The First Americans (Peopling Of The Americas)

intaglio

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Why is it that marine migration is ignored? I believe that Australasia was settled very early and that could only have involved some measure of boat building skill. If the bearing Straits were blocked the major currents that make navigation of the Aleutian chain difficult would be absent.
 
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FraterLibre

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Sailing Sailing

I agree, boats explain much and the Polynesians did well by it, hm?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Seafaring clue to first Americans

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

People in North America were voyaging by sea some 8,000 years ago, boosting a theory that some of the continent's first settlers arrived there by boat.

That is the claim of archaeologists who have found evidence of ancient seafaring along the Californian coast.

The traditional view holds that the first Americans were trekkers from Siberia who crossed a land bridge into Alaska during the last Ice Age.

The report in American Antiquity makes arrival by boat seem more plausible.

Researchers conducted an archaeological analysis of 9,000-8,000-year-old tools unearthed at Eel Point on San Clemente, one of the eight Channel Islands that lie off the Californian coast.

They propose that some tools used by the prehistoric people of Eel Point may have had the same functions as implements employed for boat-building by Chumash Indians in the early 20th Century.

Sea level rise since the last Ice Age flooded much of the coastline of North America, presumably drowning any possible evidence of early coastal migrations
Prof Mark Raab, California State University

For example, a triangular "reamer" tool from Eel Point closely resembles a Chumash "canoe drill" used to expand an existing hole in a wood plank.

On this basis, archaeologists Mark Raab, Jim Cassidy and Nina Kononenko argue that the inhabitants of Eel Point were accomplished seafarers.

Dolphin hunting

Animal remains uncovered at the site show that the inhabitants hunted dolphins, sea lions and seals and collected mussels.

Furthermore, Professor Raab points out that the nearby island of San Miguel was occupied by humans 12,200 years ago - circumstantial evidence that sea travel began even earlier.

"The only food resources on the Channel Islands effectively come from the sea. Living there means an intensively maritime way of life," the California State University scientist told BBC News Online.

"People had settled San Nicolas island, about 60 miles from the nearest landfall, between 8,000 to 8,500 years ago. Clearly people were getting around in some kind of watercraft."

But some researchers reject suggestions that early Americans colonised the continent by coasting along its shoreline in boats.

They maintain that the first Americans were the Clovis people, who crossed into the New World from Asia when a fall in sea levels at the height of the last Ice Age created a land bridge, known as Beringia, between the two continents.

Lack of evidence

The problem for those backing the coastal migration theory has always been a lack of evidence.

"The basic problem is that all boats are made out of organic materials that just don't preserve in the archaeological record," said Professor Knut Fladmark, of Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Professor Fladmark believes humans were building boats 40,000-50,000 years ago and cites evidence that Australia was colonised by this time despite the fact there was no land bridge connecting it to South East Asia.

"Until you find the boats there will remain a cadre of archaeologists who will insist on not accepting this," Professor Fladmark told BBC News Online.

"Sea level rise since the last Ice Age flooded much of the coastline of North America, presumably drowning any possible evidence of early coastal migrations," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/3517229.stm

Published: 2004/02/26 12:12:50 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

Mighty_Emperor

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And the story rumbles one...........

No mystery skeleton review

Monday, April 19, 2004 Posted: 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)



SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- A U.S. appeals court declined Monday to reconsider its February decision allowing scientists to resume testing on a 9,000-year-old skeleton -- called "Kennewick Man" -- despite protests from American Indian tribes.

The legal fight over the "Kennewick Man" skeleton started soon after after two teenagers discovered it near the shore of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington in 1996.

Scientists dated the remains as 8,340 to 9,200 years old, yet called the find puzzling because its features differed from those of American Indians. They hoped to continue testing to gain new insights into early North American people.

Indian tribes wanted the remains be buried, but in a ruling against the tribes and the U.S. government, which had sided with the Indians, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected the request in February.

On Monday, the court declined to ask an 11-judge en banc panel reconsider the February ruling.

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/LAW/04/19/court.skeleton.reut/
 

Mighty_Emperor

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The Oldest Americans May Prove Even Older

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

Published: June 29, 2004



ARNWELL, S.C., June 24 - On a hillside by the Savannah River, under tall oaks bearded with Spanish moss, an archaeologist and a graduate student crouched in the humid depths of a trench. They had reason to think they were in the presence of a breathtaking discovery.

Or at the least, they were on to something more than 20,000 years old that would throw American archaeology into further turmoil over its most contentious issue: when did people first reach America, and who were they?

The sandy soil of the trench walls was flecked with pieces of chert, the source of flint coveted by ancient toolmakers. Some of the stone flakes appeared to be unfinished discards. Others had the sharp-edged look of more fully realized blades, chisels and scrapers. Long ago, it seemed, Stone Age hunter-gatherers had frequently stopped here and, perhaps, these toolmakers were among the first Americans.

With deft strokes of his trowel, the archaeologist, Dr. Albert C. Goodyear of the University of South Carolina, excised a chunk of chert about the size of a cantaloupe. Its sides, he said, had all the marks of flintknappers' work. They had presumably smashed one cobble against another, leaving fracture lines through the rock, and then recovered thin slices for making sharp tools.

"This is not a natural occurrence," Dr. Goodyear said, showing the beaten-about chert cobble afterward. "No river, fire or animals could do this. Too many blows have been struck."

If he is right, American prehistory is being extended deeper in time at this remote dig site near Barnwell. Dr. Robson Bonnichsen, an expert on early Americans who is not directly involved in the excavation, said it could even be "the single most significant Ice Age site in North America" as a place bearing tantalizing evidence for "understanding the earliest prehistory of the Americas."

The land is owned by the Clariant Corporation, the big Swiss chemical company, which allows archaeologists to dig to their minds' content in the forest at the Topper Site, named for the person who brought it to their attention more than 20 years ago.

