|February 13th, 2014||#261|
Ancient native boy's genome reignites debate over first Americans
Reuters By Sharon Begley
By Sharon Begley
NEW YORK (Reuters) - For more than 20 years anthropologists have debated whether the first Americans arrived in the New World by walking over a land bridge across the Bering Strait, as millions of schoolchildren have been taught, or by sea from southwest Europe, perhaps in animal-skin kayaks.
A new analysis challenges the out-of-Europe hypothesis, which has figured in a political debate over the rights of present-day Native American tribes. Scientists announced on Wednesday that they had, for the first time, determined the full genome sequence of an ancient American, a toddler who lived some 12,600 years ago and was buried in western Montana. His DNA, they report, links today's Native Americans to ancient migrants from easternmost Asia.
The study, published in the journal Nature, "is the final shovelful of dirt" on the European hypothesis, said anthropological geneticist Jennifer Raff of the University of Texas, co-author of a commentary on it in Nature.
That's an astonishingly ideological and unscientific statement. Really, Jen? They find new bones all the time. What if tomorrow someone walks in with 18,000-year-old bones and they DNA test to Europe?
You see why "Valdez" only wants "peer reviewed" "data" only - because it comes from Raff circles, where the scientists have axes to grind.
Remember - the white case isn't built on whites being the first race to the Americas - the red case is. They have to be right. We just suspect the question is open, and we know the pattern of academics is to deny the truth where it doesn't aid the anti-white cause.
The idea that the first Americans arrived millennia earlier than long thought and from someplace other than Beringia - which spans easternmost Russia and western Alaska - has poisoned relationships between many Native Americans and anthropologists. Some tribes fear that the theory that the continent's first arrivals originated in Europe might cast doubt on their origin stories and claims to ancient remains on ancestral lands.
Despite the new study, other experts say the debate over whether the first Americans arrived from Beringia or southwestern Europe, where a culture called the Solutrean thrived from 21,000 to 17,000 years ago, is far from settled.
"They haven't produced evidence to refute the Solutrean hypothesis," said geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University, a leading expert on using DNA to track ancient migrations. "In fact, there is genetic evidence that only the Solutrean hypothesis explains."
Uh oh. Where are you Valdez? That's your area there, li'l buddy. There's wind in the wikiup, I think it may be teetering, Pancho.
The partial skeleton of the 1-year-old boy, called Anzick-1, was discovered when a front-end loader hit it while scooping out fill in 1968. The grave and its environs contained 125 artifacts including stone spear points and elk antlers centuries older than the bones, said anthropologist Michael Waters of Texas A&M University's Center for the Study of the First Americans, a co-author of the Nature study.
That suggests that the antler artifacts "were very special heirlooms handed down over generations," Waters said. Why they were buried with the boy remains unknown.
The distinctive stone tools show that the boy was a member of the Clovis culture, one of the oldest in North America and dating to around 12,600 to 13,000 years ago. The origins and descendants of the Clovis people have remained uncertain, but the boy's genome offers clues.
"The genetic data from Anzick confirms that the ancestors of this boy originated in Asia," said Eske Willerslev of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, who led the study. The DNA shows that the child belonged to a group that is a direct ancestor to as many as 80 percent of the Native Americans tribes alive today, he said: "It's almost like he is a missing link" between the first arrivals and today's tribes.
The most likely scenario, said Texas's Raff, is that humans reached eastern Beringia from Siberia 26,000 to 18,000 years ago. By 17,000 years ago, receding glaciers allowed them to cross the Bering Strait. Some migrated down the Pacific coast, reaching Monte Verde in Chile by 14,600 years ago, while others - including the ancestors of Anzick-1 - headed for the interior of North America.
The genetic analysis found that the boy is less closely related to northern Native Americans than to central and southern Native Americans such as the Maya of Central America and the Karitiana of Brazil. That can best be explained, the scientists say, if he belonged to a population that is directly ancestral to the South American tribes.
Today's Native Americans are "direct descendants of the people who made and used Clovis tools and buried this child," the scientists wrote. "In agreement with previous archaeological and genetic studies, our genome analysis refutes the possibility that Clovis originated via a European migration to the Americas."
Genetic analysis is also keeping the out-of-Europe idea alive.
One variant of DNA that is inherited only from a mother, called mitochondrial DNA, and is found in many Native Americans has been traced to western Eurasia but is absent from east Eurasia, where Beringia was before the sea covered it, Oppenheimer explained. For the variant, called X2a, to have such a high frequency in Native Americans "it must have got across the Atlantic somehow," he said. The new study "completely ignored this evidence, and only the Solutrean hypothesis explains it."
Boom goes the dynamite.
The scientists hope the Anzick boy has yielded all his secrets: He will be reburied by early summer.
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Douglas Royalty)
Historian 13 hours ago 1 16
I see this over and over, a specific find and basing everything in one great finite and specific theory. Putting aside all the other evidence. Scientist need to grow up and stop jumping to these kind of incomplete conclusions and really start looking at ALL the evidence, then develop reasonable direction to continue further research to get the complete or as near complete answer as possible. Or just focus on the all evidence and stop making the end to the story, because it is something we may never really know. Too many cases like this the just disregard the other evidence!!! At least in this article mitochondrial DNA is brought up. The mitochondrial path shows several early migrations, some from directly from Asia and from Europe the Asia than America. New evidence states a Asia to America and back to Asia migration. Other evidence shows the direct Europe connection possibly crossing an Ice Age ice bridge across the North Atlantic. Thousands of years, shoot were are were nomads back then and went every where we could. Mankind to a tenacious animal and to state only one small group was here in all those thousands of years is a shallow view of our determination as a species
Last edited by Alex Linder; February 13th, 2014 at 05:11 AM.
|May 15th, 2014||#262|
The Last 10,000 Years
BY RAZIB KHAN • MAY 15, 2014 • 300 WORDS
In the 1990s there was an enormous controversy over a Native American skeleton which was termed “Kennewick Man”. Most of the dispute was rooted in the fact that the morphological characteristics of the remains did not resemble modern indigenous peoples. In fact, the features may have been more European-like, with reconstructions tending toward uncanny resemblances to the actor Patrick Stewart. A new paper in Science purports resolve this question, Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Link Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans. Here’s the key section from the abstract:
As it is I think the question in regards to the Paleo-Indians was more straightforward than people wanted to accept. The Ainu of Japan exhibited the same morphological differentiation from other Northeast Asians as the Paleo-Indians, to the point where many posited that they were more closely related to Europeans. Nevertheless even early blood group analysis pinpointed that their nearest relations were other Siberian groups. Morphological patterns are obviously informative. But one reason that they’re interesting is that they vary between populations, and that variation suggests a certain level of evolutionary pliability. One of the ironies of traits which we use to differentiate populations, such as skin color and facial features, is that these might actually have relatively shallow time depth within a given lineage.
|May 20th, 2014||#263|
Join Date: Dec 2012
Written by Christopher Nyerges, posted by Rick Osmon, found at Rockwell's site.
