The First Americans

ProfessorF

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Local site rewrites history of early humans in America
6/12/2009 12:30 AM
By DR. TOM MACK
Columnist

Since 1998, archaeologists at a site in Allendale County have been making discoveries that have the potential to rewrite the history - or more precisely, the prehistory - of our state.

The Topper site, named for a local resident who first found ancient artifacts at this location that borders the eastern shore of the Savannah River, has been the subject of major media attention because of the unearthing of evidence that human habitation in North America predates traditional estimates.

One of the staple beliefs of paleoamerican research - the term "paleo" is derived from the Greek word for "ancient" - holds that the first Americans appeared no earlier than 13,000 years ago; these early humans, it is thought, originated in Northeast Asia and crossed over to our continent after the last Ice Age.

Labeled the Clovis culture by scientists because the first evidence of these ancestors of the indigenous people of North America was found in the 1930s near present-day Clovis, N.M., these prehistoric humans were noted for their creation of distinctly shaped stone spear points used in the hunting of bison and mastodon and other early mammals.

The Topper site offers rich evidence of Clovis occupation in the Central Savannah River Area; in fact, the team responsible for excavating the site, members of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, think that they have discovered at Topper an early quarry used by the Clovis people to gather the materials - in this case, a type of rock known as chert - for fashioning their stone tools.

Just its identification as a Clovis site would have been enough to make Topper an archaeological location of intense scientific interest, but a decision made by Dr. Albert Goodyear, the founder and director of the Allendale Paleoindian Expedition, to dig deeper than is generally the case at most such sites led to hypotheses that have made headlines.

In 2004, Goodyear and his team dug four meters below the surface and found artifacts in a layer of burnt plant remains that were subsequently tested via radiocarbon dating. The finding that this charcoal deposit is as old as 50,000 years may lend credence to the theory that human habitation on this continent dates much, much earlier than anyone supposed. Goodyear himself asserts that "Topper is the oldest radiocarbon-dated site in North America."

The verdict is still out, however, as to whether this evidence alone contradicts the long-held belief that early humans first arrived in America from Asia 13,000 years ago.

Many scientists argue that there is still not sufficient proof - incontrovertible material evidence - to support that contention.

Still, this pre-Clovis claim is tantalizing - and the search for further proof is under way, thanks to the ongoing work of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at USC. Excavation continues unabated, with the active encouragement of the Clariant Corporation, which owns 2,000 acres in Allendale County, including the Topper site.

This Swiss-based company not only decided to provide camping facilities for the staff of the Southeastern Paleoamerican Survey but also made a significant financial contribution to the construction of a pavilion that shelters some of the most critical area of excavation - a viewing deck was added at this spot for the convenience of visitors in 2007.

Anyone can take part in this history-making effort to rewrite our state's prehistorical past.

Each summer, members of the public can join the "expedition" and participate in the dig by paying a largely tax-deductible fee; in return, they get to "work" the site and learn more about excavation techniques and artifact identification. For more information, visit www.allendale-expedition.net.

Dr. Mack is a Carolina Trustee Professor at USC Aiken.
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Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 131402.htm

ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2009) — In one of the more dramatic moments of an underwater archaeological survey co-led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist James Adovasio along Florida’s Gulf Coast this summer, Andy Hemmings stood on an inundated river’s edge where man hasn't set foot in more than 13,000 years.

Donning full scuba gear, Hemmings stood in 130 feet of water on a peninsula at the intersection of two ancient rivers nearly 100 miles offshore from Tampa. The last time humans could have stood in that spot, mammoth and mastodon roamed the terrain.

“The successful tracking of the St. Marks-Aucilla River and the Suwannee River, between 50 and 150 kilometers respectively, represents what we believe to be the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done anywhere in the world,” Adovasio said.

Another pivotal find is the identification of chert at three dive sites along the river systems; chert is a superior quality fine-grained stone used by prehistoric peoples to make tools.

“There is no doubt,” Adovasio said, “that we have found the haystacks and are one step closer to uncovering the archaeological needles;” in effect, narrowing the search for evidence of early Americans in the now submerged Inner Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.

Hemmings, one of the leading Paleoindian underwater archaeologists in North America, agreed. “My feeling is, given a little time to probe the sediments with a dredge, we will quickly find human artifacts.”

The signature expedition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research began in the summer of 2008 when a distinguished group of scientists led by Mercyhurst’s Adovasio and Hemmings identified and mapped buried river channels that could potentially help document the late Pleistocene landscape. This year’s mission, undertaken July 23 to Aug. 5, further traced the river systems along whose beaches prehistoric people may have populated and identified raw materials that they may have used in tool making.

The mission also has advanced underwater understanding and research methodology exponentially, Adovasio said.

“We have developed protocols for exploring deep water, which is both time and labor intensive, as well as expensive, unlike anything done before,” he said.

From the Weatherbird II, flagship of the Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg, researchers electronically mapped the modern sea floor with a side scan sonar device and created images of the layered sediments below the seafloor surface with a sub-bottom profiler. Using GPS technology, the team selected dive locations based on an understanding of what the surface should look like, and what was hidden below that surface adjacent to the old river channels.

On the peninsula where the relict Suwannee River intersects another ancient system, divers were able to collect a 1m sediment core but were unable to complete a lengthier search for human artifacts because the water neared 130 feet, the maximum depth level for this year’s dive. The team plans to return to this spot next year, increasing the divers’ depth level certification to 165 feet and using a dredge to lift the silt away and see if there is an archaeological site at this confluence.

“Proof of past human habitation here would reinforce the disintegration of the once prevalent hypothesis about who the first Americans were, how they got here and when they arrived,” said Adovasio, who rose to fame 30 years ago while excavating the Meadowcroft Rockshelter near Pittsburgh, Pa. Besides primary funding from NOAA, this summer’s work was supported by the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Gault School of Archaeological Research, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Institute of Oceanography, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, among others. Students from Mercyhurst, Harvard, the University of Michigan and Texas A & M were also part of the research group.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adapted from materials provided by Mercyhurst College.
 

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Pre-Columbian Societies Knew a Thing About Extracting Gold
http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/co ... 009/1020/2
By Charles C. Mann
ScienceNOW Daily News
20 October 2009

When Spanish conquistadors seized the Inka emperor Atawalpa in 1532, they demanded an enormous ransom of silver and gold. For weeks, llama trains carried tons of gold and silver statues, cups, and other objects to the Europeans, who then ordered them melted down to ingots for transport back to Spain. Such an enormous stash suggests that the Andean people knew sophisticated metallurgy, but there has been little evidence to support this. Now a team of geologists and archaeologists have found clues that these indigenous people refined gold with mercury amalgamation, an important metallurgical technique that is still in use today.
To extract precious metals from ore, workers mix liquid mercury with finely ground gold or silver ore, creating an amalgam or alloy. They then separate out the heavier amalgam and heat it to boil away the mercury, arriving at almost-pure silver or gold. The Romans knew of mercury amalgamation in the 1st century, but it was not widespread in Europe until the 12th century. Polish engineer-archaeologist Arthur Posnansky insisted as far back as 1945 that amalgamation was used near the famed Incan site of Machu Picchu, but archaeologists have always vigorously disputed these claims, noting that much of Posnansky's work was overly credulous. Instead, experts believed that the process was nonexistent in the Americas until colonist Bartolomé de Medina developed a variant in Mexico in 1557.