Judging by the depth of sediments, the site may have been a toolmaking center at least 7,000 years earlier than the arrival of big-game hunters known as the Clovis people. Once thought to be the earliest Americans, Clovis hunters, named for the town in New Mexico where their traces were uncovered 70 years ago, left their finely worked fluted projectile points across the United States over five centuries, beginning 13,000 years ago. All the dates here are based on radiocarbon calculations adjusted to calendar years.

The two men in the trench, their shirts now soaked in sweat, were eager to find evidence that would yield more precise dates for the finds. They leaned into a seam of darker soil interspersed with black grains that the graduate student, Tony Pickering, had found three weeks before. It just might be the remains of a fireplace. If so, any residue of charcoal should give a reliable date through radiocarbon analysis.

Dr. Goodyear emerged from the trench clutching four small plastic zip-lock bags. "I don't know how we ever did archaeology before zip-lock bags," he remarked as he held them up for examination. Each bag contained soil and several pea-size black fragments that he hoped represented the residue of charcoal from a hearth.

"I hope the laboratory gets three dates out of this," he said. "And I hope they're all similar dates."

In his more exuberant moments, Dr. Goodyear ventured that the dates could be as old as 25,000, even 30,000, years ago. He has already found elsewhere on the site what appear to be 16,000-year-old artifacts, evidence for a pre-Clovis peopling of America similar to findings in Virginia and Pennsylvania. None of those discoveries has convinced skeptics.

A few conservative holdouts still question the one widely accepted pre-Clovis claim: that earlier people were living in Chile at a site excavated by Dr. Tom D. Dillehay of the University of Kentucky that is known as Monte Verde. A strong endorsement of Monte Verde by prominent archaeologists published in 1998 encouraged others, including Dr. Goodyear, to dig deeper.

...........

Dr. Bonnichsen, who is director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University in College Station and has visited the Topper site and examined some of the possible artifacts, said, "If the preliminary findings hold, this is a tremendous discovery." But he cautioned that "a lot of hard research needs to be done to really test this thing thoroughly."

Dating the putative fireplace will be an important next step. As soon as that is done, Dr. Goodyear said, he and other scientists from several universities expect to announce the age and describe the excavated materials in a journal article, perhaps by the end of the year. Even if the charcoal is from a natural fire, not a human campfire, he said, the analysis should establish the age of any artifacts from the same sediment layer.

A bigger hurdle, scientists said, may be to establish that the stone pieces are indeed human-made tools. Many a presumed pre-Clovis site has failed to gain scholarly acceptance over the question of whether stone pieces that look like tools were the work of early humans or of nature.

Dr. Bonnichsen said much of the 16,000-year-old chert material previously excavated by Dr. Goodyear "looks really good" and might well be tools. At the laboratory at Texas A&M, microscopic examination of the supposed cutting edges showed gouges and scratches that appeared to be wear marks from scraping hides, butchering and cutting wood. They look, he said, "as if they are going to qualify as artifacts."

But it is too soon, he added, to render a nature-versus-culture verdict on the stone pieces from the greater depths and earlier ages at Topper. More experimental work is required to understand how the chert could have been modified into tools.

Dr. Goodyear, whose specialty is the study of stone tools, agreed, though he insisted that "so far we have found no plausible way nature could have made these tools, but we have shown how humans could have made them." The sample collected so far, Dr. Bonnichsen and others said, is too small to be definitive.

Dr. Goodyear said he planned a wider and more intensive search next year. Dr. Sarah C. Sherwood, an anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, is to visit the site next month to investigate the hearthlike material for signs of bone and plant remains, possible evidence for cooking fires, and to determine whether the remains are indeed from a fireplace and are not an accumulation of ash deposited by river floods. Other scientists from Tennessee, Texas A&M, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution have inspected the digs, some of them conducting their own tests.

At the end of dig season this year, Dr. Goodyear seemed reconciled to the prospect of hard years of excavation, research and argument ahead.

"If this is 25,000 years old, and I think it is, then scientists will come here from all over the world to see for themselves," he said, while driving back to Barnwell after a day in the field. "And they will argue about it for another 10 years."

The challenge for the Topper archaeologists, as for others making pre-Clovis discoveries, is not only the ambiguity of the evidence, but also its unfamiliarity. Clovis workmanship was painstaking and distinctive. Nearly all the spear points were several inches long and sharpened on both sides. Many of them were found among bones of mammoths that they were used to kill, accounting for the long-held reputation of the Clovis people as primarily big-game hunters. That also agrees with the theory that the first Americans crossed from Siberia to Alaska in pursuit of mammoth and mastodon at the end of the last Ice Age.

Yet all claims for pre-Clovis cultures rest largely on finds of a much more primitive technology. If these are tools, they are simpler and the weapon points are not bifacial; they are finished on only one side. For these and other reasons, archaeologists who made their careers on the Clovis culture usually react to possible evidence of predecessors with stiff skepticism.

Calling this the "Clovis bias," Dr. Goodyear said, "You look for something with one idea in mind, and you don't see it, then people become uncomfortable and confused, and they often reject it."

That is changing, though. Three other likely pre-Clovis sites have been found in the eastern United States: at Meadowcroft, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and at Cactus Hill and Saltville in Virginia. Other sites in South America, besides Monte Verde, may precede the Clovis period.

Bluefish Caves, in the Yukon, is still disputed as a focus of pre-Clovis research.

Signs of pre-Clovis people are sparse because these mobile bands were few in number and trod lightly on the land, and also because archaeologists had until recently not been looking deeply enough.

"For generations, we assumed that Clovis was the primordial human culture south of the ice sheets, but that model has long been discredited," Dr. Brian M. Fagan, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote in an updated edition of "The Long Journey: The Peopling of America," published this year by the University Press of Florida.

"We simply do not know when the first human settlers moved south of the ice sheets," Dr. Fagan concluded, noting that the archaeological record now showed the migration to be "an untidy process of rapid colonization, by people acquiring foods in many ways, who used a broad range of stone and wooden artifacts and, also occasionally, bone tools to survive."

