwaka’wakw) and K’ómoks Nations, a team of ecologists led by Anne Salomon from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, “plants” Pacific littlenecks in the isolated clam gardens that ring Waiatt Bay. One site has an extensive rock wall that rises about three feet out of the water at low tide and forms a long, flat, cleared beach, perfect clam habitat. Over two days they seed five clam garden beaches with 450 juvenile clams, with plans to seed another five gardens. During the low tides in November, they’ll go back to weigh and measure the clams against a control group. The ecologists hope to answer the question: Does the clam garden stabilize the beach and trap sediment and phytoplankton, allowing for more clam recruitment, or does it cause the ones in the garden to grow bigger in a shorter amount of time?”|*|

“At nearby Kanish Bay, researchers led by Dana Lepofsky, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University, canoe from beach to beach searching for clam gardens and any associated settlements. Lepofsky is targeting a particular type of site: early villages created shortly after the people from Asia settled down. These sites likely predate the development of clam gardens as a technology for ecosystem management, so their middens might show a transition that marks the advent of clam gardens. By looking at species’ relative abundance, age, and size over time, shells from these sites could reveal when clam harvesting began to be actively managed, and if the technology increased production in either size or number. “If there’s a transition, if there is some change in productivity, hopefully [the evidence] will mirror the results of the hypotheses being generated by the ecology,” says Lepofsky. |*|

“The picture emerging is of a culture that avoided relying on one plentiful species, as if people hedged their bets when it came to food. While salmon is abundant in the archaeological record, the boom/bust cycle that’s a hallmark of overexploitation is not. Just as the tastes of these ancient peoples along the west coast of British Columbia went beyond salmon, the technologies they developed went beyond fish traps and clam gardens. The Heiltsuk Nation, located nearly 400 miles north of Vancouver, harvested herring roe on kelp forests, another important indigenous fishery. Without kelp off their shores, the Tla’amin harvested roe from deliberately submerged branches of Douglas fir or other trees—a practice that only died out with the herring run.” |*|

13,000-year-old British Columbia footprints

14,000-Year-Old “Village” Found in British Columbia

In 2017, a doctoral student from the University of Victoria, announced that she had found evidence of a 14,000-year-old settlement on Triquet Island on British Columbia's Central Coast. Leanna Garfield wrote in Business Insider: “For hundreds — perhaps thousands — of years, generations of the Heiltsuk Nation, an indigenous group in British Columbia, have passed down the oral histories of where they came from. The nation claims that its ancestors fled for survival to a coastal area in Canada that never froze during the Ice Age. A new excavation on Triquet Island, on British Columbia's Central Coast, has now backed up that claim, according to local news outlet CBC. [Source: Leanna Garfield, Business Insider, September 5, 2017 -]

“Archaeologist Alisha Gauvreau, a doctoral student from the University of Victoria and a scholar with the research institute Hakai, led a team that excavated the site in late 2016. They discovered several artifacts from what appears to be an ancient village, including carved wooden tools and bits of charcoal, in a thin horizontal layer of soil, called paleosol. The team sent the charcoal flakes to a lab for carbon dating and found that the pieces date back between 13,613 to 14,086 years ago, thousands of years before Egypt built its pyramids. -

“The artifacts are some of the oldest found in North America. In 1977, Washington State University archaeologists excavated a spear tip and mastodon rib bone (an extinct species related to elephants) near Washington's Olympic Peninsula. After CT scans in 2011, the fossils pushed estimates of the earliest human habitation on the West Coast back by 800 years (to about 13,800 years before present day). -

“The latest discovery will help archaeologists understand with more detail how more North American civilizations like the Heiltsuk Nation began. One popular theory is that the first native North Americans ventured from Asia over an ice-free, Alaskan land bridge to what is now western and central Canada during the Ice Age. Another theory, which the University of Victoria's research supports, is that they were sea mammal hunters and travelled by boat. In a 2016 paper Gauvreau said other oral histories could be further legitimized through archaeological digs. "This find is very important because it reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years," William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, told CBC News.” -

Oldest Human in Alaska, a Three-Year-Old Child, Cremated 11,500 Years Ago

About 11,500 years ago, a 3-year-old child was burned and buried in a hearth in central Alaska. After the cremation, the home that housed the hearth was filled in and abandoned and the remains of the body — charred bone fragments — were found still arranged as they were when the fire sputtered out.[Source: Stephanie Pappas, Live Science, April 8, 2011]

Brian Vastag wrote in the Washington Post, “ Some 11,500 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, a child died near a river in what is now central Alaska. The people living with the child in a tent-pole house — presumably the parents — placed the 3-year-old's body in their home's cooking pit and lit a fire. After two to three hours of burning, the family covered the remains with dirt and left...That's the dramatic story emerging from the study of the oldest human remains ever found in Alaska — and some of the oldest in all of North America. “The cremation was the last event to take place in the hearth," said Ben Potter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, who led the team of archaeologists investigating the site on a broad sandy plain southeast of the city. Their study of site appeared in Science. [Source: Brian Vastag, Washington Post February 24, 2011 ^^]

“The cremation left about 20 percent of the child's bones, enough for a detailed analysis of the scene. The child was placed on his or her back, with knees drawn toward the chest and arms placed to the side. Charcoal indicates that a fire was built on top of the body. Coloration of the skull shows that the fire was hot enough to burn the entire face and destroy the small bones there, said Joel Irish, also of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. But the fire was not hot enough to destroy the whole body. Because no other evidence of use of the cooking pit was found above the body, Potter and Irish concluded that the family left soon after the cremation. “This is a child people loved, took care of," Potter said. “The fact the house was abandoned speaks to that." ^^

“The child's teeth show that he or she was 2 to 4 years old, while stone knives at the site — and a peculiar scalloped feature of the child's teeth — connect the child to the wide-ranging band of early North American immigrants, who researchers say migrated from Siberia during the last Ice Age, when the Bering Strait was exposed, to colonize a wide swath of northern North America.Until now, no one had found a permanent or semi-permanent house associated with the hardy people who survived in an subarctic region even colder than it is today. Other sites in Alaska and Siberia from around the same period look like temporary hunting camps. ^^

“The cremated human bones are the "first evidence for behavior associated with the death of an individual," Potter said. "This was a living, breathing human being that lived and died," he said. The child has been named Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin (or Upward Sun River Mouth Child) by the local Native community, the Healy Lake Tribe. ^^

“At the site — called Upper Sun River in a translation of the Native American word for the locale — Potter and company were astonished to find a six-foot-wide circular pit, dug about a foot into the ground. Four post-holes surrounding the hearth and two other holes outside the circle indicate a tent-pole structure, perhaps covered with sod or animal skins, Potter said. ^^

“Archaeologists discovered the site in 2006 but did not find the child's remains until the summer of 2010. The cooking pit also held bones of rabbits, squirrels, grouse and salmon, the last indicating that the family lived there during the summer.Ancient DNA experts at the University of Utah are now trying to extract DNA from a sample of the child's bones, although it is unclear if they will succeed. In recent years, researchers have extracted DNA from 40,000-year-old Neanderthal remains. Burning the flesh off the bones may have helped preserve the DNA, Potter said, as it left no food for bacteria that could have decomposed the bone. ^^

“While Potter reported that the child probably died before being cremated, Michael Kunz, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, suggested another possibility: "I don't think that there is any more evidence that the burned remains of the child indicate a cremation than they indicate that the child may have been cooked and eaten," he told AP. The body was found buried in the fire pit, Kunz noted via e-mail, and "the bones that are missing are the bones that have the most flesh on them and would most likely be used for food...Cannibalism among humans is not new news," added Kunz, who was not part of Potter's team. Potter said he disagreed, because it appeared soft tissue remained when the child was burned. And Irish said the child had been laid out with knees drawn up and hands placed to one side in a relatively peaceful position. Missing bones, he said, could simply have been destroyed by the fire.” ^^