But William Brooks, a geologist based in Reston, Virginia, couldn't believe that societies, which produced large quantities of gold, lacked techniques to recover it from placer gold, the minute gold flakes in stream beds found along coastal Peru. So Brooks and colleagues in Peru and Colombia analyzed residual mercury levels in seven samples of pre-European-contact gold foil--three from the Sicàn culture, which existed between 750 C.E. and 1375 C.E. in Peru, and four from Colombia. The team found signs of amalgamation similar to those seen in contemporary gold foil in southeastern Peru, it reports today at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. "We think this technique was used throughout the Andes, probably centuries before it was commonly used in Europe," Brooks says.

The researchers' work has not escaped criticism, however. Almost all known Sicàn gold artifacts were looted from elite burial sites, which makes their context uncertain, says Izumi Shimada of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, director of the Sicàn Archaeological Project. Moreover, he says, both artifacts and bodies in the tombs were often "painted from head to foot in cinnabar," a brilliant vermillion pigment made from a mercury-sulfur compound, which could have contaminated the scientists' measurements. To confirm mercury amalgamation, Shimada says, "would require an independent testing of items recovered from a nonfunerary context."

Brooks agrees that contamination is a potential issue and says that the museums preparing their samples carefully removed the cinnabar deposits. If there were still cinnabar contamination, however, Brooks says he would have expected random variations between samples instead of the consistent measurements his team observed. Also, amalgamation, he says, just makes sense: "They had to have some way to produce all that gold, and an obvious candidate is the metallurgical technique used everywhere else in the world."
 

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The headline here is in error, and should say "oldest directly datable" artifact, and should reference North America. There's a layer under Monte Verde that Dillehay has tentatively dated to 30,000 YBP, and certain stone artifacts at Gault, Topper, and Meadowcroft may well turn out to be older than this one; but dating bone is a much more straightforward business than dating stone.
Oldest American artefact unearthed
Oregon caves yield evidence of continent's first inhabitants.

Rex Dalton


An Oregon cave has yielded the oldest artefact ever found in the Americas.
Tom StaffordArchaeologists claim to have found the oldest known artefact in the Americas, a scraper-like tool in an Oregon cave that dates back 14,230 years.

The tool shows that people were living in North America well before the widespread Clovis culture of 12,900 to 12,400 years ago, says archaeologist Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Studies of sediment and radiocarbon dating showed the bone's age. Jenkins presented the finding late last month in a lecture at the University of Oregon.

His team found the tool in a rock shelter overlooking a lake in south-central Oregon, one of a series of caves near the town of Paisley.

Kevin Smith, the team member who uncovered the artefact, remembers the discovery. "We had bumped into a lot of extinct horse, bison and camel bone – then I heard and felt the familiar ring and feel when trowel hits bone," says Smith, now a master's student at California State University, Los Angeles. "I switched to a brush. Soon this huge bone emerged, then I saw the serrated edge. I stepped back and said: 'Hey everybody — we got something here.'"

Coprolite controversy
Whether the cave dwellers were Clovis people or belonged to an earlier culture is uncertain. None of the Clovis people's distinct fluted spear and arrow points have been found in the cave.

"They can't yet rule out the Paisley Cave people weren't Clovis," says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon who wasn't involved in the research.

The only other American archaeological site older than Clovis is at Monte Verde in Chile, which is about 13,900 years old.

Last year, Jenkins and colleagues reported that Paisley Cave coprolites, or fossilized human excrement, dated to 14,000 to 14,270 years ago1. That report established the Paisley Caves as a key site for American archaeology.

Analysis of ancient DNA marked the coprolites as human. But in July, another group argued that the coprolites might be younger than the sediments that contained them2.

This team, led by Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also questioned the 2008 report because no artefacts had been found in the crucial sediments. The Oregon team strongly disputed the criticisms3.

Laid to rest?
The dating of the bone tool, and the finding that the sediments encasing it range from 11,930 to 14,480 years old, might put these questions to rest. "You couldn't ask for better dated stratigraphy," Jenkins told the Oregon meeting.

"They have definitely made their argument even stronger," says Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who was not involved in the research.

Other researchers questioned whether the cave's inhabitants would have been mainly vegetarian, as the coprolites suggested4. In his recent lecture Jenkins noted other evidence reflecting a diet short on meat but including edible plants such as the fernleaf biscuitroot Lomatium dissectum.

In late September, a group of archaeologists who study the peopling of the Americas met with federal officials and a representative of the local Klamath tribe to review the evidence at Paisley Caves. The specialists spent two days examining sediments, checking the tool, and assessing other plant and animal evidence.

"It was an impressive presentation," says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, who attended the meeting. "This is clearly an important site, but there are some tests that need to be done to seal the deal." One key, he says, is to better understand how the specimens got to the cave.

References
1.Gilbert, W.T.P. et al. Science 320, 786-789 (2008).
2.Poinar, H. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).
3.Rasmussen, M. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).
4.Goldberg, P., Berna, F. & Macphail, R.I. Science 325, 5937, 148 (2009).
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091105/full/news.2009.1058.html
 

WhistlingJack

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Ancient Woman Suggests Diverse Migration

Mexico: Ancient woman suggests diverse migration

By MARK STEVENSON (AP) – 6 days ago

MEXICO CITY — A scientific reconstruction of one of the oldest sets of human remains found in the Americas appears to support theories that the first people who came to the hemisphere migrated from a broader area than once thought, researchers say.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History on Thursday released photos of the reconstructed image of a woman who probably lived on Mexico's Caribbean coast 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. She peeks out of the picture as a short, spry-looking woman with slightly greying hair.

Anthropologists had long believed humans migrated to the Americas in a relatively short period from a limited area in north-east Asia across a temporary land corridor that opened across the Bering Strait during an ice age.

But government archaeologist Alejandro Terrazas says the picture has now become more complicated, because the reconstruction more resembles people from south-eastern Asian areas like Indonesia.

"History isn't that simple," Terrazas said. "This indicates that the Americas were populated by several migratory movements, not just one or two waves from northern Asia across the Bering Strait."

Some outside experts caution that the evidence is not conclusive.

Ripan Malhi, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, said that "using facial reconstructions to assign ancestry to an individual is not as strong as using ancient DNA to assess the ancestry of the individual, because the environment can influence the traits of the face."

"All of the current genetic evidence points to North-east Asia as the main source for Native Americans," Malhi said.

However, there have been few opportunities to use DNA or other methods to identify the origins of the first inhabitants because only a handful of skeletons from 10,000 years ago have survived.

The female is known as "La Mujer de las Palmas," or "The Woman of the Palms," after the sinkhole cave near the Caribbean resort of Tulum where her remains were found by divers and recovered in 2002.

Because rising water levels flooded the cave where she died or was laid to rest, her skeleton was about 90 percent intact. Archaeologists and physical anthropologists calculated she was between 44 and 50 years old when she died, was about 5 feet (1.52 metres) tall and weighed about 128 pounds (58 kilograms).

Experts also measured skull features and calculated the muscle and other tissue layers that once covered her face, which served as a guide for experts in paleo-anthropological modelling at the Atelier Daynes in France to complete a model of the woman.

The model shows a stocky woman and clad in a simple knee-length woven tunic. She had a broad face, prominent cheeks, thin lips, and little trace of the epicanthic eye-folds that characterize many modern Asian populations.

"Her body structure, skin and eyes are similar to the population of South-east Asia," the institute said in a statement.

Susan Gillespie, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, noted that while the Bering land bridge theory still has a lot of support, "the situation is messier than the straightforward scenario ... of big-game hunters chasing woolly mammoths over the exposed `Bering bridge' to Alaska."