It makes sense to Dr. Goodyear and his associates at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in Columbia that long before Clovis, bands of people moving up the Savannah River from the coast spotted chert washing out of the hillside. It still does. The dirt road at the Topper site is sprinkled with the rock. The hunter-gatherers quarried the chert, made their tools as best they could and then went on their way, to return again and again.

And so will Dr. Goodyear and probably many more archaeologists in search of the earliest people to live in the Americas.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/29/science/29clov.html
 

KeyserXSoze

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http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040716/ap_on_sc/kennewick_man_1
The battle over Kennewick Man, one of the most complete skeletons ever found in North America, appears to be over.

Four Northwest tribes seeking to bury the 9,300-year-old bones have announced they will not take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) after losing in lower federal courts to scientists who want to study the remains, The Oregonian reported in its Friday editions.

The U.S. Justice Department (news - web sites), which earlier had sided with the tribes, declined Thursday to say whether it would file its own appeal to the nation's highest court by a Monday deadline. Seattle attorney Rob Roy Smith, who represents the Colville Tribes, said he assumes the federal agency will not continue with the case.

The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Colville tribes filed a claim to the skeleton shortly after it was found July 31, 1996, in Kennewick, Wash.

However, they faced a quick challenge by scientists who said the skeleton could provide valuable information about the early settling of the Americas.

Smith said the tribes considered at length whether to appeal the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites)' February ruling in favor of the scientists.

"Even though the tribes strongly disagree with the 9th Circuit's ruling, the tribes have decided not to," said Smith, who argued the tribes' case before the 9th Circuit.

Only the Umatilla tribe held out.

Debra Croswell, a spokeswoman for the Umatilla, said tribal leaders will vote Monday on whether to ask the Supreme Court to review the case, but she said indications "are highly likely that they are not going to pursue it."

Alan L. Schneider, a Portland attorney representing the scientists, said his clients — eight prominent U.S. anthropologists — would not immediately be able to study the remains even if the tribes and the Justice Department do not appeal the case.

A study plan will need to be negotiated with the federal agencies overseeing the remains, he said.

"Despite the rulings, the tribes still believe that these remains are of an ancestor and they want to make sure the remains are treated in the most respectable manner possible," Smith said. "And if and when these studies do take place, they want the remains to be returned for reburial."

Kennewick Man is a collection of 380 bones and bone fragments now stored at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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An 8-Year Fight Ends Over a 9,200-Year-Old Man

By ELI SANDERS

Published: July 20, 2004



EATTLE, July 19 - The ending of a long legal battle between Northwest Indian tribes and scientists last week is expected soon to put Kennewick Man, a 9,200-year-old skeleton, into the hands of anthropologists hoping for powerful clues to the mystery of who first populated the Americas.

The skeleton, named Kennewick Man after the southeastern Washington town near where it was found in 1996, contains more than 350 bones and bone fragments and is one of the oldest and most complete sets of human remains uncovered in North America. The accidental discovery of its skull by two young men walking along the Columbia River caused a sensation, not only because of its age but also because some features did not resemble those of modern American Indians, as would have been expected then.

Scientists eager to study the remains faced off against Indian tribes from Washington, Oregon and Idaho, who called Kennewick Man their ancestor and "the ancient one," and demanded his reburial. For a time, pagan groups also got involved, on the theory that Kennewick Man, whose features in one reconstruction were more Caucasoid than Indian, was descended from ancient Norse people.

But in February, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the tribes had not proved that the remains were those of an American Indian. Anthropologists say the remains are part of an expanding body of evidence showing that American Indians, long thought to have been the original inhabitants of the Americas, may not have been the first people to live on the continents.

"Current thinking is the Americas were not peopled once," said Dr. Robson Bonnichsen, a professor of anthropology at Texas A&M who is one of eight scientists who sued to prevent Kennewick Man's reburial. "They were peopled a number of times."

As recently as the late 1990's, Dr. Bonnichsen said, the prevailing belief was that North America was first populated by a single group of people from the Siberian interior, the ancestors of American Indians. They were believed to have crossed the Bering land bridge about 11,500 years ago, during the last ice age; then, with the melting of vast glaciers that blocked what is now Alaska from the rest of the continent, these people were thought to have slowly migrated southward.

Recent discoveries like Kennewick Man - skeletons that appear either too old or too different from American Indians to have been a part of this group - have led scientists to think the Americas must have been populated by other means as well, most likely by seafaring people from northeast and southeast Asia, moving in boats along the Pacific Rim and eventually to North America.

Scientists who have examined the skull of Kennewick Man reported that it had more in common with the Ainu, the original inhabitants of Japan, than with present-day American Indians, making them skeptical that he could have evolved these traits in such a relatively short time had he belonged to the Siberian group from which American Indians are thought to descend.

Dr. Bonnichsen said Kennewick Man was one of about 15 skeletons more than 8,000 years old that have been found in North America, many of them with skeletal characteristics very different from those of Northwest Indians.

"It used to appear that there was only one answer, and a simple answer with not much nuance to it," said Dr. James C. Chatters, a forensic anthropologist who in 1996 was the first to study Kennewick Man, before further study was prohibited by the court proceedings. "What we're seeing now that we're getting a chance to look at these individuals is that the peopling of the Americas is much more complex and nuanced than we'd imagined."

The legal battle over whether Kennewick Man was a tribal ancestor centered around the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires remains to be returned to Indian tribes if an ancestral link between the tribe and the remains can be proven.

With the federal appeals court having ruled that there was no ancestral link, Rob Roy Smith, a lawyer for the Colville Tribes of northeastern Washington, said the tribes decided last week not to turn to the Supreme Court, fearing that if it upheld the ruling there would be problems for other tribes trying to claim artifacts and bones they believe to be theirs.