THE ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST MYSTERY ROCKS
Written by Christopher Nyerges
Posted by Rick Osmon
On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest. We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go. As the boys and I made our yucca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it. There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam.
I pointed it out to every one and explained ogam to the adults, who seemed underwhelmed at what such a rock might mean.
Some years earlier, I spent some time learning about ogam, a method that was used to write on stones approximately 1500+ years ago, primarily in the British isles, though examples can be found further afield. Ogam is not to be confused with the more ornate runic writing. Ogam employs straight lines across what is called a stem line. The stem line can be a natural horizontal fracture in a rock, or the corner of a standing stone. The 15 consonants are expressed by from one to five lines above the stem line, one to five lines below the stem line, or one to five lines across the stem lines. The vowels, where present, can be a series of dots or other symbols.
It is certainly possible to see natural fractures in rock and think you are looking at ogam, especially if you have not studied rock sufficiently to see the difference between what nature does and what man does.
I returned a week later with Dude McLean to take photographs and sketches. McLean had also been there when I first noted the rock. After carefully comparing my sketches with the ogam alphabet, I was amazed to see that all the marks were consistent with ogam. So I then sent photos and sketches to perhaps 50 “experts” in ogam, linguistics, archaeology, and other fields and eagerly awaited their response about my exciting discovery.
Gloria Farley responded, saying it certainly looked like ogam, but that she had no idea what it might say since she had all her discoveries translated by Barry Fell, who had passed away. One expert from England responded, saying that since the rock inscription was in California, there was no chance that it was bonafide ogam. Another told me that it was clearly a significant find, but he felt it was more likely some sort of tally system, not ogam. But most of the various world experts ignored me.
So I laid out what I felt was a fairly reasonable scientific method for ascertaining if the inscription I found was, or was not, of some significance.
1. I had to determine that the markings were consistent with the ogam alphabet. Having done that, I proceeded to the other steps.
2. Determine if the ogam letters actually spell anything.
3. Determine if the inscription could actually be dated.
4. Determine if there was anything else significant about the site.
5. The final step – if I got that far – was to determine who may have actually inscribed the rock, and under what circumstances. I also reasoned that if I got this far, others could jump in and attempt to answer this question.
Since all the markings were consistent with the ogam characters, I then proceeded to determine the actual sequence of letters. I had to determine where one “letter” ended and another began, not an easy task when you consider that you are simply looking at straight lines. It took me approximately 6 visits in different lighting conditions until I arrived at what I felt was the correct letter sequence. I attempted to confirm my deductions by carefully feeling the indentations in the rock.
Next, with my sequence of letters, I tried to determine if it spelled anything. Ogam was used primarily to express Gaelic, but had also been used in some known instances to represent both Saharan and Basque. I needed experts or dictionaries. Finally, after many visits to the sight and studying the markings, I determined that the letter sequence was BMMHBLTMGMCMMDHB.
One night, while staring at my photos of the rock and the letter sequence, the two letters MC jumped out at me, and I realized that the rock inscription was most likely written in the most common language of usage for ogam, Gaelic. MC is a very common abbreviation for “son of,” as in McDonald, MacAllister, et al.
I obtained a copy of Dwelley’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary” (copyright 1902-12) and one rainy day about two months after finding the rock, I spent about five hours going through Dwelley’s page by page, looking for letter combinations that might mean something.
All the letters I had to work with were consonants. There were no vowels, suggestive of an older or earlier linguistic form, akin to several of the Middle Eastern alphabets written without vowels.
Based on the manner in which the markings were made on the rock, I broke the letter sequence into the following groupings: B- MMH- BL- TMG-MC-MM-DH-B. I then tried to find words for which those letter groupings would represent. Part of this search was to see what was commonly written on other such stones.
After five hours, I came up with the following likely transliteration:
To-memory-Bel- Thy Young Hero- Son of – Mother – Deep/depth/ darken- stone.
“Bel” was actually written above the main line of the inscription. So my tentative translation reads: “To Bel, in the memory of the young hero, son of the mother (prince?), laid to rest with this stone.” I found at least one stone in which scholars translated “DH” as “laid to rest.” Thus, I had achieved Step Two in my process, and proceeded to the next Step.
Two different geologists, one a PhD, told me that such inscriptions could not be definitely dated. The PhD said that based on his educated guess, the inscription was made between 1500 and 2500 years ago, and he’d say it was 95% certain that it was made by man, not natural forces.
I proceeded to Step Four with various informal surveys of the surrounding area. First, IF the rock inscription was formed by natural forces, it would be logical that there would be many or more such carvings in the vicinity. There were none. I also looked for anything that might be consistent with a foreign presence into what had been Indian territory.
Within a quarter mile of the stone, I found one possible standing stone, one triangular pointing stone (pointed up a side canyon), and a nearby site that had all the appearances of being an ancient graveyard based on the placement of stones – though I did no digging.
Thus, amazingly, everything suggested that this was a foreign inscription, probably someone from Western Europe who came up the canyon and died, or was killed, back when this was Indian territory. I invited various archaeologists, all of whom declined to come and see the rock. I also felt it that my work was solid enough to share with my friend who was the editor of the local paper, and he sent a reporter to write a story about it.
The ensuing newspaper story accurately represented my work on the rock and inscription, and also included interviews with a representative of the Southwest Museum, and a representative of a local Indian tribe, all of whom I’d previously contacted but none of whom ever took me up on my offer to go actually see the rock. In the news article, I was described as making fanciful claims. The Indian quoted said that this was all Indian territory, and he questioned how other people could possible have gotten into the S. California Mountains.
Since the site of the rock is in canyon that was one of the major passageways from the ocean to the desert by past Indian peoples, I asked my friend in a letter if he had ever heard of boats. I also included clippings of the many small boats that have crossed major water ways (a la Thor Heyerdahl), and also of the very large boats used by ancient Phoenicians and Romans, as per the writings of Caesar. My Indian friend never responded.
Later, I was able to bring two forest archaeologists to the site, both of whom told me that it was Indian territory, and that there was nothing else to suggest there could be any evidence of pre-Columbian visitation. I told each of them that my evidence was the stone, but they responded that they were looking for something other than the stone. I was feeling that they were not concerned about examining a possible bit of evidence of pre-Columbian European visitors to North America, but were looking at things through the years of their schooling, and were thus unable to see what was right before them.