Alaskan Site Shows How People Lived 11,500 years Ago

The Upper Sun Rivers site where the cremated 11,500-year-old child was found has provided useful insights into how people lived at that time in what is now Alaska, researchers reported in the journal Science. The bones represent the earliest human remains discovered in the Arctic of North America, a "pretty significant find," said Ben A. Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. [Source: Associated Press, February 24, 2011 /~]

Associated Press reported: “While ancient Alaskan residents were known to hunt large game, the newly discovered site shows they also foraged for fish, birds and small mammals, Potter told AP. "Here we know there were young children and females. So, this is a whole piece of the settlement system that we had virtually no record of." The site of the discovery, Upper Sun River, is in the forest of the Tanana lowlands in central Alaska, Potter and his colleagues report. /~\

“Potter said the find, which included evidence of what appeared to be a seasonal house "is truly spectacular in all senses of the word...Before this find, we knew people were hunting large game like bison or elk with sophisticated weapons, but most of sites we had to study were hunting camps." Now they have the remains of the residence, which they say was occupied in summer, based on the evidence of bones from salmon and immature ground squirrels. /~\

“In addition to the human and animal bones at the site, the researchers also found stone tools used for cutting. William Fitzhugh, director of Arctic studies at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, agreed that "this is definitely a unique and important site." He said the most interesting aspects were the very early, well-dated home site and its broad range of small animal food remains, stone tools, hearth pit and a possible ritual cremation site, "all with strong associations to Siberia. Indeed, a great documentation of one of America's first families," said Fitzhugh, who was not part of the research team. /~\

“The new find adds to knowledge of the pioneering people of Beringia, the region extending from eastern Siberia into Alaska, which was connected by a land-bridge across the Bering Strait thousands of years ago, aiding the movement of people from Asia into North America. The researchers said the stone artifacts, house structure and the types of animal remains more closely resemble items found at Siberia's Ushki Lake than to anything from the U.S.'s lower 48 states. Kunz told AP the site is a unique find, commenting: "This is also, to my knowledge, the earliest known example of a formal dwelling in Eastern Beringia." And, he added, "it bolsters evidence from other sites in the Tanana Valley the Paleo-Indians in the region were not just big game hunters, but foraged widely." The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.” /~\

Pre-Clovis People

Annalee Newitz wrote in ars technica: “For more than a decade, evidence has been piling up that humans colonized the Americas thousands of years before the Clovis people. The Clovis, who are the early ancestors of today's Native Americans, left abundant evidence of their lives behind in the form of tools and graves. But the mysterious pre-Clovis humans, who likely arrived 17,000 to 15,000 years ago, have left only a few dozen sources of evidence for their existence across the Americas, mostly at campsites where they processed animals during hunting trips.[Source: Annalee Newitz, ars technica, September 29, 2016. PLoS One, 2016. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162870 )*(]

“Archaeologists are still uncertain how the pre-Clovis people arrived in the Americas. They came after the end of the ice age but at a time when glaciers and an icy, barren environment would still have blocked easy entrance into the Americas via Northern Canada. So it's extremely unlikely that they marched over a land bridge from Siberia and into the Americas through the middle of the continent—instead, they would have come from Asia via a coastal route, frequently using boats for transport. That would explain why many pre-Clovis sites are on the coast, on islands, or on rivers that meet the ocean. )*(

“These early settlers were hunter-gatherers who used stone tools for a wide range of activities, including hunting, butchery, scraping hides, preparing food, and making other tools out of bone and wood. Many of the pre-Clovis stone tools look fairly simple and were made by using one stone to flake pieces off the other, thus creating sharp edges. “ )*(

Meadowcroft Rockshelter

Meadowcroft rock shelter

Nikhil Swaminathan wrote in Archaeology magazine: “According to Mercyhurst University archaeologist Jim Adovasio, Meadowcroft Rockshelter, where he began working in the mid-1970s, holds the distinction of being the longest-occupied site in the Americas. People began camping there episodically as early as 16,000 years ago and continued visiting the shelter until the thirteenth century A.D. Adovasio terms it “a late-Pleistocene Holiday Inn,” adding, “it has never flooded, it’s high and dry, the overhang, prehistorically, was fairly large, and it’s well ventilated.” Several feet below the shelter’s opening is Cross Creek, where those setting up camp could easily have access to freshwater. [Source: Nikhil Swaminathan, Archaeology magazine, August 11, 2014 -]

“A roof collapse 13,000 to 14,000 years ago trapped beneath it a wealth of material uncovered in excavations. Adovasio says roughly 700 pieces of stone, some of them tools made from jasper and chert were recovered from the deepest units at the site. There were 50 complete tools or large enough fragments to be recognizable implements. There were prismatic blades and straight-based points with lance-like tips. As opposed to the fluted ridges found on Clovis points, these were largely smooth on the sides. -

“More than 50 sequential dates were taken, primarily from charcoal found in hearths, to arrive at ages that Adovasio says are between 14,000 and 16,000 years old. He was confronted with criticism related to a lack of ancient plant and animal remains at the site, which some researchers say make it difficult to know what the people at Meadowcroft subsisted on. Adovasio, for his part, says that they were likely “broad-spectrum foragers,” relying on a combination of meat and plants for sustenance. Other critics hypothesize that there was natural contamination of his radiocarbon dates, for instance, from water leaching coal from below the archaeological deposits. Adovasio has refuted those concerns. “Minimally, if you took only the very youngest acceptable dates,” he says, “then people were there at the same time as Clovis folks, but with a different technology.” -

Debra L. Friedkin Site in Texas: Earliest Place of Human Habitation in the Americas

Meadowcroft rockshelter

Glenn Hodges wrote in National Geographic: “In the 18 years since the Monte Verde bombshell dropped, none of these questions have been resolved. But the original question—Was Clovis first?—has been answered repeatedly, with several sites in North America making their own claims to pre-Clovis occupation. Some of these places have been known and studied for years and have gained fresh credibility in the wake of Monte Verde’s acceptance, but there have been new finds as well. One location in particular, the Debra L. Friedkin site in central Texas, might even be the earliest place of demonstrable human habitation in the Western Hemisphere. [Source: Glenn Hodges, National Geographic, January 2015 /~]

“In 2011 archaeologist Michael Waters of Texas A&M University announced that he and his team had unearthed evidence of extensive human occupation dating to as early as 15,500 years ago—some 2,500 years before the first Clovis hunters arrived. The Friedkin site lies in a small valley in the hill country about an hour north of Austin, where a tiny perennial stream now called Buttermilk Creek, along with some shade trees and a seam of chert, a type of rock useful for toolmaking, made the area an attractive place for people to live for thousands of years. /~\

““There was something unique about this valley,” Waters says. It was long thought that the earliest Americans were primarily big-game hunters, following mammoths and mastodons across the continent, but this valley was an ideal place for hunter-gatherers. People here would have eaten nuts and roots, crawdads and turtles, and they would have hunted animals such as deer and turkeys and squirrels. In other words, people probably weren’t here on their way to somewhere else; they were here to live. /~\

“But if Waters is right that people were settled here, in the middle of the continent, as early as 15,500 years ago, when did the first arrivals cross into the New World from Asia? That’s unclear, but it appears that people may have been settled in other parts of the continent at the same time. Waters says the pre-Clovis artifacts he’s found at Buttermilk Creek—more than 16,000 of them, including stone blades, spearpoints, and chips—resemble artifacts found at sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. “There’s a pattern here,” he says. “I think the data clearly show that people were in North America 16,000 years ago. Time will tell if that represents the initial occupation of the Americas or if there was something earlier.”