Mr. Smith said he was confident that the Justice Department, which had sided with the tribes in the case, would also not pursue the case.

While Mr. Smith said the tribes would seek to set restrictions on the methods of study, Paula A. Barran, a Portland lawyer who represents Dr. Bonnichsen and the other scientists, said that issue should be settled soon.

Dr. Chatters said he was eager to study Kennewick Man, in part because he "lived long enough that his bones collected quite a record of his activities." Kennewick Man is believed to have been 40 to 50 years old when he died and to have stood 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-10.

Among other things, scientists want to scrape the plaque off Kennewick Man's teeth to get an idea of his diet, to search his bones for traces of DNA and to compare his skeleton with others.

One thing Dr. Chatters would like to learn more about is a three-inch spear point embedded in his pelvis.

"One of the most intriguing questions is, 'How did that get there?' " he said. "Who threw that thing?"

On a basic level, he said, the answer is: "Someone didn't like him very much." But because the serrated edges of the spear point are associated with groups that have more in common with American Indians than with Kennewick Man, Dr. Chatters wonders whether it is a sign of conflict between early Americans like Kennewick Man and the ancestors of the Indian tribes.

"Is this when we're seeing the arrival of these new folks, the ones we call Native Americans now?" he asked.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/20/science/20skul.html

Still no definitive conclusion on why he looks like Patrick Stewart/Jean Luc Picard.
 

PeniG

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He looks like Patrick Stewart because his reconstruction is bald and has a long face and a narrow nose. You can find portraits of Indians that he resembles, too, if you're motivated.

I see all these years hasn't taught Chatters tact yet. I'm basically on the side of the scientists here, but the situation has been made worse by careless statements made in public - like that one about the identity of the person who threw the spear. There simply isn't any call for that. Chatters in particular needs to start saying things like "modern races are a historical accident" instead of tossing off casual remarks that imply racial conflict. It's not enough for the science to be apolitical in intent; it must appear apolitical to readers of news reports, or this sort of nonsense is going to continue.
 

PeniG

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I've seen pictures of the skull and the restoration of the 12,500-year-old skull of which they speak - she's called Luzia - and she just looks human to me. Many of my neighbors have ancestors from Mexico, and I see echoes of their faces in Olmec and Maya heads where other people see "negroid" characteristics. I'm lily-white, and my dad has nappy hair. Human genetic variation expresses itself in many ways.

I wish people wouldn't speak about these matters in these terms. If you go back far enough, we're all African anyway. Modern races are historical accidents, and of pretty recent vintage, too. Even modern skeletons can only be very roughly grouped into "racial" categories on a statistical basis. We know squat about what people looked like or how they grouped themselves at the end of the Pleistocene.

Morphological features of skeletons can't reliably tell us anything about where that skeleton's ancestors came from, and nothing at all about skin color, hair color, etc. To say that the first Americans "came from Australia" is to say more than is indicated by the facts; to say that morphological features indicate that the earliest American population and the modern Australian population probably had common ancestors would be accurate and non-confrontational, and therefore wouldn't garner any headlines.

From the point of view of the political status of modern populations, it doesn't matter a lick. Whatever the first wave of migration looked like, the most successful waves of migration shared most of its genes with modern northeast Asian populations. The story of the peopling of the Americas will be one of high drama when we finally figure it out, and will be full of ancestors to be proud of; but this history can only be obscured by projecting modern situations backwards in time.
 
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FraterLibre

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PC Only Goes So Far

While the idealized, PC view that "we're all African anyway," and "we're all just humanoid primates" is well and good, it does not address very real socio-political problems founded on claims of being first, etc.

The American Indians, Amerinds, so-called "Native" Americans, Redskins, the Tribes, the Nations, what ever you want to call them, use huge political clout based on them being first in order to gain huge advantages such as tax breaks and land and other benefits from the U.S. Government.

Were they to lose the status of "first" they'd soon find those advantages dwindling or gone.

Thus this debate -- actually it's just research and is on-going -- is much more political than scientific. And there is where the problem sprawls.
 

PeniG

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Actually, FraterLibre, they don't and they wouldn't. Since the modern American Indian tribes are demonstrably the direct survivors of the tribes that were here when the conquering European waves arrived beginning in 1492, claims of autonomy and, in some cases restitution, which are based on being in possession of the land prior to invasion are not affected by whether the first person in the Western Hemisphere got off a boat or walked down the putative ice-free corridor, was yellow or red or purple or black, or came from west or east or up from the hollow earth.

That there is an emotional resonance to having been here "from the beginning" cannot be denied. (Vine Deloria is your go-read guy here.) This emotion has about as much right to influence the science as the emotion of creationists trying to twist dinosaur footprints into human ones.

But the shoddy history of American anthropology on racial matters should not be ignored either, and the insensitivity of going around being deliberately confrontational when the facts don't demand it - as they do not - can only obstruct progress. You don't see it in headlines, but modern tribal peoples and mostly-European-descended archeologists are working together without this nonsense even as I type, without major blow-ups that cause loss of data and lead to a distrust of science.

(Edited to fix a name gaffe. When oh when will I learn to look things up before I hit submit?)
 
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It's alright, Peni, Frater trots out his 'Way Of The Mastadon' theory, regular. :D
 
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FraterLibre

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bogus science

Tell them, not me. I'm of Scottish ancestry and we all know how the Scots were victims of genocidal policies.

As for anthropology, it's a fake science that only recently even made gestures toward basing itself on some physical science. Unless and until the physical evidence counts more than interpretation, it'll remain a bogus science.

And as for racism, that's human nature and will never ever go away until we do.

Which shan't be long, it seems.
 
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FraterLibre

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Andro's Helpfuness Duly Noted

Yes, Andro man's genius is well known amongst the head lice and pocket lint he regularly entertains. Bravo, lad, well said.
 

PeniG

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I'm probably being a little unnecessarily confrontational myself, anyway.