The story of this rock also appeared in an Archaeological magazine, and one reader wrote to me saying that the markings on the rock I found were made by Indians sharpening their axes. How did she know this? Because she once visited a very similar rock in Maine, and a brass plaque put there by the park service said that the markings were Indian axe-sharpening rocks. I managed to get a photo of the Maine rock, and yes, the markings were very similar to what I’d found. In fact, all the Maine rock markings were consistent with ogam, and in about 4 hours in my Dwelly’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary,” I found a translation that suggested a warning for mariners to watch for the rocks in the water! Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
In 2009, while sitting at what seemed to be a natural entry-way to this site, I noted a rock with more ogam-like markings. Once I cleaned the rock, and took the time to determine if the markings were consistent with ogam, I determined that the letter sequence on the rock, from top to bottom, was B-EA-N-EA. With a little research, I realized that could very well have meant “Byanu,” a minor Celtic goddess. A line on the very top of this rock pointed to what I determined could be a standing stone. Perhaps this was an early American shrine to Byanu?
Though the final chapter of this rock has not been written, it has enforced the belief that our history is not as we’ve been taught in school. Indeed, the schools are often the official gurgitators of the best that academia has been able to collectively come up with. They get a lot of it right, but they fail to see their own blindnesses and prejudices.
I eventually produced a small booklet explaining this find and a BBC documentary is still in the works.
My rewards for taking all this time on this multi-faceted research: I have been called a fraud numerous times. I have been listed on a college web-site as an example of “fringe archaeology” and explained away as a fraud. A few of my Native American friends stopped talking to me.
On the other hand, I was made a life member in the Epigraphic Society. According to Wayne Kenaston, Jr., who bestowed that membership upon me, “Welcome to the frustrations that come with dealing with rock –writing, or epigraphy. You did a very good and scholarly job of deciphering, transliterating, and translating the Angeles Forest Mystery Rock inscriptions. I congratulate you and encourage you to pursue your efforts to learn more about the provenance of the ‘young hero’ whose grave is probably marked by the inscription.”
As a result of my work, I have been sent photos of inscriptions from diverse parts of the United States, and some outside the U.S., and have been told from like-minded people about many of the other mysterious rocks that abound. I am by no means an expert in this multi-disciplinary project, but found a whole spectrum of new questions to answer, ones that I never even considered on that fateful Halloween Day in 2001.
Last edited by Kev; May 20th, 2014 at 10:39 PM. Reason: sp.; + full text
|May 20th, 2014||#264|
Join Date: Dec 2012
Kennewick Man Back in the News
April 25, 2014
In a letter dated August 23, 2011, the United States Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers granted access to a bone fragment of the skeletal remains of the “Kennewick Man”, also known as “The Ancient One”. The bone fragment was to be used in a destructive test attempt to recover sufficient DNA for determination of Kennewick Man’s ancestry, his genome.
This set of remains has been the subject of controversy since very shortly after its discovery and was the pivot in a now famous (or infamous) court case that pitted regional tribes and the US government against a handful of scientists. The scientists wanted to study the bones and the other litigants wanted to bury them without delay in an undisclosed location. The case even resulted in an amendment to the Native Americans Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, mostly because the judge ruled in favor of the scientists.
For a more comprehensive history of the case, both in and out of court, up to March 2007, please go HERE.
Not much happened to KM between 2007 and the Corps’ letter allowing further testing. Apparently, something happened since the Copenhagen lab got the bone fragment last year, but it hasn’t resulted in a report yet. They have become chillingly silent on the topic and their testing. The most likely reason is that their test method didn’t yield results, or, secondly, that the results don’t fit someone’s agenda.
In the meantime, however, another set of remains, known as the “Anzick Child” has yielded interesting results and the tests were done in the same lab that has the bone fragment from KM.
The Anzick Child, less than two-years old at the time of the burial, died about 12,600 years ago. His family stained him with red ochre and he was buried in a grave, both carefully and ceremonially likely wrapped in hides which subsequently disappeared over time. Along with him were buried 115 bone and stone artifacts, all stained with red ochre as well. The child rested undisturbed until his remains were hit by a bulldozer in 1968. All the clues about the burial indicate it was conducted by “Clovis Culture” people. As the naturalist Doug Peacock relates in his book, In the Shadow of the Sabertooth:
It’s possible that no ancient American human skeleton has been treated more shabbily than the Anzick child. The discoverers, not understanding the significance of their find, took the burial materials home and scrubbed them hard with brushes in the sink, trying to get all that red stuff off. The fragmented human remains have been separated and handled by dozens, maybe many dozens of modern humans since their discovery. Cranial fragments were glued together with rubber cement. Everybody who came through carried off a few pieces of the child’s skeleton.
The Anzick Child DNA has finally been analyzed and the results have been released and interpreted by Dr. Michael R. Waters, Director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans. He didn’t actually conduct the test himself, that was Eske Willerslev of Copenhagen, Denmark, the same person and lab to whom the bone fragment of Kennewick Man was entrusted in 2011.
The Anzick Child results, according to Waters, shows very clearly a maternal lineage back to Eastern Asia. Waters didn’t mention the paternal lineage at all in his press releases.
Waters and his associates found that the child is a member of one of the five “haplogroups,” of Mitochondrial DNA (passed from mother to children) that are commonly found among Indian people, haplogroup D. This halpogroup is widely found in Asia and Siberia, and there is no question that there are genetic links between the two hemispheres. What was very interesting was the Y-chromosome (passed from father to son) results, which was not reported in the press.
Branches 21 and 25 represent the most recent shared ancestry between Anzick-1 and other members of the sample. Branch 19 is considerably shorter than neighbouring branches, which have had an additional ~12,600 years to accumulate mutations.
In other words, compared to other similar DNA, for example those of certain Mayan Indians (the “neighboring branches”), the Anzick child’s DNA was approximately 12,600 years younger. Since the child was already 12,600 years old, it would mean that the Mayan DNA was at least 25,000 years old and imply that the Mayans had left Asia, or genetically separated from Asians (if indeed they actually came that way), more than 10,000 years before the current theory says they should have. Genetic studies have consistently shown that Indian DNA is very ancient, but since most archaeologists do not accept the idea that Indians have been in the Americas longer than 15,000 years, the discrepancies between the genetic dates and the mainstream archaeological views have yet to be explained to anyone’s satisfaction.