"Recently there has been more serious inquiry into the various origins of migrants, modes of transportation, and dates of when they got here," Gillespie said in an e-mail message. "Dates for peopling of the Americas have been pushed way back, and with the finding of very early skeletal remains, the genetic/skeletal linkages to peoples of north-east Asia has become more cloudy."

But Gillespie cautioned against comparing a reconstructed face from 10,000 years ago to modern populations in places like Indonesia, which have also probably changed over 10 millennia.

"You have to find skeletons of the same time period in Asia, or use genetic reconstructions, to make a strong connection, and cannot rely on modern populations," she wrote. "Do we have any empirical data on what South-east Asian women looked like ... 10,000 years ago?"

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press.
Scradje
 

Zilch5

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Thanks for that. I've never really believed in the single migration theories.

It's now been proven that Australia was settled in waves as well.

History isn't that simple.
Quite.
 

Pietro_Mercurios

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10,000 years ago, Northern Europe was still an icy and frigid wasteland. That doesn't mean that humans and their surviving relatives (if any), hadn't been industrious and busy, elsewhere.

Where will the DNA evidence eventually take us, on the journey into our collective pasts? Surprises on the way, probably.

Merged: 'Ancient Woman ...', with 'First Americans'. P_M
 

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Oldest subarctic North American human remains found
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-sci ... human.html
February 24th, 2011 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

A man pulls a whaler's boat across the frozen Arctic Ocean in Browerville, Alaska, in 2006

A man pulls a whaler's boat across the frozen Arctic Ocean in Browerville, Alaska, in 2006. Scientists on Thursday announced they have discovered the oldest human remains ever found in sub-Arctic North America, offering a new window into the lives of the continent's earliest inhabitants.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A newly excavated archaeological site in Alaska contains the cremated remains of one of the earliest inhabitants of North America. These remains may provide rare insights into the burial practices of Ice Age peoples, while shedding new light on their daily lives, according to a paper published Feb. 25 in the journal Science.

The find is also notable because archaeologists and Alaska Natives are working hand-in-hand to insure the excavation and subsequent examination of the remains of this child estimated to be approximately three years old at the time of death. This research will benefit science and the heritage studies while respecting traditional Athabaskan culture.

The apparent age of the remains found at the site, the researchers said, would certainly make these the oldest human remains found in Northern North America, as well as the second youngest Ice Age child on the continent.

The child has been named Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin (pronounced hausau chag ts'eneen), which translates to "Upward Sun River Mouth Child," based on a local native place name. The site, Xaasaa Na' (Upward Sun River), was formerly known as Little Delta Dune.

Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and his colleagues describe in the paper finding the skeletal remains in an ancient fire pit within an equally ancient dwelling near the Tanana River in central Alaska.

Radiocarbon dating of wood at the site indicates the cremation of the child may have taken place roughly 11,500 years ago, when the Bering Land Bridge may still have connected Alaska with Asia.

Initial observations of the teeth indicate the child is biologically affiliated with Native Americans and with Northeast Asians.

"This site reflects many different behaviors never before seen in this part of the world during the last Ice Age, and the preservation and lack of disturbance allows us to explore the life ways of these ancient peoples in new ways," Potter says.

The researchers note both the burial and the house itself are the earliest of their kind known in the North American near-Arctic. They add that discovery of burial sites of this age in North America is very rare; the buried remains of children even more so.

"The discovery of the remains was unexpected," Potter added.

In fact, it was an older occupation at the site (about 13,200 years ago) that first attracted the researchers to the site. Only while investigating this early occupation did the evidence of the burial come to light.

The initial excavation of the site was supported by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs with funds awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

OPP's Division of Arctic Sciences supports disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and broad, interdisciplinary investigations directed toward both the Arctic as a region of special scientific interest and a region important to global systems.

In the paper, the researchers note that the pit contained not only the child's remains—the researchers estimate less than 20 percent of the skeleton survived the cremation—but also remains of small mammals, birds, and fish as well as plant remains. Because the human remains were in the uppermost part of the pit, above the animal remains, the researchers suspect the pit was not originally designed as a grave, but evidence suggests the occupants abandoned the house after the cremation-burial.

Both researchers and tribal leaders agreed that the process of working together on this new find has fostered mutual respect and cooperation between them

Earliest human remains in US Arctic reported (AP)

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows a trench connecting both areas of the site in Alaska. Some 11,500 years ago one of America's earliest families laid the remains of a three-year-old child to rest in their home in what is now Alaska. Today archaeologists are learning about the life and times of the early settlers who crossed from Asia to the New World, researchers thank to that burial. (Ben A. Potter, Science)
"This exciting, groundbreaking and multi-faceted research is in the best traditions of the research that NSF supports in the Arctic," said Anna Kerttula de Echave, program officer in the NSF Office of Polar Programs who oversees this award. "Equally significant is that the approach taken by the researchers reflects the importance, in modern Arctic science, of collaborating with Native people as full partners in discovery."

Potter and his colleagues' excavation and analysis were sanctioned by the local federally recognized Tribe, Healy Lake Traditional Council and its affiliated regional consortium, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC). Through consultation, initiated at the time of the discovery, Healy Lake and TCC support the scientific examination of both the site and the remains themselves.

"I would like to learn everything we can about this individual," said First Chief Joann Polston, of Healy Lake Traditional Council.

TCC President Jerry Isaac added that "This find is especially important to us since it is in our area, but the discovery is so rare that it is of interest for all humanity."

Although burned, some of the child's remains may retain DNA. Isaac intends to have his own DNA compared to the find. Polston would like to expand the opportunity to any Alaska Native in the region.

Based on the stratigraphy—or examination of layers of materials in the fire pit—and other evidence, the researchers describe a possible sequence for how the remains came to be interred at the site.

They hypothesize a small group of people, which included adult females and young children, who were foraging in the area in the vicinity of this residential camp, fishing and hunting birds and small mammals.

A pit was dug within a house, used for cooking and/or a means of disposing food debris for weeks or months preceding the death of the child.

The child died and was cremated in the pit.

The pit was likely filled with surrounding soil soon after the body was burned. The house was fairly soon abandoned, they concluded, due to the lack of artifacts found above this fill.

Potter noted the find is significant also because it crosses a number of disciplinary boundaries; the artifacts, features, stratigraphy, preservation, and the human remains. These finds allow for the integration and synthesis of stone tool technology, cultural affiliation, subsistence economy, seasonal use of the landscape, paleoenvironments and climate change at the end of the last Ice Age northern North America.

Provided by NSF
 

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Island tool finds show early settlers' diversity
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12646364

California Channel Island finds (J Erlandson) The barbed points may even have been arrowheads, moving the earliest known use of arrows back by thousands of years

Related Stories

* Humans 'got to Asia much earlier'
* Faeces hint at first Americans
* Footprints of 'first Americans'

Caches of tools and animal remains from around 12,000 years ago, found on islands off the California coast, have given remarkable insight into the lives of the first Americans.

a rich maritime economy existed there.

The tools vary markedly from mainland cultures of the era such as the Clovis.

The finds, reported in Science, also suggest that rather than a land route to South America, early humans may have used coastal routes.

A team studying California's Channel Islands, off its southern coast, has found that the islands show evidence both of differing technologies and a differing diet, even among the few islands.