Part of my problem is, I'm on both sides of a presumed debate and a false dichotomy and want everyone to be nice. But people aren't like that and when they are it doesn't make the news, so what you gonna do?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Sci/Tech
from the September 23, 2004 edition


Signs of an earlier American

By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Al Goodyear is holding his breath in anticipation. Within days, the affable archaeologist expects to read the results of lab tests indicating that stone tools he recently found in South Carolina are 25,000 years old - or older.

Such results would be explosive. They would imply that humans lived on this continent before the last ice age, far earlier than previously believed. Even if the dates came in younger than 25,000 years old, researchers say, the find would add to the mounting body of evidence that humans trod North and South America at least 2,000 years before the earliest-known inhabitants, known as the Clovis culture.

Dr. Goodyear's efforts are among the latest from a growing group of archaeologists and anthropologists who have become emboldened to buck conventional wisdom and probe far deeper into the hemisphere's past than many of their predecessors did. What they are finding not only could rewrite old chapters in the history of two continents, it could write new ones.

"With all these new discoveries, it's almost a rebirth of excitement in the field. All sorts of new ideas are coming forward about migration routes and timing of arrival," says Michael Waters, a geoarchaeologist at Texas A&M University who is involved in several pre-Clovis digs around the United States. "You still have to be careful. Every claim of pre-Clovis occupation needs to be looked at quite carefully."

And they are. When stunning discoveries surface in North America's paleolithic past, they can ignite debates conducted with all the gentility of the Stanley Cup finals - as Goodyear knows.

"When these dates come back, I'll be hiding in a coal mine. I've already got a little Groucho Marx disguise I'm going to put on," quips the University of South Carolina scientist, who along with colleagues is working what's called the Topper site in Allendale County, S.C., along the Savannah River.

For decades, the Clovis culture has held sway as the oldest in the New World. Evidence for this group's presence was first unearthed in 1936 near Clovis, N.M. A second site that emerged in Arizona in 1959, and others since. A uniquely fluted spear point became the culture's icon. Radiocarbon dating at Clovis sites so far has bracketed their presence from roughly 11,200 to around 10,800 radiocarbon years ago. (Archaeologists prefer expressing dates in radiocarbon years because converting to modern calendar years becomes tricky beyond a certain age threshold.)

Searching for Big Foot

As evidence for the Clovis culture's presence cropped up throughout the continent and the sites became the subject of intense study, the notion that Clovis people were the oldest immigrants to the Western Hemisphere became firmly entrenched. Although some research teams periodically claimed to have found older sites, their evidence was shaky or later proved to have a less radical explanation. To claim a pre-Clovis find was akin to claiming to spot Big Foot.

Researchers often hesitated "to dig below the Clovis horizon for fear of ridicule," Dr. Waters says.

By many accounts, the turning point came seven years ago when anthropologist Tom Dillehay published the second of two encyclopedic volumes of results from a site in southern Chile known as Monte Verde. His team's evidence pointed to a human presence there 13,000 years ago. Other sites began to appear with evidence for pre-Clovis occupation that many saw as more credible than evidence from earlier efforts.

One of these sites, known as Mud Lake, sits near Kenosha, Wis. It was discovered by accident in January 1936, the same year as the first find of a Clovis point, when a Works Progress Administration crew was digging a drainage ditch and unearthed most of a foreleg from a juvenile mammoth. Turned over to the Kenosha Historical Society, it sat there until 1990, when an amateur archaeologist noted cut marks on the bones. Bones from nearby sites, known as the Fenske and Shaefer sites, showed similar markings. In 1992 and 1993, researchers excavated Shaefer and found bones with cut marks on them and stone tools underneath a pelvis bone. Radiocarbon dates on the bones and on plant material at the same level of the dig ranged from 12,500 to 12,300 years ago, nudging them beyond the Clovis time scale.

Dates from the Mud Lake bone were more stunning, says Dan Joyce, senior curator at the Kenosha Public Museum. Purported hunters slew the mammoth 13,450 years ago. He remains cautious about the presence of hunters. Cut marks are suggestive, but not conclusive. This past August, he and his team searched for the rest of their mammoth. But so far it has remained elusive enough to earn the beast the sobriquet Waldo, after the children's "Where's Waldo?" series.

While Dr. Joyce and his colleagues were planning their hunt for Waldo, Goodyear was taking a deeper look at Topper, a site he had been studying for 20 years. An adherent to the Clovis-first idea, he began to rethink his position after reading a site report from Cactus Hill, a pre-Clovis site in Virginia, in 1998.

His subsequent work at Topper uncovered what looked to be industrial-scale toolmaking well below the level at which Clovis artifacts were found. With no organic material available to radiocarbon-date the level, the team had to use a different technique that stunned them with date estimates of 16,000 to 20,000 years ago.

In May, he took his crew back to Topper for another, deeper look. They found what they interpret as tools in a layer roughly two meters (6.5 feet) below their earlier pre-Clovis finds. The soils and geology suggest that the artifacts are several thousand years older, he says. But nothing beats radiocarbon dates. Fortuitously, they found a sample of wood charcoal to derive three radiocarbon dates.

"I'd be very surprised if they're less than 25,000 years old, but I'm preparing myself mentally for the possibility that they could be a lot older," perhaps as old as 30,000 or 40,000 years, he says.

Such finds raise intriguing questions. Clovis groups were thought to have crossed a broad land bridge across the Bering Strait, hiking through breaks in the glaciers to what is now the lower 48. But if people lived on the continent at least 2,000 years earlier, they would have arrived at a time when the glaciers were impassable. This has led some to argue for a sea route along the land bridge and then the western coastline. Others suggest some may have come from Australia or the Iberian peninsula.

But is it civilization?

Not everyone is convinced by the evidence so far for pre-Clovis finds, although some doubters don't rule out the possibility that some groups where here earlier.