The theory that Indians first crossed into the Americas through the Bering Strait 15,000 years ago, although firmly held by archaeologists for more than 100 years, has come under increasing challenge, not simply from genetic evidence, but also from new archaeological discoveries in South America. (source)
Back to Kennewick Man
The addressee on the letter mentioned at the beginning of this post is Dr. Thomas W. Stafford, Jr, co-author of Waters’ on the paper regarding the Anzick Child and a dozen or so other papers regarding “the first Americans”. The same team that brought us the Clovis Child results that left out the idea that the child’s DNA included evidence indicating that man has been in the Americas for at least 24,000 years. More to the point, the letter is approval for second sample “…the need for additional Kennewick remains to complete the DNA analysis”. One might assume that the team simply was unable to extract suffienct DNA from a previous sample. But the same team was able to accomplish their goals with a single sample from the Anzick Child whose bones are some 3,600 years older than KM’s. Or, possibly, the previous sample was contaminated by DNA from modern researchers (as was the report the first time DNA analysis was performed on the same bone fragment).
Yet, the Anzick Child remains had been handled by dozens of modern humans over the course of its modern history and the team extracted samples without apparent contamination.
Now, many months after the second KM sample was delivered to Copenhagen, still no report about the Kennewick Man’s genetic lineage, but he and the controversy surrounding him are mentioned in every news release related to “earliest Americans”.
|May 20th, 2014||#265|
Join Date: Dec 2012
Missing: Prehistoric Michigan’s Half-Billion Pounds of Copper
April 18, 2014
Approximately 9,000 years ago, the Great Lakes achieved their current definition. Water levels would have been high near the time of the final glacier melt enabling human travel along ancient trade routes. Soil conditions indicate that at one time the Wisconsin River was several miles wide in the center part of the state, and the escarpment of Door County as an ancient shoreline proves examples of this.
Across Green Bay, seven thousand years ago, near present-day Oconto, Wisconsin, people lived and comprised a period in prehistory archaeologists call “The Old Copper Culture”. Artifacts from this ancient civilization contribute to understanding the truly wide-ranging influences of early man. Found at the Oconto site were freshwater clam shells indicative of the Mississippi River and a shell representative of the southern Atlantic coastline.
Yet, it is copper for which this culture is known. It’s people may have been the earliest metalsmiths in the world working with the first malleable mineral known to mankind. They fashioned arrowheads and bracelets and other tools and ornaments But copper, like shells, was not native to either Green Bay or Lake Michigan. The only area along the major waterways of North America where copper is found is the Lake Superior region, some of the oldest land on earth.
It yielded vast quantities of copper both in ancient, as well as in modern times. Records made over twelve years at the turn of the century reveal that two and one-half million tons of copper passed through the Soo Locks. A value in 1898 dollars of $550 million. Yet, beneath each and every modern copper mine was an ancient pit mine. The Old Copper Culture and it’s trade partners established a precedent worthy of continuing inquiry.
Research of the historical accounts from modern times, many originating late in the 1800s, yields a summary and cross-reference. Although today’s archaeology community is in disagreement and debate regarding some of the early reports, it cannot deny the magnitude of discoveries made by our pioneering forefathers.
A book, privately published and now out of print, Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region, by Professors O.J. DuTemple and R.W. Drier, provided a collection of various reference articles. A synopsis of recent history was given in the Mining Gazette of Houghton, Michigan, on September 7, 1929 by Professor James Fisher of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology.
1536: When Jacques Cartier sailed through the St. Lawrence to Montreal, he reported the natives told him of vast seas of fresh water to the west and great hills of copper. But he did not push forward.
1636: Lagarde published a hearsay account in Paris from Statements made by the Indians.
1659 to 1660: Jesuit Relations reported the Ojibwa had only a few crude utensils, but most copper was in the form of nuggets, which the Indians worshiped and held in veneration.
1666-1667: Father Claude Allouez was the first white man to see Michigan copper. His reports in Jesuit Relations (1632 to 1673) attracted earliest attention to the Great Lakes area. In a religious colleaugue, Monsieur de Tracy, he renamed the lake Lac Tracy of “Superior.” Also, in collaboration with Father Marquette, he later published the first map of Lake Superior and the northern portions of the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan waterways.
1763: Alexander Henry, an adventurous Englishman, wrote firsthand about copper in the Ontonagon, Michigan region. He described a one- hundred pound chunk he had cut off with his axe from a single mass of copper. In this same year, after the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris gave the British control of these lands.
1770: One of the very first mining companies organized for what was thought to be a new discovery of copper. It was established in London with the King of England as an officer.
1783: At the close of the Revolutionary War, another Treaty of Paris established the boundary line between Great Britain (Canada) and the United States. This line ran through the middle of Lake Ontario. Erie, Huron and their connecting waterways. One member of the boundary commission, Benjamin Franklin, heard of the mineral wealth of the Lake Superior Region. Deflecting his pencil to the north of the middle line drawn through Lake Superior upon the crude map, he determined the division of land and included the large island of Isle Royale as a possession of the United States.
1796: In August, the British flag was finally lowered because of long delays in communication and reluctance of a military contingent to turn over its authority.
1800: Congress passed a resolution appointing an agent to collect information regarding the copper mines of the Lake Superior Region, including Isle Royale.
1843: The Ontonagon Boulder was shipped to the Smithsonian Institution, where it still resides. The pure copper boulder weighed 3,708 pounds when shipped, but reports speculated it had been reduced in size during prehistory by mauls removing large chunks.
1850: The Report on the Geology and Topography of a Portion of Lake Superior Land District in the State of Michigan explains in detail how one large copper mass was discovered by Samuel O. Knapp, the agent of the Minnesota Mining Company: “…a pit 26 feet deep filled with clay and a matted mass of mouldering vegetable matter…copper mass was 10 feet long, 3 feet wide and nearly 2 feet thick, and weighing over 6 tons.
“On digging around it, the mass was found to rest on billets of oak supported by sleepers of the same material…dark colored… lost all of its consistency. A knife blade may be thrust into it as easily as into a peat bog. The ancient miners had evidently raised it about five feet and then abandoned the work as too laborious.”
Other 5,000 and 6,000 pound masses were found on similar crib work.
1856: The largest mass of copper in the world to date was discovered. Forty-six feet long, it’s greatest thickness was over eight feet. The approximate weight was five hundred tons, or one million pounds.
1862: The Smithsonian Institute sent Colonel Charles Whittelsey and other scientists to investigate and report about the prehistoric race that mined copper.