Buttermilk Creek Complex-Pre Clovis People

Guy Gugliotta wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: “At the Buttermilk Creek Complex archaeological site north of Austin, Texas, in a layer of earth beneath a known Clovis excavation, researchers led by Waters over the past several years found 15,528 pre-Clovis artifacts—most of them toolmaking chert flakes, but also 56 chert tools. Using optically stimulated luminescence, a technique that analyzes light energy trapped in sediment particles to identify the last time the soil was exposed to sunlight, they found that the oldest artifacts dated to 15,500 years ago—some 2,000 years older than Clovis. The work “confirms the emerging view that people occupied the Americas before Clovis,” the researchers concluded in Science in 2011. In Waters’ view, the people who made the oldest artifacts were experimenting with stone technology that, over time, may have developed further into Clovis-style tools. [Source: Guy Gugliotta, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013 /||]

“Waters recently landed other blows to the Clovis orthodoxy in collaboration with Thomas Stafford, president of the Colorado-based Stafford Research Laboratories. In one series of experiments using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), a dating technique that is more precise than earlier radiocarbon measurements, they reanalyzed a mastodon rib from a skeleton previously recovered in Manis, Washington, and found to have a projectile point lodged in it. The original radiocarbon tests had surrounded the discovery in controversy because they showed it to be 13,800 years old—centuries older than Clovis. The new AMS tests confirmed that age estimate date, and DNA?analysis showed that the projectile point was mastodon bone. /||\

“Deploying AMS technology, Waters and Stafford also retested many known Clovis samples from around the country, some collected decades earlier. The results, Waters said, “blew me away.” Instead of a culture spanning about 700 years, the analysis shrunk the Clovis window to 13,100 to 12,800 years ago. This new time frame required the Siberian hunters to negotiate the ice-free corridor, settle two continents and put the megafauna on the road to extinction within 300 years, an incredible feat. “Not possible,” Waters said. “You’ve got people in South America at the same time as Clovis, and the only way they could have gotten down there that fast is if they transported like ‘Star Trek.’ ” /||\

“But Haynes, of the University of Nevada-Reno, disagrees. “Think of a small number of very mobile people covering a lot of ground,” he suggests. “They could have been walking thousands of kilometers per year.” Goebel, of the Texas A&M Center for the Study of the First Americans, characterizes his attitude toward pre-Clovis finds as “acceptance with reservation.” He said he’s disturbed by “nagging” shortcomings. Each of the older sites appears to be one-of-a-kind, he said, without a “demonstrated pattern across a region.” With Clovis, he adds, it is clear that the original sites were part of something bigger. The absence of a consistent pre-Clovis pattern “is one of the things that has hung up a lot of people, including myself.” /||\

Clovis People

Clovis bifacial

Laura Anne Tedesco wrote for the Metropolitan Museum: “As the Pleistocene, or Ice Age, was ending and the earth was drying out, there was a profound change in the environment across North America. Hunters in North America pursued large animals for food. Skilled at the task, these Americans left evidence of activities throughout much of the continent where many of their living sites and hunt sites are now known. Blackwater Draw in eastern New Mexico, which evidences human activity from about 9500 to 3000 B.C., is one of the most important of the early hunter locations. Large animals were attracted to it for water—water sources being productive places for hunting—and the weapons with which the animals were brought down were principally of stone. [Source: Laura Anne Tedesco, Independent Scholar, Metropolitan Museum of Art, metmuseum.org, October 2000, revised September 2007 \^/]

“Discovered in the 1930s, Blackwater Draw defined the then newly discovered Clovis culture of North America (ca. 9500 B.C.). The name Clovis is derived from the modern town near Blackwater Draw. Currently documented to be among the earliest inhabitants of the North American continent beginning around 11,500 years ago, the Clovis people probably initially migrated into Alaska from Siberia, crossing the 600-mile-wide corridor along the Bering Strait that was then dry due to water confined in massive glaciers. Their migrations as big-game hunters led the Clovis down from Alaska, through Canada into the North American plains as they followed herds of steppe bison, mammoth, and horse. These animals reached extinction around the same time Clovis hunters were becoming established in North America; whether the animals' extinction was due to the efficiency and tenacity of Clovis hunters, concurrent climate change, or a combination of both, is debated.\^/

“The Clovis people hunted using exquisitely crafted spears made from stone. Elegant as well as useful, these spears are known also by the name Clovis. Found at Blackwater Draw, Clovis points were made by pressure flaking handsomely colored chert, agate, chalcedony, or jasper. These effective hunting tools and weapons are distinctively shaped. Bifacial (that is, flaked on both sides), they have a large central, or "channel," flake removed from the bottom. This detail has given them the name of fluted points, and they are peculiarly American. The fluted detail of the points would have allowed them to be more easily mounted onto split wooden spear shafts, and also probably increased their streamline and stability as implements that would have been hurled at formidable prey. Following Clovis, the Folsom complex (ca. 8500 B.C.) also produced an elegant fluted point, one with a longer channel flake. It too was used in the hunting of big game, primarily bison.\^/

“Clovis-like points have been unearthed across the United States, Canada, and Central America. They are remarkably similar despite the vast geographic territory where they have been found. Typically a singular type of artifact takes on unique regional characteristics. Clovis points do not appear to follow this archaeological convention, and it may have been because they were extremely effective hunting implements as well as items exchanged in long-distance trade networks. The finer raw materials used to fashion Clovis points were also occasionally traded across vast distances. \^/

“Clovis people of North and Central America likely lived in small, related bands of nomadic hunters. Most of what is currently known about Clovis culture is derived from spectacular kill-sites where the fractured and butchered bones of large prey, such as the mammoth at Blackwater Draw, have been found with the distinctive Clovis spear points. However, some Clovis camp sites have been discovered and from these more modest locations other varieties of smaller, beautifully crafted tools have been recovered. The variety of tools suggests that Clovis people were engaged in a wide range of activities to survive in Ice Age America. Several locations of Clovis caches have been found. Rare and valuable goods, such as raw materials for making tools and red ocher—possibly used in rituals—have been recovered from these caches. These buried goods were probably left for future recovery by the traveling bands, like a pirate's buried treasure.” \^/

Clovis People Hunted Canadian Camels

Bruce Dorminey wrote in smithsonian.com: “In a southwestern corner of what is now Alberta, Canada, camels once roamed. They went extinct at the end the last Ice Age, and their disappearance has generally been attributed to changes in climate and vegetation. But new research suggests that human predators may have contributed to the Western camel’s (Camelops hesternus) demise. A paper in American Antiquity shows that, at a time when ice sheets still covered most of northern Canada, Clovis people on the Western plains were hunting camel for food. “Our evidence shows that we have to consider that humans may have had some role in their extinction,” said Brian Kooyman, an archeologist at the University of Calgary, and the paper’s lead author. [Source: Bruce Dorminey smithsonian.com, March 13, 2012 ^|^]

“The study makes the first direct association between Clovis projectile points, stone tools and the remains of a butchered camel. The remains, which radiocarbon dating showed to be about 13,000 years old, were found preserved in windblown sand and silts at Wally’s Beach, an archeological site 108 miles south of Calgary. “Tracks indicate that they were the second-most common animal at Wally’s Beach and a common part of the fauna,” said Len Hills, a geoscientist at the University of Calgary and collaborator on the study. “Abundant camel tracks at the site clearly show a substantial population.” ^|^