"The tools people find are not self-evidently hunting or butchering tools" in the way Clovis artifacts are, says Stuart Fiedel, an archaeologist with the Louis Berger Group in Washington, D.C.

Like Vikings making landfall in North America before any other modern European group, pre-Clovis sites don't seem to represent the first long-term colonization of the Western Hemisphere, he says. Interest in Clovis grew out of their apparent role as a continent-wide colonizing population and a key to the origins of the native Americans Europeans encountered after they arrived.

But others see potentially deeper insights coming from pre-Clovis finds.

"This could help us get a better handle on the amount of genetic variability we see in the descendants of these populations," says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It also could reset the clock for the development of civilizations in the New World.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0923/p13s01-stgn.html
 
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FraterLibre

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Still Wondering

I'm STILL wondering if it's civilization we've got going, or just as sad and sorry mockery of what one should be.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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There have been claims for Homo erectus outisde of the normal distribution we'd expect like in Australia:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11616

and it is common to see claims for such finds on Usenet and around t'Internet - here is another one for erectus in the Americas:

Mystery find keeps debate alive about human origins in the Americas

By JOHN RICE




MEXICO CITY (AP) - For decades, Federico Solorzano has gathered old bones from the shores of Mexico's largest lake - bones he found and bones he was brought, bones of beasts and bones of men.

The teacher of anthropology and paleontology was sifting through his collection one day when he noticed some that didn't seem to fit: a mineral-darkened piece of brow ridge bone and a bit of jaw that didn't match any modern skulls.

But Solorzano found a perfect fit when he placed the brow against a model of the Old World's Tautavel Man - member of a species, Homo erectus, that many believe was an ancestor of modern homo sapiens.

The catch: Homo erectus is believed to have died out 100,000 to 200,000 years ago - tens of thousands of years before men are believed to have reached the Americas.

And archeologists have never found a trace of Homo erectus in the Americas.

"Most people sort of just shook their heads and have been baffled by it," said Robson Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University.


"That doesn't mean it's not real. It just means there's not any comparative evidence."

Solorzano's find was described at a September conference here that drew academics from Europe and the Americas to discuss new research on early man in the Americas.

That primitive brow ridge from Lake Chapala "is in a category by itself," Bonnichsen said.

It is so strange - and so out of context - that it has been largely ignored even as other discoveries are raising basic questions about the story of human beings in the Americas: when they arrived and where they came from.

Until recently, most U.S. archeologists believed that the first Americans arrived about 13,500 years ago when a temporary land corridor opened across the Bering Strait.

The migrant Clovis people, named for a site near Clovis, N.M., apparently hunted mammoths and other large animals, leaving scatterings of finely worked spear tips and other tools across North America and, some argue, South America.

A sometimes vehement minority still holds to that "Clovis first" position. The evidence of what could have come before remains sparse, scattered and controversial. Archeologists have proposed possible alternative routes to the Americas - across the Pacific from Asia or Australia, across the Atlantic from Europe or Africa - though most say a trip from northeast Asia is most likely, perhaps by people advancing along a frozen coast in small boats.

South American researchers say they have found numerous sites that are 10,000 to 15,000 years old and argue that Clovis people could not have migrated all the way to Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, so soon after the ice-free corridor opened from Asia to Alaska.

Argentine archeologist Laura Miotti agrees the settlers likely came from the north. But she and others say there are no Clovis-like finds in the part of Asia from which the migrants supposedly came, and they question why North American sites don't appear to be older than those in South America.

The evidence for earlier human habitation in the Americas, however scanty, is tantalizing. It includes:

-A possible handscraper splotched with blood more than 34,000 years ago at Monte Verde in Chile.

-Possible stone tools at a site in Brazil that is 40,000 to 50,000 years old.

-A not-yet-published report of human remains dated as much as 28,000 years old near Puebla in central Mexico.

Most crucially, a majority of archeologists are convinced that a second site at Monte Verde dates to at least 14,000 years ago - some 500 years before the land bridge from Asia opened more than 14,000 kilometres to the north.

Yet the early dates are still often questioned.

A claim of 250,000-year-old human tools near Mexico's Valsequillo reservoir was widely laughed at in the 1970s, though other researchers are once again working at that area.

Clovis-first advocates suggest that the early dates may reflect variations or errors in the still-developing technologies of dating old samples.

They say natural breakage could account for some of what look like early tools and that the dating of others was likely confused, as when streams, floods or human beings mix new material into old.

As for human remains, only two teeth in Brazil seem to have been directly dated to clearly pre-Clovis times.

"If you are trying to break through a barrier that is well established, you need well documented, incontrovertible proof," said archeologist Stuart Fiedel, author of a textbook on early Americans and a proponent of the Clovis-first model.

Both sides say that new research on DNA and climate history supports their claims, or at least fails to undermine them.

Solorzano's finds raise so many unanswerable questions that they have remained just a curiosity.

Solorzano, 83, is a respected researcher who has taught generations of university students in the city of Guadalajara. His home office holds a cabinet full of bones - some of them human - topped by 14 realistic models of hominid skulls.

He says the brow bone raises "many questions, one of them being its great and amazing resemblance to primitive hominid forms whose presence in the Americas has not been generally accepted."

The few other scientists who have analysed the bones closely agree that they look human - not animal - and are very, very old.

"They were definitely human," said Joel Irish, a specialist in bioarcheology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

He suggested they could be from "a very primitive looking modern human," but said they would be "very early."

Efforts to date the pieces using modern techniques so far have failed due to lack of surviving tissue.

Most frustrating for archeologists, who are accustomed to fussing over the tiniest details, is that nobody knows quite where the bone came from or even when it was found. It was apparently picked up when drought exposed a large ring of the Chapala lake bed from 1947 to 1956.

Archeologist Stanley Davis, then at Texas A&M, spent several seasons accompanying Solorzano on surveys of the region and said he located places he would like to investigate further.

"It takes a lot of money. That's the reason I'm not down there working right now," he said by telephone.