1874: Another large mass of copper was discovered in Upper Michigan. It was 16.5 feet beneath the surface, and under it were poles, as if it had been entirely detached, but not much displaced. The boulder weighed 5,720 pounds, as described by Mr. Henry Gillman in the Annual Volume of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1875.
1878: The largest mass yet found in the McCargo Cove region of Isle Royale was taken out the previous summer, weighing six tons. The ancients did not discover this prodigious specimen, though they were within two feet of it. Much labor had been spent on these other masses by the prehistoric miners, as evidenced by hammer-marked and pitted surfaces, and beaten-up ridges. One mass found in 1879, although not detached from the enclosing rock, was wholly uncovered and undermined.
1879: At Minong Mine, two large masses wrought by the ancients were discovered near the head of McCargo Cove: one weighed 3.317 pounds: the other, 4,175 pounds.
Today, Smithsonian Institution spokesmen may not agree for politically correct reasons, but after the study of its researchers a century ago, they concluded that a civilization of a higher order than the Native American was responsible for the ancient copper mining. They pointed vaguely to half-formed notions of the Mound Builders, but there were no artifacts, no bones, no dead left in the Lake Superior region.
And while the formal burial mounds of the Old Copper Culture near Oconto, Wisconsin, have provided interest for the continuing inquiry of the scientist, compared to the cubic acres, even cubic miles of rock that were removed from the ancient mine sites, only infinitesimal amounts of the mineral were found near Oconto. As more and more discoveries were being registered in the mid-1800s, a general consensus of opinion began to emerge that another race distinct from the Indians, who knew little of the mines, must have been responsible for the prehistoric enterprise. Quite literally, many tons of copper are still missing.
As the Old Copper Culture flourished, trade routes along the waterways of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and the world, were being established. When Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the aboriginal inhabitants of what is now the United States, made only slight use of copper. They were entirely unfamiliar with bronze or brass, alloys of copper. However, southward down the Mississippi Valley, across the Gulf, into Mexico, Central and South America, extensive use of copper was made by the Aztecs, Incas and Toltecs.
Along with the Old Copper Culture, other societies used copper for purposes other than fishing hooks and arrowheads. Copper artwork has been found in most of America’s prehistoric sites, including Aztalan in southern Wisconsin, Etowah in Georgia, Spiro in Oklahoma, Grove Creek in Ohio, Angel Mounds in Indiana, and Cahokia, the ancient metropolis in southern Illinois, which had a population in 1100 A.D. larger than London. Internationally, copper found its way to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan of Mexico, Tulum, Palenque, Uxmal, and beyond. It was used in these prehistoric communities for many hundreds of years.
In Upper Michigan, the tremendous magnitude of the ancient mining’s waste product(the ancient stone mauls used to separate mineral from rock) bring question just how much copper could have been removed after five hundred years, one thousand years, two thousand years. At one ancient mining site of just a few square miles, it was estimated that these stone mauls would have filled ten wagons, and weighed one thousand tons.
Around the stone mauls are artificial grooves where these tools would have been tied to a handle. These grooves were nearly obliterated on the supper side, while the lower side presented a comparatively fresh appearance because of less exposure to rains and the general atmosphere over a very long period of time.
Examination in the late 19th Century revealed that the ancient pits were crowded with debris, leaves and trees. A hemlock cut down (per a report from 1850) had 395 rings as counted by Mr. Knapp. Upon excavation, ancient stone mauls were discovered entwined in the roots.
Extraction of copper from the ore in which it was embedded was accomplished by spalling. That is, heating the rock intensely, then dousing it with cold water. The rock would crack, thereby freeing the pure copper. In addition to the stone mauls found at the bottom of many pits was charcoal, evidence of past fires from the spalling technique.
Radioactive decay of carbon at established rates allows dating of ancient artifacts by radio-metric age dating. In the 1950s, radio-carbon dating of charcoal found at the bottom of several pits showed that they had been worked 3,800 years ago, plus or minus 300 years. Using bounds from the mounds of the Old Copper Culture, the oldest known cemetery in America, this date was exceeded by 3,700 years, back to 5,500 B.C., with a similar margin of several hundred years.
Mankind has always been industrious. The ancient copper mines may be the first evidence that humans could establish industrial organizations. An engineer working at one mine site 100 years ago was asked if he could estimate how many men worked this particular ancient site and for how long. The next day, after considering the question in some detail, the engineer replied that given the mining methods of the ancients, the transportation of stone mails, the cutting of wood for hearing the rock, provision of food for the miners, and in an area of only a few square mils, the ancient workings represented the efforts of 10,000 people working for more than 1,000 years.
Cross-referencing with another opinion offers 30,000 prehistoric miners engaged for 500 years, removing between thirty and fifty million tons of copper. Questions continue to arise, because even the smaller amount here is three times the amount mined by modern methods during 100 years. Additional professional reports from the early mining enterprise from the early 1900s described it as a “colossal magnitude” and “sp extraordinary as in almost exceed belief.”
Along the waterways, the Old Copper Culture stands out for all it represents. Some very old Indian legends do mention that a white race was driven out of their territories far back in their history. It is here science stops and conjecture continues. One report actually claimed that from the inquiry into prehistoric develops into a maze of speculation.
It is important to understand that when mankind as a whole grew out of the Neolithic Period, the last phase of the Stone Age, and moved into the Bronze Age, this was preceded by an intermediary period of some length, when the Old Copper Culture flourished, the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age. Perhaps it was in this shadowy pre-civilization that the great copper mining engineers flourished in ancient America.
New Edition: Guide Maps of Houghton and Keweenaw Counties. Map.
The Ancient Copper Workings on Isle Royale, George R. Fox, circa 1911. (The author was the Archeologist and Director of the Edward K. Warren Foundation of Three Oaks, MI.)
Mining Gazette. “History of Famous Ontonogon Copper Rock Recalled by Society’s Outing” Houghton, MI. 22 Aug. 1916.
Engineering and Mining Journal. “Ancient Copper Mines of Isle Royle,” Professor N.H. Winchell. Volume XXXII. July to December, 1881. Scientific Publishing Co, New York
Michigan History Magazine, “Michigan’s Most Ancient Industry: the Prehistoric Mines and Miners of Isle Royale.” William P.F. Ferguson, Vol 7, 1923
Atlantic Monthly, “Ancient Mining on the Shores of Lake Superior. Volume XV, 1865.
Cahokia Mounds, Ancient Metropolis, prod. and dir. Gary Warriner. 1 hour Camera One. Caokia Mounds Museum Society. 1994. Videocassette.
American Anthropologist, “Aboriginal Copper Mines of Isle Royale of Lake Superior.” William H. Holmes. Volume 3, 1901.