"On San Miguel island we found a lot of pretty remarkable tools, but the animal materials there were largely shellfish," said Torben Rick, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

"Over on Santa Rosa, that site was dominated by bird remains and a few sea mammal and fish remains... and no shellfish at all.

"What's interesting about that is it shows us not only were these people out there living a coastal life, but they were taking advantage of the full suite of resources available to them; they had a very diversified maritime economy."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

As more research produces more sites, we will see that the story of the first Americans is not linear and that there will continue to be more surprises”

End Quote Tom Dillehay Vanderbilt University

The tools that the team found hold the greatest surprise, however, in that they differ significantly from those of mainland cultures like the Clovis and Folsom.

Points found on the islands - which could even be arrow-heads - are thin, serrated, and have barbed points that show striking workmanship for the period.

Inland tools had fluted points, and it is known they were used to hunt large animals including the woolly mammoth. The island points were so delicate as to almost certainly have been used for hunting fish. What is more, many of them do not reappear in the archaeological record.

"These are extremely delicate, finely made tools that don't occur later in time," Dr Rick said. "Finding these types of tools at all three of these sites really suggests a similar group of people, in terms of technology and subsistence - and were pretty different from what came later."

Dr Rick said that the evidence supported the idea that the islands were short-term or seasonal encampments, rather than permanent settlements. The team also found a piece of obsidian on the islands.

"The Coso obsidian source [is] on the mainland a couple hundred miles away, so we know they were participating in long-distance exchange networks," he said.
'More surprises'

A long-standing model of human exploration and settlement of the Americas holds that, after reaching North America through the Bering Straits off Alaska, a concerted push southward led early humans including the Clovis culture across inland parts of the continent to South America.

But anthropologist Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University said that the Channel Island finds were part of a mounting body of evidence against that simplistic story.
Chert crescent from California Channel Islands (U Oregon) The thin, serrated crescents are a testament to the island inhabitants' manufacturing capabilities

"What they tell us is that there was widespread cultural diversity at the outset of human entry and dispersion throughout the Americas, and that the old, now-dead Clovis first model often misleads us to believe that there was only one major way of first human expansion throughout the Western Hemisphere," he told BBC News.

"As today, there are cultural continuities but there also is constant change, which is well evidenced by these and other sites being discovered throughout the Americas. As more research produces more sites, we will see that the story of the first Americans is not linear and that there will continue to be more surprises.

"As I have published and said before, there were probably many different migrations and many different migration routes overland and along the coastal ways, and this evidence is pointing in that direction too."

However, Dr Rick said that it was too early to upend the larger picture of human migration across the Americas, and that further finds - some of which now lie underwater around the Channel Islands - could shed more light on the story in the future.

"My colleague Jon Erlandson refers to them as 'postcards from the past'," Dr Rick said. "They give us just a brief snapshot of 'hey, we were here and here's what we were doing for a brief period of time'.

"We have to be a little cautious in our interpretations; we're trying to put together a puzzle, and the puzzle may have 150 pieces and we've got five of them. So it's really difficult to get the full picture of what they were doing."
 

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Stone tools 'demand new American story'
By Paul Rincon and Jonathan Amos, Science reporters, BBC News

The long-held theory of how humans first populated the Americas may have been well and truly broken.
Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone tools that predate the technology widely assumed to have been carried by the first settlers.
The discoveries in Texas are seen as compelling evidence that the so-called Clovis culture does not represent America's original immigrants.
Details of the 15,500-year-old finds are reported in Science magazine.

A number of digs across the Americas in recent decades had already hinted that the "Clovis first" model was in serious trouble.
But the huge collection of well-dated tools excavated from a creek bed 60km (40 miles) northwest of Austin mean the theory is now dead, argue the Science authors.
"This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, 'hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas'," Michael Waters, a Texas A&M University anthropologist, told reporters.

For 80 years, it has been argued that the Clovis culture was the first to sweep into the New World.
These people were defined by their highly efficient stone-tool technology. Their arrow heads and spear points were formidable hunting weapons and were used to bring down the massive beasts of the Ice Age, such as mammoth, mastodon and bison.

The hunter gatherers associated with this technology were thought to have crossed from Siberia into Alaska via a land bridge that became exposed when sea levels dropped. Evidence indicates this occurred as far back as about 13,500 years.

But an increasing number of archaeologists have argued there was likely to have been an earlier occupation based on the stone tools that began turning up at dig sites with claimed dates of more than 15,000 years.
Dr Waters and colleagues say this position is now undeniable in the light of the new artefacts to emerge from the Debra L Friedkin excavation.
These objects comprise 15,528 items in total - a variety of chert blades, bladelets, chisels, and abundant flakes produced when making or repairing stone tools.

The collection was found directly below sediment containing classic Clovis implements. The dating - which relied on a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) that can tell how long minerals have been buried - is robust, says the team. And, they add, the observed sequence is also reliable; the sediments have not been mixed up after the tools were dropped.
"The sediments were very rigid in the fact that they were clay, which worked to our advantage," explained Lee Nordt from Baylor University. "If you go to many other sites, they are loamy or sandy in texture, and they are mixed very rapidly by burrowing from animals or maybe from plant roots, etc."

The newly discovered tools are small, and the researchers propose that they were designed for a mobile toolkit - something that could be easily packed up and moved to a new location. Although clearly different from Clovis tools, they share some similarities and the researchers suggest Clovis technology may even have been derived from the capabilities displayed in the earlier objects.

"The Debra L Friedkin site demonstrates that people were in the Americas at least 2,500 years before Clovis," said Dr Waters.
"The discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop. People could experiment with stone and invent the weapons and tools that would potentially become recognizable as Clovis. In other words, [these tools represent] the type of assemblage from which Clovis could emerge."

But anthropologist Tom Dillehay, who was not involved with the latest study, commented: "The 'Clovis first' paradigm died years ago. There are many other accepted pre-Clovis candidates throughout the Americas now."
Professor Dillehay, from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told BBC News: "If you look at the prose of this paper, it bothers me a little bit because it's as if they are reconstituting the Clovis-Pre-Clovis debate and saying, 'Here's the site that kills it'."
He commended the researchers on their well-presented data and "tight discussion". But he said that the OSL technique was less reliable than radiocarbon dating, which has been applied to other early American sites.

And assigning the artefacts to Clovis and pre-Clovis technologies was not straightforward because the site lacked the projectile points required to reliably distinguish between the two. Clovis projectile points are unmistakeable.
In addition, said the Vanderbilt anthropology professor, the tools come from a floodplain deposit that is just 6-7cm thick. This, he said, was "potentially problematic" because of the possibility that artefacts were transported around by water.

Professor Gary Haynes, from the University of Nevada in Reno, US, praised the "good work" by the research team.
But he said it was plausible that natural processes could have caused some stone tools to migrate downwards in the clay - giving the impression of a pre-Clovis layer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12851772
 

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This is the same watershed as the Gault site, which I've mentioned here before, and it's a sign of the state of science reporting that it is not mentioned and the team there was not asked anything.

Also, that popular sources are still talking about "Clovis First" as the default model and single sites as if they are going to be the revolutionary discovery that changes everybody's mind. That's already happened - Dillehay's Monte Verde site in Chile. The number and quality of Preclovis sites grows steadily and they are all important.

The Clovis First model is not true. The people who believe it's true are the people who are simply too old to change their minds. We'll stop getting articles presenting the underdog Preclovis vs. the Clovis First folks when we get enough information about the people who preceded Clovis to create a coherent picture of a culture and give that culture a proper name. The term Preclovis defines a people by what they're not, which makes them hard to hold onto.