Davis said other human bones in the same area that are about 6,000 to 7,000 years old lack the mineralized darkness of age found in the brow and jaw pieces.

Davis said the Chapala area is interesting because the lake is very old and is a likely spot for coast-hopping migrants to come inland.

Yet relatively few people have investigated the area so far. Until recently, Mexican archeologists tended to focus on the spectacular indigenous cultures of the Olmecs, Mayas, Aztecs and others that arose in the last 3,000 years or so.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Science/2004/10/03/654599-ap.html

[edit: Oddly there is another article identical to this first one but with some extra headlines and a few extra paragraphs at the end - here is the rest of it:

Migration hot spot?

Davis said the Chapala area is interesting because the lake is very old and is a likely spot for coast-hopping migrants to come inland.

Yet relatively few people have investigated the area so far. Until recently, Mexican archaeologists tended to focus on the spectacular indigenous cultures of the Olmecs, Mayas, Aztecs and others that arose in the last 3,000 years or so.

Davis said the Chapala-area finds included 12 scattered skulls of a long-extinct horse species. All have been smashed between the eyes.

‘‘Either we have a herd of very stupid horses . . . or we have some other action responsible for their death. That action is probably human,’’ he said. He estimated the horses were likely 10,000 to 20,000 years old.

A cache of swamp-deer teeth included several that were grooved, apparently for use in a necklace, he said. A radio carbon test showed one was roughly 20,000 years old. ‘‘That tells us we may have something.’’

http://www.chieftain.com/national/1099485963/13 ]

Its pretty fragmentary and technically l'homme de Tautavel isn't Homo erectus (it dates to around 400,000 years ago and is Homo heidelbergensis).

Still controversial mind ;)

I would like more to go on than just that though.

Also mentioned are the Valsequillo finds but the dates are really untrustworthy but we'll see what the new studies show.
 
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FraterLibre

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Too Much

There is too much fraud, hoax, and crank science in paleontology and archaeology and the only way to sort through the many, many claims is to establish a baseline and work from there. To test every claim would be to swamp one's self with unreliable evidence. Better to be selective, check the best evidence we can gather -- meaning that gathered by known scientists and not farmers or self-educated folks -- and go from there.
 

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Re: Too Much

FraterLibre said:
Better to be selective, check the best evidence we can gather -- meaning that gathered by known scientists and not farmers or self-educated folks -- and go from there.

ah yes scientists... that strange beast which "discovers" new flora and fuana, which have been known for ages by the native popualtions, but who are dismissed as they havent been educated to western standards

a bit elitist isnt it?

most of the discoveries in any sciences are done by amatures/self-educated folk :D
 
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FraterLibre

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Not Our Problem

Bigotry against how the scientific method works, or against those who carry degrees and education into the field, or contempt about one culture discovering something another has known for awhile, is not the problem being discussed.

Detestation of "scientists" is categorical thinking and thus bigotry, which is dismissable.

If there is a specific example of what is characterized here as "elitism" then cite it, and discuss that specific example. Otherwise it's just so much white noise.

And for every specific example of something, another supporting opposing views can be found.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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FL: But melf's point stands: Esepcially in this field a vast amount of finds come from "farmers or self-educated folks".

In Indonesia the hominid finds erdoe out of river banks, etc. and tend to be found by people farming the fields.

In Africa a lot of the finds come from people stumbling across bones sticking up out of the ground and a lot of finds are by unqualified field walkers (I can't find the book at the moment but in one the famous scientist admits to not actually finding many of his fossils and he relies on his field walkers some of home seem especially good at spotting the bones).

Without these "farmers or self-educated folks" we would probably not have half the hominid fossils currently filling museums. And this ignores the fact that the early parts of this science were done primarily by such self-educated people............

------------------
Equally worthy of mention is that the guy presenting this evidence is described as a "teacher of anthropology and paleontology" and he did have a cast of Tautavel man lying around to compare it with. In the history of palaeoanthropology some of the wild flights of fancy about the Antiquity of Man have come from experts.

I mentioned Valsequillo earlier - it was dug by pros and the finds and dates have been published in peer reviewed journals (references if you want them) but that doesn't mean they are wrong by orders of magnitude.
 
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FraterLibre

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Nope

The reason amateur finds are so often invalid is that they pick them up and otherwise destroy the in situ evidence. A potter shard removed from a mound is of no use to anyone but collectors, who have, by the way, practically destroyed more sites than even "progress", but that's another issue.

Now, separate from the issue of leaving things in situ for proper analysis, we must consider, say, a jaw-bone or skull surfacing somewhere. Some farmer finds it, eventually carries it into the village, some priest exclaims over it, calls a paleontologist friend, sends it to Cuzco or where ever, and eventually it makes its way to a trained eye who can examine it with some sort of knowledge base. This becomes a one-off. An isolated example of something that may be unique, maybe a mutation, may be a hoax, and may be real and new and important; and there is virtually no way to tell.

This is quite different from a Leakey led to a find by one of his workers, who has by osmosis learned to spot what the boss wants spotted. Leakey can then examine things and decide and, while it's true the untrained amateur may have found it, it would be worthless had the untrained amateur been alone.

I am not speaking against enthusiasts and amateurs making discoveries, I am speaking against what they do with them and how they handle them and why this spoils potentially wonderful discoveries.

You want to support the science of discovery? Fund projects to catalogue and sort the literally millions of specimens languishing in warehouses, unexamined since the field expeditions sent them back. That is where properly handled discoveries sent in by all manner of folks will matter, and where there is the greatest chance for a genuine breakthrough discovery.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Re: Nope

FraterLibre said:
The reason amateur finds are so often invalid is that they pick them up and otherwise destroy the in situ evidence. A potter shard removed from a mound is of no use to anyone but collectors, who have, by the way, practically destroyed more sites than even "progress", but that's another issue.