“Kooyman says this particular camel was likely killed with spears after being ambushed at the top of an embankment leading into a river valley. Hunters may have hidden in nearby shrubs before isolating the animal from the herd. The hunters then chopped their prey into units of eight vertebrae each, while severing and snapping the camel’s torso into sides of ribs. ^|^

“But did camels make up a significant part of these people’s diet? “This is the only site where we have proof of camel use,” said Kooyman. “So far at the site, we have seven killed horses and one camel, so here it is likely they made up about one-eighth of the meat diet.” At present, there is no evidence that the hunters ever spared the animals in an effort to harness them as pack animals or for human transport, nor that they ever used the camels for anything other than food. But as Kooyman notes, it’s likely these early hunters would have used camel hides for clothing, since life on these post-glacial plains would still have been windy and cold.” ^|^

Feces Offers Clues of Humans in America

Paisley Cave agate tool

Until recently, the record holder for oldest human coprolites (petrified shit) unearthed by archaeologists came from Oregon's Paisley Caves. Far older fecal samples from dinosaurs and ancient sharks have also been uncovered by researchers. Glenn Hodges wrote in National Geographic: “Perhaps ironically, the best evidence for a coastal migration might be found inland, as people traveling along the coast would likely have explored rivers and inlets along the way. There is already suggestive evidence of this in central Oregon, where projectiles resembling points found in Japan and on the Korean Peninsula and Russia’s Sakhalin Island have been discovered in a series of caves, along with what is surely the most indelicate evidence of pre-Clovis occupation in North America: fossilized human feces. [Source: Glenn Hodges, National Geographic, January 2015 /~]

“In 2008 Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon reported that he’d found human coprolites, the precise term for ancient excrement, dating to 14,000 to 15,000 years old in a series of shallow caves overlooking an ancient lake bed near the town of Paisley. DNA tests have identified the Paisley Caves coprolites as human, and Jenkins speculates that the people who left them might have made their way inland from the Pacific by way of the Columbia or Klamath Rivers. /~\

“What’s more, Jenkins points to a clue in the coprolites: seeds of desert parsley, a tiny plant with an edible root hidden a foot underground. “You have to know that root is down there, and you have to have a digging stick to get it,” Jenkins says. “That implies to me that these people didn’t just arrive here.” In other words, whoever lived here wasn’t just passing through; they knew this land and its resources intimately.” /~\

13,000-Year-Old Bone With Mammoth or Mastodon Carving Found in Florida

In 2011 AP reported that a bone fragment at least 13,000 years old, with the carved image of a mammoth or mastodon, has been discovered in Florida, a new study reports. While prehistoric art depicting animals with trunks has been found in Europe, this may be the first in the Western Hemisphere, researchers report in the Journal of Archaeological Science."It's pretty exciting, we haven't found anything like this in North America," Dennis J. Stanford, curator of North American Archaeology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, told AP. He was a co-author of the report. [Source: AP/The Huffington Post, June 22, 2011]

They hunted these animals, Stanford told AP and "you see people drawing all kinds of pictures that are of relevance and importance to them." "Much of the real significance of such finds is in the tangible, emotional connection they allow us to feel with people in the deep past," said Dietrich Stout, an anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not part of the research team.

The bone fragment, discovered in Vero Beach, Fla., contains an incised image about 3 inches long from head to tail and about 1 3/4 inches from head to foot. "There was considerable skepticism expressed about the authenticity of the incising on the bone until it was examined exhaustively by archaeologists, paleontologists, forensic anthropologists, materials science engineers and artists," lead author Barbara Purdy of the University of Florida said in a statement.

The bone was found by a fossil hunter near a location, known as the Old Vero Site, where human bones were found side-by-side with the bones of extinct Ice Age animals in an excavation from 1913 to 1916.It was heavily mineralized, which prevented standard dating, Stanford explained. But mammoths and mastodons had died out in the Americas by 13,000 years ago, so it has to be older than that. "It could be quite early," he added. But the researchers wanted to be sure it was not a modern effort to mimic prehistoric art. They compared it with other materials found at the site and studied it with microscopes, which showed no differences in coloration between the carved grooves and the surrounding material. That, they said, indicated that both surfaces aged together. In addition, the researchers said, there were no signs of the material being carved recently or that the grooves were made with metal tools.

"It either had to be carved from direct observation when the animals existed or has to be a modern fake" and "all indications are that the carving is the same age as the bone," said anthropologist Christopher J. Ellis of the University of Western Ontario, who was not part of the research team. The only other report of an ancient bone in North America carved with the image of a mastodon came from Mexico in 1959, but questions were raised about that object and it subsequently disappeared.

It does appear to be the first American depiction of a mammoth or mastodon, said anthropologist David J. Meltzer of Southern Methodist University."I think the authors did a reasonable job making the case for the piece being genuine," added Metzger, who was not part of the research team.

The discovery was made by James Kennedy, a fossil hunter, in 2006 or 2007. Kennedy noticed the image in 2009 when he was cleaning the bone and he then contacted researchers who began their study of the artifact. The newly found North American image is similar to some found in Europe, raising the question of whether this is merely coincidence or evidence of some connection between the two, the paper noted.

14,500-Year-Old Human Artifacts Found in Florida Sinkholes

20120206-Mammouth 4.png
Guy Gugliotta wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: “For much of its length, the slow-moving Aucilla River in northern Florida flows underground, tunneling through bedrock limestone. But here and there it surfaces, and preserved in those inky ponds lie secrets of the first Americans. For years adventurous divers had hunted fossils and artifacts in the sinkholes of the Aucilla about an hour east of Tallahassee. They found stone arrowheads and the bones of extinct mammals such as mammoth, mastodon and the American ice age horse. /[Source: Guy Gugliotta, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013 /||]

“Then, in the 1980s, archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History opened a formal excavation in one particular sink. Below a layer of undisturbed sediment they found nine stone flakes that a person must have chipped from a larger stone, most likely to make tools and projectile points. They also found a mastodon tusk, scarred by circular cut marks from a knife. The tusk was 14,500 years old. /||\

“The age was surprising, even shocking, for it suddenly made the Aucilla sinkhole one of the earliest places in the Americas to betray the presence of human beings. Curiously, though, scholars largely ignored the discoveries of the Aucilla River Prehistory Project, instead clinging to the conviction that America’s earliest settlers arrived more recently, some 13,500 years ago. But now the sinkhole is getting a fresh look, along with several other provocative archaeological sites that show evidence of an earlier human presence in the Americas, perhaps much earlier. /||\

Stout said the suggestion that the similarities between this and ancient European art might imply some cultural contact or movement of people across the Atlantic very early is controversial. That idea has previously been proposed by Stanford and others, but has attracted a lot of criticism and skepticism from other archaeologists, he said. Metzger, too, said he doesn't "for a moment, think the specimen begs any questions about the larger issue of the peopling of the Americas. It's just one specimen - albeit an interesting one - of uncertain age and provenance, so one should not get too carried away."