If, as seems likely, the "Preclovis" were not a single cohesive culture (why should they be, with sites as far apart as Chile, Alaska, and Pennsylvania?) but a number of wildly disparate ones, many of the traces of which were drowned at the end of the Ice Age, we could be at this a long time. It may be that the Central Texas Preclovis documented at Gault and Friedekind were cultural outliers who will in time become entrenched in textbooks as The Definitive First Culture, a view which will be pitched by future reporters as the Orthodox one against which the revolutionary information being discovered via new offshore digging technology is pitched in an underdog battle.
 

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Scientists reveal a first in Ice Age art

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Florida have announced the discovery of a bone fragment, approximately 13,000 years old, in Florida with an incised image of a mammoth or mastodon.

The engraving, approximately 13,000 years old, is 3 inches long from the top of the head to the tip of the tail, and 1.75 inches tall from the top of the head to the bottom of the right foreleg.
This engraving is the oldest and only known example of Ice Age art to depict a proboscidean (the order of animals with trunks) in the Americas. The team's research is published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The bone was discovered in Vero Beach, Fla. by James Kennedy, an avocational fossil hunter, who collected the bone and later while cleaning the bone, discovered the engraving. Recognizing its potential importance, Kennedy contacted scientists at the University of Florida and the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute and National Museum of Natural History.

"This is an incredibly exciting discovery," said Dennis Stanford, anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and co-author of this research. "There are hundreds of depictions of proboscideans on cave walls and carved into bones in Europe, but none from America- until now."

The engraving is 3 inches long from the top of the head to the tip of the tail, and 1.75 inches tall from the top of the head to the bottom of the right foreleg. The fossil bone is a fragment from a long bone of a large mammal- most likely either a mammoth or mastodon, or less likely a giant sloth. A precise identification was not possible because of the bone's fragmented condition and lack of diagnostic features.

"The results of this investigation are an excellent example of the value of interdisciplinary research and cooperation among scientists," said Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Florida and lead author of the team's research. "There was considerable skepticism expressed about the authenticity of the incising on the bone until it was examined exhaustively by archaeologists, paleontologists, forensic anthropologists, materials science engineers and artists."

One of the main goals for the research team was to investigate the timing of the engraving- was it ancient or was it recently engraved to mimic an example of prehistoric art? It was originally found near a location, known as the Old Vero Site, where human bones were found side-by-side with the bones of extinct Ice Age animals in an excavation from 1913 to 1916. The team examined the elemental composition of the engraved bone and others from the Old Vero Site. They also used optical and electron microscopy, which showed no discontinuity in coloration between the carved grooves and the surrounding material. This indicated that both surfaces aged simultaneously and that the edges of the carving were worn and showed no signs of being carved recently or that the grooves were made with metal tools.

Believed to be genuine, this rare specimen provides evidence that people living in the Americas during the last Ice Age created artistic images of the animals they hunted. The engraving is at least 13,000 years old as this is the date for the last appearance of these animals in eastern North America, and more recent Pre-Columbian people would not have seen a mammoth or mastodon to draw.

The team's research also further validates the findings of geologist Elias Howard Sellards at the Old Vero Site in the early 20th Century. His claims that people were in North America and hunted animals at Vero Beach during the last Ice Age have been disputed over the past 95 years.

A cast of the carved fossil bone is now part of an exhibit of Florida Mammoth and Mastodons at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

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Heffalumps

20a4777d17ea83669a5a8d9c749a7a2c.jpg


It's rather elegant as it goes: a nice little sketch/study.

Look at the curvature in the line of the legs and the rising torso; it's quite keenly observed.
 
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PeniG

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And, it's not shaggy! It's a Columbian (or Jeffersonian, or some variation thereof) mammoth, not a woolly! Which is exactly right for Florida.

Yes, this is wonderful. :D
 

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*reads PeniG's post and thinks this is a most marvellous messageboard*
 

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That's just WOW. Assuming the tool used to be flint, it's astonishing how clearly defined it is. Shame there's not a full head, I'd love to think that this was a practice piece, and there's a more complete version out there somewhere.
 

PeniG

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The definition of the engraving is not particularly astonishing compared to other engravings of similar age, of which we have many examples from Europe, Cultjunky. Chert (of which flint is a type), obsidian, and volcanic glass are all capable of holding a razor edge, and bone is a relatively soft material. I don't know off the top of my head which lithic materials were most often used in Florida, which is pretty poor in such resources and would have obtained its best toolstone by trade and/or regular visits to distant quarries. Probably mostly trade, as shells and salt would have been readily available in Florida and valued in non-Coastal areas.

It is tempting to start comparing this mammoth to those on cave walls and portable art from Europe, particularly those associated with Solutrean cultures, in light of Stanford's Solutrean hypothesis; but comparing art styles has a huge subjective element and comparing one sample to the large European one is an invitation to cherrypicking.

What we need, of course, is more art. I've been thinking for awhile now that as the Clovis First purists die off, replaced by the new generation which is excited by the breaking of that paradigm, that we're going to have more people looking in the right places to find the really old art and artifacts and recognizing them when found. This may be the first find of many.
 

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One wonders how petroglyphs may get reappraised once those 'Clovis First' types die off.
 

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Old American theory is 'speared'
By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News

An ancient bone with a projectile point lodged within it appears to up-end - once and for all - a long-held idea of how the Americas were first populated.
The rib, from a tusked beast known as a mastodon, has been dated precisely to 13,800 years ago.
This places it before the so-called Clovis hunters, who many academics had argued were the North American continent's original inhabitants.
News of the dating results is reported in Science magazine.

In truth, the "Clovis first" model, which holds to the idea that America's original human population swept across a land-bridge from Siberia some 13,000 years ago, has looked untenable for some time.
A succession of archaeological finds right across the United States and northern Mexico have indicated there was human activity much earlier than this - perhaps as early as 15-16,000 years ago.
The mastodon rib, however, really leaves the once cherished model with nowhere to go.

The specimen has actually been known about for more than 30 years. It is plainly from an old male animal that had been attacked with some kind of weaponry.
It was found in the late 1970s near Manis, just north of Seattle, in Washington State.
Although scientists at the time correctly identified the specimen's antiquity, adherents to the Clovis-first model questioned the dating and interpretation of the site.

To try to settle any lingering uncertainty, Prof Michael Waters of Texas A&M University and colleagues called upon a range of up-to-date analytical tools and revisited the specimen.
These investigations included new radio carbon tests using atomic accelerators.
"The beauty of atomic accelerators is that you can date very small samples and also very chemically pure samples," Prof Waters told BBC News.
"We extracted specific amino acids from the collagen in the bone and dated those, and yielded dates 13,800 years ago, plus or minus 20 years. That's very precise."

Computed tomography, which creates exquisite 3D X-ray images of objects, was also used to study the embedded point. The visualisation reveals how the projectile end had been deliberately sharpened to give a needle-like quality. And it also enabled the scientists to estimate the projectile end's likely original size - at least 27cm long, they believe.
"The other thing that's really interesting is that as it went in, the very tip broke and rotated off to the side," said the Texas A&M researcher.
"That's a very common breakage pattern when any kind of projectile hits bone. You see it even in stone projectiles that are embedded in, say, bison bones."

DNA investigation also threw up a remarkable irony - the point itself was made from mastodon bone, proving that the people who fashioned it were systematically hunting or scavenging animal bones to make their tools.