Granted but this doesn't mean such finds don't have an important part to play - I'd rather the find made its eventual way to the museum (or fmaously a souvenir shop) rather than just being swept away in the next downpour.

Such an object still has considerable value and usefulness as the battery of direct scientific tests is applied to it. They can now examine isotopes for diet, possible location of the early resting place, dating, etc. and considerable work has also been done to put the finds back into their context.

With the example of the Indonesian hominids in mind a lot of them are in redistributed contexts anyway (although they may have been redistributed hundreds of thousands of years ago) and so this wouldn't be quite so vitally important that say a meticulously excavated Neanderthals skeleton in Israel (especially if it were part of the arguement for burials where every tiny piece of information may be vital).

So finds by amateurs and farmers aren't ideal but its not a perfect world and the science adapts to cope with these kinds of circumstances.
 
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FraterLibre

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D'accord

Agreed, we must make the best of what the planet of the primates offers.
 

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What gets me is people who find in situ material and move it when it would be better to get it recorded, etc. but that might be an education thing.

I suppose I save my ire for the collectors and the people who tear through sites looking for something worth selling that destroys sites and means that valuable finds are lost into collections or their context is completely lost. :(
 
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Anonymous

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I wrote a whole post and basically repeated what everyone else said...I need to read the boards more often. lol

WW
 

PeniG

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I'm not sure how the thread got to a discussion of amateurs in archeology when it started with a find made by a pro, but I'll take that up at the end.

I can think of many scenarios for the presence of the fossilized brow ridge in Mexico, some of which might be killed by seeing the bone.

1) Misidentification - it isn't a brow ridge.
2) Misidentification - it is a brow ridge, but it belonged to a modern human from an early wave of migration. Modern Australians have brow ridges - although they have two separate ones over each eye as opposed to the classic unibrow ridge of archaic sapiens - and the probability that modern Australians had ancestors in common with one or more populations that came to the Americas before or around the Ice Age is pretty good.
3) It is a brow ridge from the same primate stock that today gives us Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Skunk Apes, etc.
4) It is a Heidelbergensis brow ridge which was mixed up in a perfectly mundane load of rocks that made its way across the Atlantic as ballast, gravel, or some such and was accidentally dispersed into an area where the prof was collecting.
5) Archaic sapiens populated the Americas, but so sparsely and under conditions so little conducive to fossilization that no uncontroversial evidence has yet been found. This is not the first such find, or even the first made by a reputable archeologist; but between the conservatism of American archeology and the nature of the sites found, we're a long way from having good evidence that these anamolous finds indicate a pre-modern presence here.

I could probably come up with others but that would seem to represent the spectrum pretty well.

As for amateurs - it's not exagerrating to say that American archeology would be years behind where it is now without the services of conscientious amateurs. The first unambiguous association of human artifacts (a Folsom point) with an extinct mammal (bison antiquus) was made by a black cowboy with little formal education, George McJunkin. The Clovis type site at Blackwater Draw was brought to the attention of pros, and retrieved from the middle of an active gravel quarry, by the enterprise and interest of teen-age boys; and when I visited in 2002 and spoke to the present archeologist in charge, she was full of praise for the local avocational archeologists.

The fact is, in an anti-intellectual culture that emphasizes the practical and the profitable in education, there is never enough money for this sort of work, the data in need of analysis always outnumber the grad students, and an intelligent amateur can make significant contributions. Nor, frankly, are the attitudes and actions of pros always above reproach. Far more professionally-dug sites are never written up properly than anyone cares to think.

We - for the most part I think interested amateurs rather than professionals? - need to judge people on a continuum, by attitude rather than affiliation. A pot-hunter mentality, which views artifacts and bones as commodities, can do a great deal of damage; so can careless curiousity and sloppy methodology; but such behavior is not limited to amateurs, nor is a professional attitude limited to people with degrees.
 

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America's First Immigrants

You were probably taught that the hemisphere's first people came from Siberia across a long-gone land bridge. Now a sea route looks increasingly likely, from Asia or even Europe

Alongside a creek in central Texas runs a swath of chipped, gray stone flakes and soil blackened by cooking fires—thousands of years of cooking fires. This blackened earth, covering 40 acres and almost six feet thick in places, marks a settlement dating back as far as the last ice age 13,000 years ago, when mammoths, giant sloths and saber-toothed cats roamed the North American wilderness.

Archaeologists have amassed nearly half a million early prehistoric artifacts here at the Gault site. Among the artifacts are distinctive stone spearheads known as Clovis points, a defining feature of the Clovis people, who lived roughly 12,500 to 13,500 years ago.

A visit to the site raises two monumental questions. The first, of course, is, Who were the Clovis people? The emerging answer is that they were not simple-minded big-game hunters as they have often been depicted. Rather, they led a less nomadic and more sophisticated life than previously believed.

The second question—Where did they come from?—lies at the center of one of archaeology's most contentious debates. The standard view holds that Clovis people were the first to enter the Americas, migrating by land from Siberia 13,500 years ago across a now-submerged bridge. This view has been challenged recently by a wide range of discoveries. Now some researchers suggest prehistoric south Asians might have spread gradually around the northern rim of the Pacific to North America in small skin-covered boats. An even more radical theory is that Stone Age mariners journeyed from Europe around the southern fringes of the great ice sheets in the North Atlantic.

According to archaeologist Michael Collins, the project director of the Gault site, "you couldn't have a more exciting time to be involved in the whole issue of the peopling of the Americas."

http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues04/nov04/clovis.html
 

PeniG

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Lookit the pretties!

I'm not going to quote any of this, because nothing actually on the site is new news to me, but - for gorgeous pictures of gorgeous stone tool, go to:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/stoneage/fenn.html

Ooooh, that first one! And check out the quartz one - it's transparent! And that beautiful perfect crescent shape that they don't know the use of. And...(blisses out)

This is part of a website supporting a NOVA show, airing in the US on Tuesday the 9th. This is a head's up to interested parties.
 
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