Evidence of Human 14,500-Year-Old Mastodon Butchering Found in Florida

William Herkewitz wrote in Popular Mechanics: “A team of archaeologists led by Jessi Halligan—an anthropologist who specializes in underwater archaeology at Florida State University—just completed an aquatic dig of the oldest archaeological site in the American Southeast. It's a deep sinkhole called the Page-Ladson Archaeological Site located just beyond the southeastern skirts of Tallahassee in the Aucilla River. Halligan's team found stone knives and mastodon bones, tusks and dung, leading the scientists to believe the mastodon was either butchered or scavenged at the site by humans. Most interestingly, 71 individual radiocarbon dates show that the site is at least 14,550 years old—a full 1,500 years before many scientists recently believed humans first populated North America. The underwater dig was outlined today in the journal Science Advances. [Source:William Herkewitz, Popular Mechanics, May 13, 2016 +]


“This new find is important, because many archaeologists had long believed that 13,000-year-old stone spearheads and other remains found in the 1920s in Clovis, New Mexico, represented the first wave of human settlers in North America. "For over 60 years, archaeologists accepted that Clovis were the first people to occupy the Americas... Today, this viewpoint is changing," says Michael Waters, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University who's part of the team. "The Page-Ladson site provides unequivocal evidence of human occupation that predates Clovis by over 1,500 years." "For over 60 years, archaeologists accepted that Clovis were the first people to occupy the Americas... Today, this viewpoint is changing." +\

“Halligan and her colleagues are not the first to root around in the waters of the Page-Ladson Archaeological Site, which is the "oldest [underwater] site yet discovered in the new world," Halligan says. "A recreational diver and a vocational archaeologist by the name of Buddy Page reported the site in the early 1980s to a team of paleontologists and divers... that team excavated this site for several seasons throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and made the amazing discovery of an adult mastodon tusk that appeared to have human-made cut marks. In the same geological layer, they found several possible stone artifacts," she says, as well as the remains of a dog. +\

“An initial round of radiocarbon dating—a method where scientists date material by observing the decay of carbon atoms in organic matter—was done in the early '90s and placed the age of the remains roughly 14,400 years ago. But back then, many assumed that date was a fluke and dismissed it. "It was an impossible age for the scientific community to accept at the time," says Halligan, because the resounding agreement was that the humans hadn't made it to North America until around 13,000 years ago.” +\

“Because the discovered mastodon dung "consisted of millions of fragments of chewed plant matter that was perfectly preserved, that allowed us to collect more than 70 radiocarbon samples from the site, she says. "All of the samples from this layer dated to more than 14,400 years ago and samples associated with the knife dated to 14,550 years old." In addition, Halligan's team confirmed that distinct markings on the tusks of the mastodon—a species that was hunted to extinction around 12,600 years ago—are chop marks from the stone tools. +\

“According to Waters at Texas A&M, the big takeaway is that these newly confirmed discoveries "contribute significantly to the debate over the timing and complexity of the peopling of the Americas in several ways." Since the 1990's, archaeology has seen a boon of newly discovered sites similar to Page-Ladson across North and South America, many of which have pushed back our understanding of when humans first entered the two continents. First, Page-Ladson is essentially the same age as the Monte Verde site in Chile and these two sites show that people were living in both hemispheres of the Americas by at least 14,500 years ago," Waters says. "Second, prehistoric people at Page-Ladson were not alone. [Other recent] archaeological evidence shows us that people were also present between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago in what are now the states of Texas, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin."” +\

Paisley Caves

According to Archaeology magazine: “Stone tools and fire features are always great indicators of human activity at an archaeological site. And human bones are the best evidence excavators can hope to find. But humans also leave behind coprolites, or fossilized feces. Thanks to the extremely dry environment inside Oregon’s Paisley Caves, University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins and his team came across five human droppings that dated to older than 14,000 years over the course of nine years of digging there. [Source: Archaeology August 11, 2014 */]

“In addition, they also found three points that Jenkins believes belong to what is known as the Western Stemmed tradition. Unlike Clovis points, which have a signature notch at their base so that wooden spears can be attached, these have constricted bases. They have also clearly been struck from smaller pieces of stone than the typical Clovis counterpart. Two human coprolites dated to just over 13,000 years ago were found within eight inches of one of the points. At the very least, this evidence suggests that there was a parallel occupation of the continental United States by both the Clovis people and a second group who made different types of tools.”

“Evidence of baskets and rope, plant fibers, wooden artifacts, and animal bones were also found at the caves. Pollen and other plant minerals extracted from the coprolites suggest that people came to the site in the spring and early summer. They also provide evidence that the people in the caves ate everything from edible roots to bison, horse, and even animals as big as mastodon. Jenkins, for his part, thinks Paisley Caves were not a destination location. “There is very little debitage [residue from production] from stone tools over time,” he explains. “The archaeology suggests this is a place where people are passing by—something, weather or resources nearby, or the time of day, makes you stop in.” */

Kennewick Man

Kennewick Man

In 1996, scientists found a complete skeleton of a 9,300-year-old man in Kennewick, Washington, USA, with "apparently Caucasoid" features similar to those found on the skulls of Jomon people — early inhabitants of Japan. This so-called "Kennewick Man" is thought to have descended from Jomon people or a common ancestors of the Jomon people. Douglas Preston wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: “In the summer of 1996, two college students in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled on a human skull while wading in the shallows along the Columbia River. They called the police. The police brought in the Benton County coroner, Floyd Johnson, who was puzzled by the skull, and he in turn contacted James Chatters, a local archaeologist. Chatters and the coroner returned to the site and, in the dying light of evening, plucked almost an entire skeleton from the mud and sand. They carried the bones back to Chatters’ lab and spread them out on a table. [Source: Douglas Preston, Smithsonian Magazine, September 2014 /~/]

“The skull, while clearly old, did not look Native American. At first glance, Chatters thought it might belong to an early pioneer or trapper. But the teeth were cavity-free (signaling a diet low in sugar and starch) and worn down to the roots—a combination characteristic of prehistoric teeth. Chatters then noted something embedded in the hipbone. It proved to be a stone spearpoint, which seemed to clinch that the remains were prehistoric. He sent a bone sample off for carbon dating. The results: It was more than 9,000 years old," making Kennewick Man “one of the oldest skeletons ever found in the Americas." /~/

Scientists did not begin a careful examination of the Kennewick Man skeleton until almost ten years after he was found. Then a team led by physical anthropologist Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution was given 16 days to examine the skeleton, in July, 2005 and February, 2006. “A vast amount of data was collected in the 16 days Owsley and colleagues spent with the bones. Twenty-two scientists scrutinized the almost 300 bones and fragments. Led by Kari Bruwelheide, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian, they first reassembled the fragile skeleton so they could see it as a whole. They built a shallow box, added a layer of fine sand, and covered that with black velvet; then Bruwelheide laid out the skeleton, bone by bone, shaping the sand underneath to cradle each piece. Now the researchers could address such questions as Kennewick Man's age, height, weight, body build, general health and fitness, and injuries. They could also tell whether he was deliberately buried, and if so, the position of his body in the grave. Next the skeleton was taken apart, and certain key bones studied intensively. The limb bones and ribs were CT-scanned at the University of Washington Medical Center. These scans used far more radiation than would be safe for living tissue, and as a result they produced detailed, three'dimensional images that allowed the bones to be digitally sliced up any which way. With additional CT scans, the team members built resin models of the skull and other important bones. They made a replica from a scan of the spearpoint in the hip." /~/

In 2014, a long-awaited study on Kennewick Man, co-edited by Owsley, was published. “No fewer than 48 authors and another 17 researchers, photographers and editors contributed to the 680-page Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton (Texas A&M University Press), the most complete analysis of a Paleo-American skeleton ever done. The book recounts the history of discovery, presents a complete inventory of the bones and explores every angle of what they may reveal. Three chapters are devoted to the teeth alone, and another to green stains thought to be left by algae." On the importance of Kennewick Man, Owsely said, “You can count on your fingers the number of ancient, well-preserved skeletons there are” in North America. /~/