Evidences of Prehistoric Man on Lake Superior, John T. Reeder, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. Volume 30, 1903.
Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region, Octave Joseph DuTemple, privately published.
Boom Copper, Angus Murdock, Macmillan Company, New York, 1943.
Inside Michigan, “Michigan’s Most Ancient Industry is America’s Prehistoric Copper Mines,” July, 1953.
Last edited by Kev; May 20th, 2014 at 09:04 PM. Reason: sp.; cap.
|August 5th, 2014||#266|
24,000-Year-Old Body Shows Kinship to Europeans and American Indians
Scientists studied the genome of a boy buried near Lake Baikal in Siberia and were amazed to find partly European ancestry.
By NICHOLAS WADE
November 20, 2013
The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia some 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.
The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last Ice Age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed. Though none of the Mal’ta boy’s skin or hair survives, his genes suggest he would have had brown hair, brown eyes and freckled skin.
The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion — about 25 percent — of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.
The Mal’ta boy was 3 to 4 years old and was buried under a stone slab wearing an ivory diadem, a bead necklace and a bird-shaped pendant. Elsewhere at the same site about 30 Venus figurines were found of the kind produced by the Upper Paleolithic cultures of Europe. The remains were excavated by Russian archaeologists over a 20-year period ending in 1958 and stored in museums in St. Petersburg.
There they lay for some 50 years until they were examined by a team led by Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. Dr. Willerslev, an expert in analyzing ancient DNA, was seeking to understand the peopling of the Americas by searching for possible source populations in Siberia. He extracted DNA from bone taken from the child’s upper arm, hoping to find ancestry in the East Asian peoples from whom Native Americans are known to be descended.
But the first results were disappointing. The boy’s mitochondrial DNA belonged to the lineage known as U, which is commonly found among the modern humans who first entered Europe about 44,000 years ago. The lineages found among Native Americans are those designated A, B, C, D and X, so the U lineage pointed to contamination of the bone by the archaeologists or museum curators who had handled it, a common problem with ancient DNA projects. “The study was put on low speed for about a year because I thought it was all contamination,” Dr. Willerslev said.
His team proceeded anyway to analyze the nuclear genome, which contains the major part of human inheritance. They were amazed when the nuclear genome also turned out to have partly European ancestry. Examining the genome from a second Siberian grave site, that of an adult who died 17,000 years ago, they found the same markers of European origin. Together, the two genomes indicate that descendants of the modern humans who entered Europe had spread much farther east across Eurasia than had previously been assumed and occupied Siberia during an extremely cold period starting 20,000 years ago that is known as the Last Glacial Maximum.
The other surprise from the Mal’ta boy’s genome was that it matched to both Europeans and Native Americans but not to East Asians. Dr. Willerslev’s interpretation was that the ancestors of Native Americans had already separated from the East Asian population when they interbred with the people of the Mal’ta culture, and that this admixed population then crossed over the Beringian land bridge that then lay between Siberia and Alaska to become a founding population of Native Americans.
“We estimate that 14 to 38 percent of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population,” he and colleagues wrote in an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
A European contribution to Native American ancestry could explain two longstanding puzzles about the people’s origins. One is that many ancient Native American skulls, including that of the well-known Kennewick man, look very different from those of the present day population. Another is that one of the five mitochondrial DNA lineages found in Native Americans, the lineage known as X, also occurs in Europeans. One explanation is that Europeans managed to cross the Atlantic in small boats some 20,000 years ago and joined the Native Americans from Siberia.
Dr. Willerslev thinks it more likely that European bearers of the X lineage had migrated across Siberia with the ancestors of the Mal’ta culture and joined them in their trek across the Beringian land bridge.
He said his finding does not solve the much-disputed question of when the Americas were first settled. Archaeologists long believed the people of the Clovis culture, dated from 13,000 years ago, were the first Americans, but several recent finds point to an earlier date. “We need the sequencing of more ancient genomes to address this question,” Dr. Willerslev said.
The Mal’ta people built houses that were partly underground, with bone walls and roofs made of reindeer antlers. Their culture is distinguished by its many art objects and its survival in an unforgiving climate.
Dr. Willerslev presented his team’s findings last month at a conference in Santa Fe on Native American origins. “There was a lot of surprise and some skepticism, as is often the case in science toward new findings,” said Dennis H. O’Rourke, an anthropologist at the University of Utah who works on ancient DNA and the North American Arctic.
Dr. O’Rourke said the result would prompt a search for more ancient DNA from Siberia in order to provide a better context for Dr. Willerslev’s reconstruction of early American origins. “I think it’s a very important and really interesting result, but it is from a single individual,” he said.
Theodore G. Schurr, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said Dr. Willerslev had provided an interesting new perspective on Native American origins that helped explain the presence of the mitochondrial X lineage in North America and enlarged the understanding of population history in Siberia. But the time and place of the East-West population mixing adduced by Dr. Willerslev is not yet clear, he said.
An unexplained feature of the mixing is that the Mal’ta people did not pass on their mitochondrial DNA since the U lineage is unknown among Native Americans. Since mitochondrial DNA is passed down only through the female line, the population ancestral to Native Americans could have been formed by men of the Mal’ta culture who acquired East Asian wives.
Dr. Willerslev sees this as one possibility, another being that mitochondrial DNA lineages are easily lost through genetic drift, the random change in DNA patterns through the generations. “One has to be careful setting up detailed geographical scenarios at this stage,” Dr. Willerslev said.
|April 26th, 2017||#267|
Archaeology shocker: Study claims humans reached the Americas 130,000 years ago
By Sarah Kaplan April 26 at 1:00 PM
Some 130,000 years ago, scientists say, a mysterious group of ancient people visited the coastline of what is now Southern California. More than 100,000 years before they were supposed to have arrived in the Americas, these unknown people used five heavy stones to break the bones of a mastodon. They cracked open femurs to suck out the marrow and, using the rocks as hammers, scored deep notches in the bone. When finished, they abandoned the materials in the soft, fine soil; one tusk planted upright in the ground like a single flag in the archaeological record. Then the people vanished.
This is the bold claim put forward by paleontologist Thomas Deméré and his colleagues in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The researchers say that the scratched-up mastodon fossils and large, chipped stones uncovered during excavation for a San Diego highway more than 20 years ago are evidence of an unknown hominin species, perhaps Homo erectus, Neanderthals, maybe even Homo sapiens.
If Deméré's analysis is accurate, it would set back the arrival date for hominins in the Americas and suggest that modern humans might not have been the first species to arrive. But the paper has raised skepticism among many researchers who study American prehistory. Several said this is a classic case of an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence — which they argue the Nature paper doesn’t provide.
