In a bit of news that shouldn’t be all that surprising to those who have taken a real look at the evidence, new finds at a site in San Diego have shown that humans have been living in North America for at least 130,000 years now.
The new finds at the “Ice Age paleontological-turned-archaeological site in San Diego” push back the evidence of human habitation in North America by around 100,000 years. There was already pretty strong evidence that humans have been living in South America for at least 30,000 to 40,000 years; and fairly compelling evidence in North America for the same.
The findings show, amongst other things, that humans were modifying the bones and teeth of dead mastodons at the time. The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature.
“This discovery is rewriting our understanding of when humans reached the New World. The evidence we found at this site indicates that some hominin species was living in North America 115,000 years earlier than previously thought,” stated Judy Gradwohl, president and CEO of the San Diego Natural History Museum, whose paleontology team discovered the fossils, managed the excavation, and incorporated the specimens into the Museum’s research collection. “This raises intriguing questions about how these early humans arrived here and who they were.”
The press release provides more:
“The fossil remains were discovered by Museum paleontologists during routine paleontological mitigation work at a freeway expansion project site managed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The bones, tusks, and molars, many of which are sharply broken, were found deeply buried alongside large stones that appeared to have been used as hammers and anvils, making this the oldest in situ, well-documented archaeological site in the Americas. …
“But the fossils from the Cerutti Mastodon site (as the site was named in recognition of field paleontologist Richard Cerutti who discovered the site and led the excavation), were found embedded in fine-grained sediments that had been deposited much earlier, during a period long before humans were thought to have arrived on the continent. …
“Since its initial discovery in late 1992, this site has been the subject of research by top scientists to date the fossils accurately and evaluate microscopic damage on bones and rocks that authors now consider indicative of human activity. In 2014, Dr. James Paces, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, used state-of-the-art radiometric dating methods to determine that the mastodon bones — which were still fresh when they were broken by strategically-placed blows from hammerstones — were 130,000 years old, with a conservative error of plus or minus 9,400 years. ‘The distributions of natural uranium and its decay products both within and among these bone specimens show remarkably reliable behavior, allowing us to derive an age that is well within the wheelhouse of the dating system,’ explained Paces, a co-author of the paper.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind this is an archaeological site,” commented Dr Steve Holen, director of research at the Center for American Paleolithic Research, former curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the lead author of the paper. “The bones and several teeth show clear signs of having been deliberately broken by humans with manual dexterity and experiential knowledge. This breakage pattern has also been observed at mammoth fossil sites in Kansas and Nebraska, where alternative explanations such as geological forces or gnawing by carnivores have been ruled out.”
“When we first discovered the site, there was strong physical evidence that placed humans alongside extinct Ice Age megafauna. This was significant in and of itself and a ‘first’ in San Diego County,” commented Dr Tom Deméré, curator of paleontology and director of PaleoServices at the San Diego Natural History Museum and corresponding author on the paper. “Since the original discovery, dating technology has advanced to enable us to confirm with further certainty that early humans were here significantly earlier than commonly accepted.”
A point that should be made here, and one that I’ve made in earlier articles that I did on the so-called “Neanderthals” and “Denisovans,” and also on the use of ships in deep prehistory, is that most human habitation occurs in the biologically productive coasts and river valleys of the world — exactly the sorts of regions which are periodically obliterated, submerged, and washed clean, so to speak.
Whatever the various peoples (whether they are considered to be different species or not) were actually doing in far prehistory is an unknown, and will almost definitely remain an unknown (at least as far as scientifically verifiable knowledge). It was no doubt far different from what is commonly projected onto the past, and no doubt varied quite a lot in different regions and at different times.