Details About from Kennewick Man

Douglas Preston wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: There's a wonderful term used by anthropologists: “osteobiography," the “biography of the bones." Kennewick Man's osteobiography tells a tale of an eventful life, which a newer radiocarbon analysis puts at having taken place 8,900 to 9,000 years ago. He was a stocky, muscular man about 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds. He was right-handed. His age at death was around 40. Anthropologists can tell from looking at bones what muscles a person used most, because muscle attachments leave marks in the bones: The more stressed the muscle, the more pronounced the mark. For example, Kennewick Man's right arm and shoulder look a lot like a baseball pitcher’s. He spent a lot of time throwing something with his right hand, elbow bent—no doubt a spear. Kennewick Man once threw so hard, Owsley says, he fractured his glenoid rim—the socket of his shoulder joint. This is the kind of injury that puts a baseball pitcher out of action, and it would have made throwing painful. His left leg was stronger than his right, also a characteristic of right-handed pitchers, who arrest their forward momentum with their left leg. His hands and forearms indicate he often pinched his fingers and thumb together while tightly gripping a small object; presumably, then, he knapped his own spearpoints. [Source: Douglas Preston, Smithsonian Magazine, September 2014 /~/]

“Kennewick Man spent a lot of time holding something in front of him while forcibly raising and lowering it; the researchers theorize he was hurling a spear downward into the water, as seal hunters do. His leg bones suggest he often waded in shallow rapids, and he had bone growths consistent with “surfer's ear," caused by frequent immersion in cold water. His knee joints suggest he often squatted on his heels. I like to think he might have been a storyteller, enthralling his audience with tales of far-flung travels. Many years before Kennewick Man's death, a heavy blow to his chest broke six ribs. Because he used his right hand to throw spears, five broken ribs on his right side never knitted together...The scientists also found two small depression fractures on his cranium, one on his forehead and the other farther back. These dents occur on about half of all ancient American skulls; what caused them is a mystery. They may have come from fights involving rock throwing, or possibly accidents involving the whirling of a bola. This ancient weapon consisted of two or more stones connected by a cord, which were whirled above the head and thrown at birds to entangle them. If you don't swing a bola just right, the stones can whip around and smack you. Perhaps a youthful Kennewick Man learned how to toss a bola the hard way. /~/

“The most intriguing injury is the spearpoint buried in his hip. He was lucky: The spear, apparently thrown from a distance, barely missed the abdominal cavity, which would have caused a fatal wound. It struck him at a downward arc of 29 degrees. Given the bone growth around the embedded point, the injury occurred when he was between 15 and 20 years old, and he probably would not have survived if he had been left alone; the researchers conclude that Kennewick Man must have been with people who cared about him enough to feed and nurse him back to health. The injury healed well and any limp disappeared over time, as evidenced by the symmetry of his gluteal muscle attachments. There's undoubtedly a rich story behind that injury. It might have been a hunting accident or a teenage game of chicken gone awry. It might have happened in a fight, attack or murder attempt." /~/ “The food we eat and the water we drink leave a chemical signature locked into our bones, in the form of different atomic variations of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. By identifying them, scientists can tell what a person was eating and drinking while the bone was forming. Kennewick Man's bones were perplexing. Even though his grave lies 300 miles inland from the sea, he ate none of the animals that abounded in the area. On the contrary, for the last 20 or so years of his life he seems to have lived almost exclusively on a diet of marine animals, such as seals, sea lions and fish. Equally baffling was the water he drank: It was cold, glacial meltwater from a high altitude. Nine thousand years ago, the closest marine coastal environment where one could find glacial meltwater of this type was Alaska. The conclusion: Kennewick Man was a traveler from the far north. Perhaps he traded fine knapping stones over hundreds of miles. /~/

Although he came from distant lands, he was not an unwelcome visitor. He appears to have died among people who treated his remains with care and respect. While the researchers say they don't know how he died—yet—Owsley did determine that he was deliberately buried in an extended, prone position, faceup, the head slightly higher than the feet, with the chin pressed on the chest, in a grave that was about two and a half feet deep. Owsley deduced this information partly by mapping the distribution of carbonate crust on the bones, using a magnifying lens. Such a crust is heavier on the underside of buried bones, betraying which surfaces were down and which up. The bones showed no sign of scavenging or gnawing and were deliberately buried beneath the topsoil zone. From analyzing algae deposits and water-wear marks, the team determined which bones were washed out of the embankment first and which fell out last. Kennewick Man's body had been buried with his left side toward the river and his head upstream.

Early Humans in Southern South America

Laura Anne Tedesco wrote for the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The first people to occupy the American continents probably arrived from Asia, having crossed the Bering land bridge between Siberia and Alaska....then it is logical to assume that the earliest archaeological evidence of their presence would be found in Alaska, Canada, and the American plains along their routes of migration. Some archaeological sites dating to these first waves of migration between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago have been discovered in these northern reaches... but because of the arbitrary aspect of preservation and archaeological discovery,” many of “the very earliest sites that document the Americas first inhabitants occur in the southern region of South America. [Source: Laura Anne Tedesco, Independent Scholar, Metropolitan Museum of Art, metmuseum.org, October 2000, revised September 2007) \^/]

“As human populations migrated to the Americas from Asia, the world's climate was undergoing considerable change. These changes forced the nomadic hunters to adapt to new ways of life and new sources of food. In South America, human populations had to deal with the harsh rigors of the prevailing climate and, perhaps as a consequence, occupied different parts of the great continent at intervals depending on the availability of food and adequate shelter. In some regions, the occupants coexisted with such soon-to-be-extinct animals as mastodons and giant ground sloths, and the tools they used were of wood, bone, and stone. Diverse parts of what is now Chile were inhabited, with living sites within the marshes at Monte Verde (10,500-9500 B.C.) in the south-central region, and drier areas such as Fell's Cave (9000-8000 B.C.) in Patagonia. \^/

“Fell's Cave, a rock shelter in the valley of the Río Chico not far from the Strait of Magellan, was initially occupied by hunters around 10,000 B.C. who left behind an impressive layer of refuse. Sealed by hundreds of pounds of debris from the fall of the shelter overhang, the hunter's refuse included firepots with the broken bones of native horse, sloth, and guanaco, as well as stone and bone tools. Among the stone tools were fishtail spearpoints, a form of stone point found in many places in South America. Fishtail points are flaked bifacially (that is, worked on both sides) and have pronounced shoulders above a clearly shaped stem. Some are fluted with small channels removed from the bottom. In 1936-37, the discoveries in Fell's Cave represented the first evidence of early humans in South America. Since then, older sites such as Monte Verde have been identified. \^/

“Monte Verde in Chile, which was occupied some 14,500 years ago, provides a slightly different view of life for the early inhabitants of South America. Due to the quality of preservation at Monte Verde, natural materials such as wood, fiber, and cordage remain. Even a human footprint has been found there. This range of artifacts crafted from perishable materials is typically lost to archaeologists. Their preservation due to the extremely wet conditions at Monte Verde indicate that baskets, fishing nets, and tents made from hides were among the range of belongings used by the thirty or so people who lived there. These campers were likely able fishermen and gatherers of wild plants, which would have supplemented their diet of hunted animals. They also crafted exquisite leaf-shaped spearpoints. These weapons and hunting tools are not dissimilar from the examples illustrated here from Fell's Cave, which suggests that the two sites, while separated in time by more than 4,000 years, were part of a long-standing and connected tradition of thriving in the new world.” \^/

Early Americans in Monte Verde, Chile

Artifacts reliably dated to between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago were found in bogs near Monte Verde, Chile in the 1990s. Since these artifacts were found so far from the Bering Strait, the route believed to have been taken by the first Americans, scientists believe that first people to migrate out of Asia arrived in Alaska perhaps 20,000 years ago. If they arrived later than that made their way down the west coast of the Americas to Chile relatively fast. [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic, October, 1997]

The Monte Verde dating has held up against arguments that perhaps floods moved the artifacts into older sediments or the sediments were contaminated by eroded ash from volcanic eruptions. The oldest previously known sights where identified with the Clovis people, a group of early Americans named after a site in New Mexico. Numerous 12,000-year-old Clovis sites have been found on both the eastern and western sides of North America. Beautifully- crafted leaf-shape projectile points, blades and burins, dating from 13,000 to 9,000 B.C. , have been found in Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, Idaho and Nevada. David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University told National Geographic, "How could people possibly have raced down from Alaska in a few hundred years? They were pioneering a landscape that was becoming increasingly unfamiliar as they moved south. They had to find water and figure out which plants and animals were edible, useful, harmful or even fatal. They had to cross formidable barriers and cope with new diseases. And they had to do all this while raising families on a vast continent devoid of other people. All of that takes time." Geneticists confirm this belief by pointing out that the languages and genetic material of native Americans is too diverse to be only 12,000 years old.