The timing of humanity's presence in North America is important because it plays into the debate over why so many great beasts from the end of the last Ice Age in that quarter of the globe went extinct.
Not just mastodons, but woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, giant sloths, camels, and teratorns (predatory birds with a nearly four-metre wingspan) - all disappeared in short order a little over 12,700 years ago.

A rapidly changing climate in North America is assumed to have played a key role - as is the sophisticated stone-tool weaponry used by the Clovis hunters. But the fact that there are also humans with effective bone and antler killing technologies present in North America deeper in time suggests the hunting pressure on these animals may have been even greater than previously thought.
"Humans clearly had a role in these extinctions and by the time the Clovis technology turns up at 13,000 years ago - that's the end. They finished them off," said Prof Waters.

"You know, the Clovis-first model has been dying for some time," he finished. "But there's nothing harder to change than a paradigm, than long-standing thinking. When Clovis-First was first proposed, it was a very elegant model but it's time to move on, and most of the archaeological community is doing just that."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15391388
 

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New evidence suggests Stone Age hunters from Europe discovered America
David Keys Tuesday 28 February 2012

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.

A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

The new discoveries are among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades - and are set to add substantially to our understanding of humanity's spread around the globe.

The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artefacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.

What’s more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia back in 1971 revealed that it was made of French-originating flint.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, are proposing that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling (over the ice surface and/or by boat) along the edge of the frozen northern part of the Atlantic. They are presenting their detailed evidence in a new book - Across Atlantic Ice – published this month.

At the peak of the Ice Age, around three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year.

However, the seasonally shifting zone where the ice ended and the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources – migrating seals, sea birds, fish and the now-extinct northern hemisphere penguin-like species, the great auk.

Stanford and Bradley have long argued that Stone Age humans were quite capable of making the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice - but till now there was comparatively little evidence to support their thinking.

But the new Maryland, Virginia and other US east coast material, and the chemical tests on the Virginian flint knife, have begun to transform the situation. Now archaeologists are starting to investigate half a dozen new sites in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas – and these locations are expected to produce more evidence.

Another key argument for Stanford and Bradley’s proposal is the complete absence of any human activity in north-east Siberia and Alaska prior to around 15,500 years ago. If the Maryland and other east coast people of 26,000 to 19,000 years ago had come from Asia, not Europe, early material, dating from before 19,000 years ago, should have turned up in those two northern areas, but none have been found.

Although Solutrean Europeans may well have been the first Americans, they had a major disadvantage compared to the Asian-originating Indians who entered the New World via the Bering Straits or along the Aleutian Islands chain after 15,500 years ago.

Whereas the Solutreans had only had a 4500 year long ‘Ice Age’ window to carry out their migratory activity, the Asian-originating Indians had some 15,000 years to do it. What’s more, the latter two-thirds of that 15 millennia long period was climatologically much more favourable and substantially larger numbers of Asians were therefore able to migrate.

As a result of these factors the Solutrean (European originating) Native Americans were either partly absorbed by the newcomers or were substantially obliterated by them either physically or through competition for resources.

Some genetic markers for Stone Age western Europeans simply don’t exist in north- east Asia – but they do in tiny quantities among some north American Indian groups. Scientific tests on ancient DNA extracted from 8000 year old skeletons from Florida have revealed a high level of a key probable European-originating genetic marker. There are also a tiny number of isolated Native American groups whose languages appear not to be related in any way to Asian-originating American Indian peoples.

But the greatest amount of evidence is likely to come from under the ocean – for most of the areas where the Solutreans would have stepped off the Ice onto dry land are now up to 100 miles out to sea.

The one underwater site that has been identified - thanks to the scallop dredgers – is set to be examined in greater detail this summer – either by extreme-depth divers or by remotely operated mini submarines equipped with cameras and grab arms.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 47152.html
 

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Butchered sloth bone lends more evidence to early North American settlement

March, 26 2012

Montreal Gazette

A Canadian scientist's analysis of ancient animal remains found in Ohio including the leg bone of an extinct giant sloth believed to have been butchered by an Ice Age hunter more than 13,000 years ago has added weight to a once controversial argument that humans arrived in North America thousands of years earlier than previously believed.

The discovery of what appear to be dozens of cut marks on the femur of a gargantuan, 1,300-kilogram Jefferson's ground sloth is being hailed as the earliest trace of a human presence in the Great Lakes state.

But the find also represents a significant new piece of evidence in support of the theory that the first inhabitants of Canada, the U.S. and the rest of the Americas were not the so-called Clovis people - known from distinctive tools they left at various archeological sites from about 12,600 years ago - but a much earlier wave of Ice Age migrants ancestral to many of today's New World aboriginal populations.

The butchered-sloth discovery - recently confirmed by University of Manitoba researcher Haskel Greenfield, co-author of a paper published in the latest issue of the journal World Archaeology - bolsters the growing consensus that prehistoric Asians crossed from eastern Russian to western Alaska as early as 16,000 years ago, possibly travelling down the coast of B.C. before spreading to the continental interior and the far reaches of South America.

These purported "pre-Clovis" people left indications of their presence in the Western Hemisphere that only recently have become accepted as solid proof by many mainstream archeologists.

The sloth bone took a circuitous route to scientific significance. Discovered in an Ohio swamp at least 95 years ago, the specimen was first documented by a U.S. geologist in 1915 before sitting on the shelf of a local museum for close to a century, overlooked by modern researchers.

U.S. experts led by an archeologist from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History recently re-examined the bone and other ancient remains, and contacted Greenfield - a specialist in early human tools and hunting - to help determine if the 44 incisions on the giant sloth's femur were, in fact, made by humans stripping meat from the downed beast.

"I went down to Cleveland full of skepticism," Greenfield told Postmedia News. "Partly, it was because other colleagues of mine had seen the specimen very briefly (and from a distance) and were sure that the marks were natural. It was only when I got up close to the specimen and began to look at it microscopically did I find a very different situation - one that I could not discount as caused by natural forces."

Greenfield said it was "the total pattern that overturned my skepticism - the location of the marks, their shape, their size, the direction that they were made from, etc., as well as the fact that the morphology of the marks was most similar to those made by stone tools."

The published paper - co-authored by Greenfield, CMNH archeologist Brian Redmond, U.S. National Park Service scientist Gregory McDonald and Firelands (Ohio) Historical Society researcher Matthew Burr - noted that, "until now, evidence of butchering and human utilization of ground sloths has been limited to South America."

But apart from the breakthrough discovery that early humans were hunting giant sloths as far north as the Great Lakes, the extreme age of the specimen - pegged at 13,435 to 13,738 years old through radiocarbon dating - offered a fresh clue in the mystery surrounding humanity's arrival in the Americas and dispersal throughout the hemisphere.

"There is a variety of other pre-Clovis evidence that has accumulated slowly and surely in recent years," said Greenfield. "Our study demonstrated that people were in northern Ohio and predated Clovis in the region by about 700 years."

The Canadian scientist added that, "my feeling is that people came down the west coast of North America, not through a supposed ice-free corridor between the Rockies and the Laurentide glacier" as traditionally believed by North American archeologists.

"As they were coming down the coast, they encountered the massive glaciers that covered the Rockies and could not have crossed it easily into the interior of the continent," said Greenfield. "These early peoples would have been adapted to a coastal existence . . . Probably the origins of the inhabitants of the interior of North America were from a small band of these early hunter-gatherers who branched off from these coastal peoples," first moving inland in Southern California or Mexico before gradually proliferating north and east across North America, while others continued their coastal trek to Central and South America.