“You can’t push human activity in the New World back 100,000 years based on evidence as inherently ambiguous as broken bones and nondescript stones,” said David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University. “They need to do a better job showing nature could not be responsible for those bones and stones.”
For decades, discussion of early settlement of the Americas has focused on the tail end of the Ice Age. Most archaeologists agree that humans crossed a land bridge from Asia into Alaska sometime after 25,000 years ago, then either walked between ice sheets or took boats down the Pacific coastline to reach the wide open plains of Pleistocene America roughly 15,000 years before present. Though scientists debated the exact timing of this journey, their estimates differed by hundreds or a few thousand years, not tens of thousands.
“It is a bold claim,” Deméré acknowledged, “an order of magnitude older age than has been suggested.” But he asked his colleagues not to dismiss the research out of hand based only on a number.
“This evidence begs for some explanation,” he said, “and this is the explanation we’ve come up with.”
The rocks and mastodon remains were identified in 1992 by paleontologist Richard Cerutti, a colleague of Deméré's at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. Cerutti was asked to monitor work on a new freeway south of San Diego in case any important fossils were uncovered.
When Cerutti spotted a broken tusk stuck in the soil overturned by an excavator, he called for a halt in activity and summoned Deméré to the site.
“You’ll want to see this,” Deméré recalled Cerutti saying.
The scientists set up a geographic grid system and began carefully excavating several more stones and bones, plotting each new object on their grid to preserve its location. It took several months to uncover every artifact.
“As the site unfolded over that five month period it became more and more exciting and more puzzling at the same time,” Deméré recalled.
The biggest find was a partial skeleton from a single American mastodon. Peculiarly, the largest bones were scarred and broken, but more fragile ribs and vertebrae were still intact. Some of the bones seemed to have been arranged deliberately alongside one another. Many bore the spiral fractures that are a signature of ancient people hammering on fresh bone — either to extract marrow for food or break the bone into tools.
The bones were clustered in groups around a few large, heavy stones known as “cobbles.” The size and makeup of these rocks didn’t match the fine-grained surrounding soil. They bore marks you'd expect to see on a hammer and anvil. Scattered around the site were flakes that seem to have been chipped off the cobbles, as though someone had struck the rocks against another solid object. When held up to their source stones, the flakes fit back into them like pieces of a puzzle.
“It was unusual to say the least … and suggested this was a not a typical paleontological site and we should consider the possibility that we had association of extinct megafauna with humans, or at least early human activity,” Deméré said of the findings.
[How did the first Americans get here? A story of boats, bones and ice]
But it was difficult to figure out how old the site was. Any soft tissue in the fossilized bones had long decayed, so scientists couldn’t use radiocarbon dating to determine their age. They attempted to date fossils using the uranium-thorium method, which measures radioactive decay of uranium. But the technique was not very reliable at the time, so the Cerutti mastodon remained an enigma.
More than a decade later, a mutual friend put Deméré in touch with archaeologist Steve Holen. Holen believes that human history in the Americas dates back much farther than the end of the Ice Age, something he acknowledges is a “minority position” in his field. For several years, he has been examining museum collections and new fossil sites in search of ancient bones that look like they were touched by people.
The breaks on the mastodon fossils looked as though they were human-caused, he said. But to make sure, Holen tried to recreate them using a stone hammer the same size as the one found at the Cerutti site and the skeleton of an elephant that had been recently buried.
“The bone was extremely fresh and smelled very bad,” Holen said of that experiment. “I almost wished I wasn't doing this.” It took all of Holen's effort — and the help of a younger, stronger colleague — to break the bones. When they succeeded, they recognized the same breakage patterns as the ones found on the fossils. There's no evidence that anyone hunted or butchered the mastodon for meat, but it definitely seemed to him like some human or human cousin had cracked the bones.
“Once you do the experiment then you really can understand this much better,” Holen said.
Next the team reached out to geochronologist James Paces, who retried the now much-improved uranium-thorium dating technique on the bones. He concluded that they are 130,000 years old, give or take 9,400. This date corresponds with the accepted age of the layer of rock in which the bones and cobbles were found.
But it far exceeds any established date for settlement of the Americas. The oldest biological remains from any humans on the continent is a coprolite (fossilized poop) from 14,300 years ago. Studies based on genetic analysis of modern Native Americans suggest that humans didn't make it over the land bridge that once linked northeast Asia to Alaska until 25,000 years ago.
If the stones and bones really are evidence of people, then who were they? How did they get to this part of the world so long ago? And why haven't we found other evidence of their presence? Did they die out not long after they arrived?
Because there are no hominin remains at the site, and rock hammer technology was used by many hominin species, the scientists caution that discussion of the identity of these people is purely speculative. In a supplement to their Nature paper, they say the Cerutti people may have been Neanderthals, Denisovans (a species known only from a few fragments found in a cave in northern Siberia), or members of the species Homo erectus. It seems unlikely that they were Homo sapiens — anatomically modern humans didn't migrate out of Africa until after 100,000 years ago, according to most estimates.
As for how they got here, Deméré said they may have been able to cross the land bridge before the last ice age, when the planet warmed and sea levels rose. Other species migrated to the Americas in this period, Deméré said, and the hominins may have followed them over.
Otherwise, the first Americans could have used boats to cross the Bering Strait, and then scoot down the Pacific coast — archaeological finds on the Mediterranean island of Crete suggest that hominins were able to cross the sea via boat more than 100,000 years ago.
[Surprising infant grave may solve the mystery of North American migration]
To some who study American prehistory, this interpretation of the Cerutti site beggars belief. Meltzer called the claim “grandiose.” Donald Grayson, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Washington, noted that history is rife with examples of scientists misinterpreting strange markings on stone as evidence of human activity. He pointed to the Calico Hills site in the Mojave Desert, which the archaeologist Louis Leakey believed contained 200,000-year-old stone tools. Subsequent studies have largely discredited Leakey's claim — the apparent tools were most likely “geofacts,” natural stone formations that only look like they were crafted by humans.
“It is one thing to show that broken bones and modified rocks could have been produced by people, which Holen and his colleagues have done,” Grayson said. “It is quite another to show that people, and people alone, could have produced those modifications. This, Holen [has] most certainly not done, making this a very easy claim to dismiss.”
Mike Waters, the director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M, also criticized the claim. To convince him that people were in the Americas so much earlier before the first physical evidence of their remains, he would expect to see “unequivocal stone artifacts,” he said. He doesn't think the cobbles found at the Cerutti mastodon site meet that standard.