Scientist theorize the early Americans arrived in Chile one of three ways: 1) overland through a break in the glaciers that covered most of Canada; 2) skirting the glaciers using boats to follow the coast; or 3) taking a boat across the sea from Asia. Most scientist dismiss the third theory on the grounds that boat technology was not advanced enough to cross the ocean 12,000 years ago Early Australians, however, used boats to arrive in northen Australia about 60,000 years ago but they only needed to cross areas of of open sea that were about 50 miles in distance,

Technology and Food of the Monte Verde People

Artifacts found at Monde Verde have include a wooden lance, tent stakes, a digging stick, grooved timber, a fire drill board, slate drills, basalt arrowheads, reed twine, mastodon rib fire pokers, and perfectly round stones that may have been used in slings or bolas. The ancient residents of Monte Verde were believed to have lived in hide'draped huts with a wishbone shaped foundation made of sand and gravel cemented together with animal fat.

Archaeologists collected 22 varieties of medicinal plants near the hut including the boldo plant, a leafy bush whose leaves have hallucinogenic and analgesic properties. Indians in Chile still brew the boldo plant in a tea used for treating stomach ailments. The Monte Verde people chewed boldo with two kinds of seaweed. Scientists believe they traded to get it because it did not grow locally but was found in forests 150 miles north.

Archaeologists also found remnants of 45 edible plants, including wild potatoes, bamboos, mushrooms and juncus seeds as well as mastodon meat. More than a fifth of the plants were not found locally, which again offers evidence of some kind of trading. The harvesting of juncus seeds once scientist said "approaches agriculture."

The Monte Verde site was preserved by a rising water table that transformed the site into a bog and preserved it. Scientists found a five-inch footprint, probably made by a child.

Early American Hunters and Mass Extinctions


Until about 7000 B.C., it is believed that the inhabitants of the Americas largely subsisted on hunting animals — including mammoths — and gathering wild plants. They developed progressively more efficient hunting methods: lances, spear throwers, darts and bows and arrows with channeled and fluted points.

Between 10,000 B.C. and 5,000 B.C. 32 animals, including giant bison, oxen, elephant, pigs, antelope, horses, giant turtles. camels, mammoth, mastodon, giant ground sloths and giant rodents, became extinct. The reason for these extinction is believed to be climate changes and possibly overhunting by early Americans. The animals may have been easy prey for early human hunters because they had never had been hunted by humans and had little fear of them.

The extinction of animals is believed to have played a part in the migrations of Mesoamericas — first to the North America and then across the continents themselves. As time when on meat became a luxury and hunters had to travel over large distances to find animals.

Early Humans Colonized South America like an Invasive Species

Brooks Hays of UPI wrote: “The growth of early human societies in South America looks a lot like an invasive species' conquest of new habitat. Today, humans are less constrained by the limits of nature. Thousands of years ago, however, the availability of local resources strictly governed the growth of human settlements and societies. Researchers at Stanford University plotted the population growth and distribution of early South American societies using data from dozens of archaeological sites, including more than 1,000 radiocarbon dates. Scientists found that the ebb of flow mimicked that of invasive species. [Source: Brooks Hays, UPI, April 7, 2016 /=/]

“The findings — detailed in the journal Nature – revealed two unique phases of population growth, the first occurring between 14,000 and 5,500 years ago. The initial phase featured a dramatic population explosion, with early settlers spreading out across the continent. As biologists see with many invasive species, these early humans suffered a decline as a result of over-exploitation. The rapid early growth of these human populations bumped up against the upper limits of the available resources. This recession with the loss of megafauna species like sloths, mammoths and saber-toothed cats — some of the largest mammals Earth has known. /=/

“The subsequent growth phase happened between 5,500 to 2,000 years ago and featured exponential growth. Researchers say this growth was the result of the transition to sedentary societies – a transition made possible by intense agricultural production and trade. The patterns of growth seen in South America are distinct from those in North America, Europe and Australia, but can still offer insight into the nature of population growth today. /=/

Pre-Clovis People Camp in Argentina

Annalee Newitz wrote in ars technica: “A fresh examination of one such campsite, a 14,000-year-old hunter's rest stop outside the city of Tres Arroyos in Argentina, has given us a new understanding of how the pre-Clovis people might have lived. At the campsite, known as the Arroyo Seco 2 site, archaeologists have found more than 50 such tools made from materials like chert and quartzite. They're scattered across an area that was once a grassy knoll above a deep lake, which is rich with thousands of animal bone fragments that have been carbon dated to as early as 14,000 years ago. There are even a couple-dozen human burials at the site, dated to a later period starting roughly 9,000 years ago. The spot has the characteristic look of a hunter's camp, used for processing animals, that was revisited seasonally for thousands of years. [Source: Annalee Newitz, ars technica, September 29, 2016 )*(]

“Writing in PLoS One, the researchers describe a number of reasons why a bunch of sharp-edged rocks and broken animal bones point to a 14,000-year-old human occupation of Argentina. First of all, there are far too many animal bones from a diversity of species grouped in one place for it to be accidental. Yes, there are some natural traps where we find massive numbers of prehistoric bones, but those are almost always in holes or depressions in the ground—and this area was on a rather high hill during the Pleistocene. Second, the stones aren't just sharp-edged in a way that suggests flaking; many also show signs of wear and tear from scraping hide. "A large majority of the flaked edges were used transversely on dry skin," the researchers write. "Consequently, it is likely that the skins were brought to the site in a state of intermediate processing." Also, most of the stone used for the tools, including quartzite and chert, can only be found over 110 kilometers from Arroyo Seco. So that piece of evidence also points to human hunter-gatherers carrying tools with them over great distances. )*(

“One question remains. How can we be sure the tools at the site really are 14,000 years old? Archaeologists infer some of this from carbon dates on the animal bones, which have been tested by several labs around the world. The problem is that the site's stratigraphy, or historical layers, are difficult to read due to erosion at the site. So even if a tool appears right next to a bone in a given layer, it may have come from later and been moved around by wind and water. That said, there is evidence that some of the early bones were broken by stone tools. A 14,000-year-old bone from Equus neogeus, an extinct American horse, bears distinct marks from a hammerstone. "This bone was intentionally broken while still fresh," note the researchers.” )*(