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Title open to misinterpretation, I'm sure they weren't into bestiality. Bet they didn't sleep with fossils either.

Early North Americans Lived With Extinct Giant Beasts, Study Shows
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 153929.htm

Barbara Purdy, University of Florida anthropology professor emeritus and archaeology curator emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, stands with a Columbian mammoth skeleton displayed at the Florida Museum to illustrate the size difference between humans and the extinct species. Purdy and vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden used rare earth element analysis to show modern humans in North America co-existed with large extinct mammals about 13,000 years ago, including mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths. (Credit: Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace)

ScienceDaily (May 3, 2012) — A new University of Florida study that determined the age of skeletal remains provides evidence humans reached the Western Hemisphere during the last ice age and lived alongside giant extinct mammals.

The study published online May 3 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology addresses the century-long debate among scientists about whether human and mammal remains found at Vero Beach in the early 1900s date to the same time period. Using rare earth element analysis to measure the concentration of naturally occurring metals absorbed during fossilization, researchers show modern humans in North America co-existed with large extinct mammals about 13,000 years ago, including mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths.

"The Vero site is still the only site where there was an abundance of actual human bones, not just artifacts, associated with the animals," said co-author Barbara Purdy, UF anthropology professor emeritus and archaeology curator emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "Scientists who disputed the age of the human remains in the early 20th century just did not want to believe that people were in the Western Hemisphere that early. And 100 years later, every single book written about the prehistory of North America includes this site and the controversy that still exists."

Following discovery of the fossils in South Florida between 1913 and 1916, some prominent scientists convinced researchers the human skeletons were from more recent burials and not as old as the animals, a question that remained unanswered because no dating methods existed.

"The uptake of rare earth elements is time-dependent, so an old fossil is going to have very different concentrations of rare earth elements than bones from a more recent human burial," said lead author Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator. "We found the human remains have statistically the same concentrations of rare earth elements as the fossils."

The little information known about the first humans to appear in North America is primarily based on bone fragments and artifacts, such as stone points used for hunting. Other sites in California, Montana and Texas show human presence around the same time period based on artifacts, but two nearly complete human skeletons were discovered at the Vero Beach site.

As bones begin to fossilize they absorb elements from the surrounding sediment, and analysis is effective in distinguishing different-aged fossils deposited in the same locality. Instead of radiocarbon dating, which requires the presence of collagen in bones, researchers used mass spectrometry to compare rare earth elements in the specimens because a lack of collagen in the Vero Beach specimens made radiocarbon dating impossible, Purdy said.

Researchers analyzed samples from 24 human bones and 48 animal fossils in the Florida Museum's collections and determined the specimens were all from the late Pleistocene epoch about 13,000 years ago. While rare earth element analysis method is not as precise as radiocarbon dating, Purdy said the significance of human skeletons found in Vero Beach is unquestionable in terms of their presence in the Western Hemisphere.

"It is important to note that they [the authors] did not provide an absolute or chronometric date, rather the geochemistry shows that the trace elemental geochemistry is the same, thus the bones must be of the same age," said Kenneth Tankersley, an assistant professor in the University of Cincinnati anthropology and geology departments.

Native fauna during the last ice age ranged from extinct jaguars and saber-toothed cats to shrews, mice and squirrels still present in Florida. Researchers speculate humans would have been wanderers much like the animals because there was less fresh water than in later years, Purdy said.

"Humans would have been following the animals for a food supply, but that's about all we know," Purdy said. "We know what some of their tools looked like and we know they were hunting the extinct animals but we know practically nothing about their family life, such as how these ancient people raised their children and grieved for their dead."

Study co-authors include Krista Church of UF and the University of Texas, and Thomas Stafford Jr., of Stafford Research in Colorado and the University of Copenhagen.

"Vero is a historical context for the development of archaeology -- these are the beginnings of the people of America," MacFadden said. "The site is well-known in the literature but has been discounted, so we're sort of reviving an understanding of this important locality and using newer techniques to revive the question about the antiquity of the humans."

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Florida, via Newswise. The original article was written by Danielle Torrent.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Bruce J. Macfadden, Barbara A. Purdy, Krista Church, Thomas W. Stafford. Humans were contemporaneous with late Pleistocene mammals in Florida: evidence from rare earth elemental analyses. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2012; 32 (3): 708 DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2012.655639
 

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Ancient History of Circumarctic Peoples Illuminated
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 193137.htm

Igloo. Establishing shared markers in the DNA of people living in the circumarctic region, scientists uncovered evidence of interactions among several tribes during the last several thousand years. (Credit: © coco / Fotolia)

ScienceDaily (May 17, 2012) — Two studies led by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and National Geographic's Genographic Project reveal new information about the migration patterns of the first humans to settle the Americas. The studies identify the historical relationships among various groups of Native American and First Nations peoples and present the first clear evidence of the genetic impact of the groups' cultural practices.

For many of these populations, this is the first time their genetics have been analyzed on a population scale. One study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, focuses on the Haida and Tlingit communities of southeastern Alaska. The other study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considers the genetic histories of three groups that live in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Establishing shared markers in the DNA of people living in the circumarctic region, the team of scientists uncovered evidence of interactions among the tribes during the last several thousand years. The researchers used these clues to determine how humans migrated to and settled in North America as long as 20,000 years ago, after crossing the land bridge from today's Russia, an area known as Beringia.

Penn houses the Genographic Project's North American research center.

"These studies inform our understanding of the initial peopling process in the Americas, what happened after people moved through and who remained behind in Beringia," said author Theodore Schurr, an associate professor in Penn's Department of Anthropology and the Genographic Project principal investigator for North America.

Both papers also confirm theories that linguists had posited, based on analyses of spoken languages, about population divisions among circumarctic populations.

Schurr contributed to both papers, along with Penn colleagues Matthew Dulik, Amanda Owings, Jill Gaieski and Miguel Vilar.

The first paper focused on the Haida and Tlingit tribes, which have similar material cultures.

"They share potlatch, or rituals of feasting, totemic motifs and a type of social organization that is based on matrilineal clans and moieties," Schurr said.

Using cheek-swab DNA samples, the analyses confirmed that the two tribes -- although they possessed some similarities in their mitochondrial DNA makeup -- were quite distinct from one another. Comparing the DNA from the Tlingit and Haida with samples from other circumarctic groups further suggested that the Haida had been relatively isolated for a significant period of time. This isolation had already been suspected by linguists, who have questioned whether the Haida language belonged in the Na-Dene language family, which encompasses Tlingit, Eyak and Athapaskan languages.

In the clan system of Haida and Tlingit peoples, children inherit the clan status -- and territory -- of their mothers. Each clan is divided in two moieties, or social groups, for example the Eagle and the Raven in the Tlingit tribe. Traditionally, a person from the Raven clan married someone from the Eagle clan and vice versa.

"Part of what we were interested in testing was whether we could see clear genetic evidence of that social practice in these groups," Schurr said. "In fact, we could, demonstrating the importance of culture in molding human genetic diversity."

The other paper expands this view of circumarctic peoples to closely consider the genetic histories of three groups that live in the Northwest Territories: the Inuvialuit, the Gwich'in and the Tlicho. The Inuivialuit language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family, while the Gwich'in and Tlicho speak languages belonging to the Na-Dene family and the Athapaskan subgroup.

In this study, the researchers analyzed 100 individual mutations and 19 short stretches of DNA from all individuals sampled, obtaining the highest-resolution Y chromosome data ever from these groups.