Rick Potts, the director of the Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History, was more measured in his appraisal. Though he thought the team's analysis of the bones and stones was thorough, he pointed out a few oddities about the site. For one, it's unusual that people would use hammer stones to process bones but not any sharp-edged tools, even though that technology had been around for more than a million years. For another, as he pointed out, the mastodon's molars were also crushed, and there's no reason he can think of that humans would crack the huge teeth. If those teeth were broken by natural forces, then perhaps the rest of the bones were too.
“It's not a solid case,” Potts said, “but my goodness it's a compelling one.”
Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist at NMNH who specializes in studying tooth and tool marks on ancient bones, agreed.
“It’s funny because when I first started reading the paper I didn’t see the extra zero and I thought, 'oh, 13,000 years, this sounds good,'" Pobiner said. “And then I saw the extra zero and I thought, 'Holy cow!'”
Pobiner acknowledged that the Cerutti site contains less archaeological evidence than scientists would like before making a claim of this magnitude. But as someone who has spent her whole career looking at scratch marks and breakage patterns on bones, the evidence looks to her like it could be human modification.
Deméré said that he and his colleagues considered possible alternate explanations, but none seemed to fit. Trampling by another large animal would not produce those breakage patterns, they concluded. And environmental forces, like a powerful flood, would have broken the smaller, more fragile bones as well as the big one. Holen added that the rock layer in which the artifacts were found is largely intact — it does not seem to have been subject to disturbances like earthquakes or upheavals that would make the site more difficult to interpret.
Erella Hovers, an archaeologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem who reviewed the paper and wrote an analysis of it for Nature, said she thought the researchers did a thorough job of ruling out natural causes of the particular breakage patterns. She added that the evidence looks much like archaeological sites she has studied in Africa and the Middle East; if the same site was found in that part of the world, she said, people would have fewer questions about it.
The Cerutti site researchers expect to face scrutiny from his colleagues about the paper. That is partly why they have made 3-D images of the mastodon fossils available online.
“I think the models are important in terms of supporting the paper because they allow anyone to look at this evidence in much the same way the co-authors did,” co-author Adam Rountrey, collection manager at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, said in a statement. “It’s fine to be skeptical, but look at the evidence and judge for yourself. That’s what we’re trying to encourage by making these models available.”
The scientists also hope that their paper will prompt their colleagues to take a closer look at this period in American history. Perhaps they will find more evidence of hominin presence, bolstering the Cerutti researchers' claim. Or perhaps the mastodon site is a fluke — or a mistake — and they will find nothing at all.
“The thing to remember is it's a beginning to a new line of inquiry. It doesn't solve anything,” said Hovers. “It asks new questions.”
|November 5th, 2017||#268|
SO MUCH FOR THAT —
Most scientists now reject the idea that the first Americans came by land
Researchers embrace the kelp highway hypothesis in “a dramatic intellectual turnabout.”
ANNALEE NEWITZ - 11/4/2017, 3:50 PM
It's been one of the most contentious debates in anthropology, and now scientists are saying it's pretty much over. A group of prominent anthropologists have done an overview of the scientific literature and declare in Science magazine that the "Clovis first" hypothesis of the peopling of the Americas is dead.
For decades, students were taught that the first people in the Americas were a group called the Clovis who walked over the Bering land bridge about 13,500 years ago. They arrived (so the narrative goes) via an ice-free corridor between glaciers in North America. But evidence has been piling up since the 1980s of human campsites in North and South America that date back much earlier than 13,500 years. At sites ranging from Oregon in the US to Monte Verde in Chile, evidence of human habitation goes back as far as 18,000 years.
In the 2000s, overwhelming evidence suggested that a pre-Clovis group had come to the Americans before there was an ice-free passage connecting Beringia to the Americas. As Smithsonian anthropologist Torben C. Rick and his colleagues put it, "In a dramatic intellectual turnabout, most archaeologists and other scholars now believe that the earliest Americans followed Pacific Rim shorelines from northeast Asia to Beringia and the Americas."
Now scholars are supporting the "kelp highway hypothesis," which holds that people reached the Americas when glaciers withdrew from the coasts of the Pacific Northwest 17,000 years ago, creating "a possible dispersal corridor rich in aquatic and terrestrial resources." Humans were able to boat and hike into the Americas along the coast due to the food-rich ecosystem provided by coastal kelp forests, which attracted fish, crustaceans, and more.
No one disputes that the Clovis peoples came through Beringia and the ice free corridor. But the Clovis would have formed a second wave of immigrants to the continent.
Despite all the evidence for human habitation, ranging from tools and butchered animal bones to the remains of campfires, scientists are still uncertain who the pre-Clovis peoples were. We have many examples of Clovis technology, with characteristic shapes for projectile points made from bone and stone. But we have no recognizable pre-Clovis toolkit.
That may be about to change, however. The pre-Clovis people traveled along a now-drowned coastline, submerged after the last of the ice-age glaciers melted. New techniques in marine archaeology, ranging from ROVs to underwater lasers, are helping scientists explore ancient submerged villages. A team even turned up a 14,500-year-old campsite in Florida in a blackwater sinkhole last year.
Rick and his colleagues write that the big question now is when pre-Clovis people actually arrived in the Americas. They suggest the arrival could be as early as 20,000 years ago on the verdant kelp highway. Other researchers, however, say people could have arrived during a temperate period about 130,000 years ago. A recent paper in Nature describes what appear to be the 130,000-year-old butchered remains of mastodons in California, along with sharp stones used to deflesh the animals. There is plenty of skepticism in the scientific community about this discovery, but the evidence can't be ignored.
To the best of our knowledge, the kelp highway brought humans to the Americas. Using boats and fishing tools, humans made it all the way from Asia to the Americas, founding many coastal communities along the way. And now for the next debate: who were they, and when exactly did they arrive?
|November 5th, 2017||#269|
For much of the 20th century, most archaeologists believed humans first colonized the Americas ∼13,500 years ago via an overland route that crossed Beringia and followed a long and narrow, mostly ice-free corridor to the vast plains of central North America. There, Clovis people and their descendants hunted large game and spread rapidly through the New World. Twentieth-century discoveries of distinctive Clovis artifacts throughout North America, some associated with mammoth or mastodon kill sites, supported this “Clovis-first” model. North America's coastlines and their rich marine, estuarine, riverine, and terrestrial ecosystems were peripheral to the story of how and when the Americas were first settled by humans. Recent work along the Pacific coastlines of North and South America has revealed that these environments were settled early and continuously provided a rich diversity of subsistence options and technological resources for New World hunter-gatherers.