Diet and Hunting of Pre-Clovis People in Argentina

Columbian mammoth, an American species

Annalee Newitz wrote in ars technica: “With a firm connection between the human tools and the animal bones found at Arroyo Seco, we can begin to piece together what everyday life was like for these people—at least at mealtime. Analysis of more than 600 bone fragments out of thousands found at the site revealed that a large amount of these people's meat came from animals that no longer exist. Various extinct horse species were a major part of the pre-Clovis diet, as were other extinct mammals like giant ground sloths, camels, mammoths, and giant armadillos. When these people arrived in South America, they found a land that no human had ever colonized. Many of these species would have been easy pickings for well-organized bands of hunters with sophisticated languages, tools, and tactics. Some paleoecologists hypothesize that these animals went extinct partly due to human hunting, and this campsite definitely provides evidence that extinct animals were part of the pre-Clovis diet for millennia. That said, Arroyo Seco contains far more bones from guanaco (a local relative of the camel) and rodents than it does from extinct mammals. [Source: Annalee Newitz, ars technica, September 29, 2016 )*(]

“The absence of certain bones can tell us about how these people lived, too. Though there are bones from megafauna like the giant sloth Megatherium, we see no skulls, chest, or pelvic bones from the animal. The researchers speculate that's because hunters would have done an initial butchery at the site where they killed or scavenged the animal and then transported parts of it to be processed at camp: )*(

“Given the body mass of this species (between 4 and 5 tons), it would have been extremely difficult to transport the entire carcass and even challenging to transport complete hindquarters weighing between 600 and 750 kg, and forequarters weighing between 250 and 300 kg. Taking into consideration these values, the best hypothesis is that the Megatherium was hunted or scavenged near the site, the skeleton was butchered into smaller parts, and these units were then transported to their current location at the site. The larger bones were transported with portions of meat already removed, and the bone may have been used for other purposes such as bone quarrying. )*(

“Of the extinct mammals that humans processed at Arroyo Seco, the most common seems to be horse. When people arrived in the Americas, it was full of at least two species of extinct horses. But by the time of the Inca and other great civilizations of South America, those animals were long gone. It wasn't until Europeans arrived with their steeds that the continent was once again populated with horses. )*(

“Still, we can look back and imagine what it must have been like for those pre-Clovis people, entering a world where no human had ever gone before, full of animals that are legendary to us today. In many ways, they lived on a different planet than the one we inhabit now. At the edge of a now mostly vanished lake, on a knoll, those people fed their families, made tools, and strategized about how to hunt for game bigger than anything on land in the modern world. They returned year after year for centuries. Eventually, they buried their dead there among the animal bones left by their ancestors.” )*(

Evidence of People Living 12,000 Years Ago in the Peruvian Andes

Malcolm Ritter of Associated Press wrote: The air was thin, the nights were cold, the sun could easily burn the skin. But about 12,000 years ago, small groups of hunter-gatherers found a home very high up in the Peruvian Andes. Now, their stone tools and other artifacts have revealed their presence at about 4,500 metres above sea level, about as high as the Matterhorn and much higher than Machu Picchu. They lived there nearly 1,000 years earlier than any other known human habitation anywhere above even 4,000 metres, researchers report. [Source: Malcolm Ritter, The Associated Press, October 23, 2014 /+]

“Among the bogs, wetlands and grasslands of the treeless plateau, the ancient people found plentiful deer and wild ancestors of llamas and alpacas to hunt for food and clothing between 12,000 and 12,500 years ago. There were rock shelters to live in, and deposits of obsidian for making stone tools. While the plants weren't edible, some contained combustible resin and made for "really nice warm fires," says researcher Kurt Rademaker. "I can't say why people first went there," said Rademaker, an author of a report released Thursday by Science. "But once they did go there, there were plenty of reasons to stay." /+\

“Rademaker is a researcher at the University of Tuebingen in Germany and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Maine in Orono. He led a research team that uncovered two sites of high-altitude Andes settlement in southern Peru, within about 160 kilometres of the Pacific coast and roughly west of Lake Titicaca. Both sites included workshops for making stone tools. Hundreds of tools were found there, including scrapers that were evidently used to make clothing from hides. Sharpened points were probably used for spears. Bone and shell beads, used for adornment, were also recovered. /+\

“Rademaker said he doubts people lived there year-round, noting the rainy season from December to March. "You're cold," he said. "You're being rained on and snowed on and sleeted on all day long. It makes for misery." John Rick, an archaeologist at Stanford University who didn't participate in the study, called the work "a major advance." He said he had found an Andean site at about the same elevation that appeared to be about as old, but its age could not be as confidently established as in the new work. So the new study provides the first solid data showing extensive human settlement in the Andes that high and that long ago, he said.” /+\

9,000-Year-Old Decapitated Skull Covered with Amputated Hands Found in Brazil

In 2015, scientists said they had found a decapitated skull covered in amputated hands under limestone slabs in a cave in Brazi. Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science: “These 9,000-year-old bones may be evidence of the oldest known case of ritual beheading in the New World, raising new questions as to how this grisly practice began in the Americas, the researchers said in a new study. Decapitation was likely common in the New World, according to the scientists. For example, in South America, heads of defeated enemies were often used as war trophies — the Arara people in the Brazilian Amazon used skulls of defeated enemies as musical instruments, the Inca turned skulls into drinking jars, and the Jivaro people of Ecuador shrunk heads to imprison the souls of foes. The Uru-Uru Chipaya people in Bolivia also once employed skulls in modified Christian rituals, and the Chimú culture in Peru incorporated decapitation as a standard procedure in human sacrifices. "Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved," said study lead author André Strauss, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. [Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, September 23, 2015 +++]

“Until now, the oldest reported instance of ritual beheading in South America took place 3,000 years ago in Peru, and the oldest known case in North America happened about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago in Florida. Now, scientists have discovered a case of ritual decapitation in Brazil that dates back about 9,000 years. "This is the oldest case of decapitation found in the New World," Strauss told Live Science. The archaeologists spent several field seasons at Lapa do Santo, excavating the burials. +++

“The scientists investigated an environmentally protected tropical region in east-central Brazil known as Lagoa Santa, which means "Holy Lake" in Portuguese. The area, which is covered in savanna-type vegetation as well as forests, was explored heavily in the 19th century by researchers looking for evidence of interactions between prehistoric humans and giant animals, such as saber-toothed cats and ground sloths. The scientists focused on a site called Lapa do Santo, or "saint's rock shelter." It was here that the researchers previously found the oldest evidence of rock art in South America, which included pictures of penises, engraved on the bedrock there, that are about 9,400 years old. +++

“Excavations at Lapa do Santo revealed signs of human occupation dating back about 12,000 years. Stone tools and animal bones found at the shelter suggest the prehistoric groups that lived there subsisted on plants they gathered and small and midsize animals they hunted. In 2007, the researchers discovered 9,000-year-old fragments of human remains at Lapa do Santo, including a skull, jaw, the first six vertebrae of the neck and two severed hands. The bones were buried about 22 inches (55 centimeters) below the surface, under limestone slabs, which suggests they were part of a deliberate ritual entombment, the researchers said. The amputated hands were laid palm-side down over the face of the skull, with the left hand pointing upward and covering the right side of the face, while the right hand pointed downward and covered the left side of the face. Until now, only relatively simple burials had been uncovered in Lagoa Santa, Strauss said. +++

“In addition, the disembodied heads found in South America were typically discovered in the Andes mountain range, suggesting that decapitation began as an Andean practice. This new finding suggests that ritual beheading may have started elsewhere, the researchers said. It remains unclear why this ritual decapitation at Lapa do Santo took place. The chemical nature and physical features of the bones suggest they came from a member of the group that lived there, the researchers said, meaning the body likely was not a war trophy of an outsider. Instead, the people at this site may have used these remains to express their ideas regarding death and the universe, Strauss said.” The scientists detailed their findings online on September 23, 2015 in the journal PLOS ONE. +++

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.