The team's results indicate several new genetic markers that define previously unknown branches of the family tree of circumarctic groups. One marker, found in the Inuvialuit but not the other two groups, suggests that this group arose from an Arctic migration event somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago, separate from the migration that gave rise to many of the speakers of the Na-Dene language group.

"If we're correct, [this lineage] was present across the entire Arctic and in Beringia," Schurr said. "This means it traces a separate expansion of Eskimo-Aleut-speaking peoples across this region."

Many of the native groups who have participated in both studies are also enthusiastic collaborators, Schurr said.

"What we find fits very nicely with their own reckoning of ancestry and descent and with their other historical records. We've gotten a lot of support from these communities."

"Perhaps the most extraordinary finding to come out of these two studies is the way the traditional stories and the linguistic patterns correlate with the genetic data," Spencer Wells, Genographic Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, said. "Genetics complements our understanding of history but doesn't replace other components of group identity."

Additional contributors to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology paper are Sergey Zhadanov of Penn, Judy Ramos of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, Mary Beth Moss of the Huna Indian Association, Francis Natkong of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the Genographic Consortium.

For the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, the Penn team worked with Alestine Andre, Ingrid Kritsch, Sharon Snowshoe and Ruth Wright of the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute; Crystal Lennie of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation; Mary Adele Mackenzie, James Martin and Nancy Gibson of the Tlicho Community Services Authority; Thomas Andrews of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center; and the Genographic Consortium.

Support for both studies was provided by the National Geographic Society, IBM, the Waitt Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Pennsylvania.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal References:

Theodore G. Schurr, Matthew C. Dulik, Amanda C. Owings, Sergey I. Zhadanov, Jill B. Gaieski, Miguel G. Vilar, Judy Ramos, Mary Beth Moss, Francis Natkong. Clan, language, and migration history has shaped genetic diversity in Haida and Tlingit populations from Southeast Alaska. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22068
M. C. Dulik, A. C. Owings, J. B. Gaieski, M. G. Vilar, A. Andre, C. Lennie, M. A. Mackenzie, I. Kritsch, S. Snowshoe, R. Wright, J. Martin, N. Gibson, T. D. Andrews, T. G. Schurr, S. Adhikarla, C. J. Adler, E. Balanovska, O. Balanovsky, J. Bertranpetit, A. C. Clarke, D. Comas, A. Cooper, C. S. I. Der Sarkissian, A. GaneshPrasad, W. Haak, M. Haber, A. Hobbs, A. Javed, L. Jin, M. E. Kaplan, S. Li, B. Martinez-Cruz, E. A. Matisoo-Smith, M. Mele, N. C. Merchant, R. J. Mitchell, L. Parida, R. Pitchappan, D. E. Platt, L. Quintana-Murci, C. Renfrew, D. R. Lacerda, A. K. Royyuru, F. R. Santos, H. Soodyall, D. F. Soria Hernanz, P. Swamikrishnan, C. Tyler-Smith, A. V. Santhakumari, P. P. Vieira, R. S. Wells, P. A. Zalloua, J. S. Ziegle. Y-chromosome analysis reveals genetic divergence and new founding native lineages in Athapaskan- and Eskimoan-speaking populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118760109
 

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New Deglaciation Data Opens Door for Earlier First Americans Migration
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 141351.htm

New research suggests that the possible coastal migration of people from Asia into North America and South America could have begun as much as two millennia earlier than thought. (Credit: © David Alary / Fotolia)
ScienceDaily (June 21, 2012) — A new study of lake sediment cores from Sanak Island in the western Gulf of Alaska suggests that deglaciation there from the last Ice Age took place as much as 1,500 to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, opening the door for earlier coastal migration models for the Americas.

The Sanak Island Biocomplexity Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, also concluded that the maximum thickness of the ice sheet in the Sanak Island region during the last glacial maximum was 70 meters -- or about half that previously projected -- suggesting that deglaciation could have happened more rapidly than earlier models predicted.

Results of the study were just published in the professional journal, Quaternary Science Reviews.

The study, led by Nicole Misarti of Oregon State University, is important because it suggests that the possible coastal migration of people from Asia into North America and South America -- popularly known as "First Americans" studies -- could have begun as much as two millennia earlier than the generally accepted date of ice retreat in this area, which was 15,000 years before present.

Well-established archaeology sites at Monte Verde, Chile, and Huaca Prieta, Peru, date back 14,000 to 14,200 years ago, giving little time for expansion if humans had not come to the Americas until 15,000 years before present -- as many models suggest.

The massive ice sheets that covered this part of Earth during the last Ice Age would have prevented widespread migration into the Americas, most archaeologists believe.

"It is important to note that we did not find any archaeological evidence documenting earlier entrance into the continent," said Misarti, a post-doctoral researcher in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. "But we did collect cores from widespread places on the island and determined the lake's age of origin based on 22 radiocarbon dates that clearly document that the retreat of the Alaska Peninsula Glacier Complex was earlier than previously thought."

"Glaciers would have retreated sufficiently so as to not hinder the movement of humans along the southern edge of the Bering land bridge as early as almost 17,000 years ago," added Misarti, who recently accepted a faculty position at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Interestingly, the study began as a way to examine the abundance of ancient salmon runs in the region. As the researchers began examining core samples from Sanak Island lakes looking for evidence of salmon remains, however, they began getting radiocarbon dates much earlier than they had expected. These dates were based on the organic material in the sediments, which was from terrestrial plant macrofossils indicating the region was ice-free earlier than believed.

The researchers were surprised to find the lakes ranged in age from 16,500 to 17,000 years ago.

A third factor influencing the find came from pollen, Misarti said.

"We found a full contingent of pollen that indicated dry tundra vegetation by 16,300 years ago," she said. "That would have been a viable landscape for people to survive on, or move through. It wasn't just bare ice and rock."

The Sanak Island site is remote, about 700 miles from Anchorage, Alaska, and about 40 miles from the coast of the western Alaska Peninsula, where the ice sheets may have been thicker and longer lasting, Misarti pointed out. "The region wasn't one big glacial complex," she said. "The ice was thinner and the glaciers retreated earlier."

Other studies have shown that warmer sea surface temperatures may have preceded the early retreat of the Alaska Peninsula Glacier Complex (APGC), which may have supported productive coastal ecosystems.

Wrote the researchers in their article: "While not proving that first Americans migrated along this corridor, these latest data from Sanak Island show that human migration across this portion of the coastal landscape was unimpeded by the APGC after 17 (thousand years before present), with a viable terrestrial landscape in place by 16.3 (thousand years before present), well before the earliest accepted sites in the Americas were inhabited."

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Oregon State University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Nicole Misarti, Bruce P. Finney, James W. Jordan, Herbert D.G. Maschner, Jason A. Addison, Mark D. Shapley, Andrea Krumhardt, James E. Beget. Early retreat of the Alaska Peninsula Glacier Complex and the implications for coastal migrations of First Americans. Quaternary Science Reviews, 2012; 48: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.05.014
 

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Native American populations descend from three key migrations

July 11th, 2012 in Biology / Biotechnology

Scientists have found that Native American populations — from Canada to the southern tip of Chile — arose from at least three migrations, with the majority descended entirely from a single group of First American migrants that crossed over through Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America that existed during the ice ages, more than 15,000 years ago.

By studying variations in Native American DNA sequences, the international team found that while most of the Native American populations arose from the first migration, two subsequent migrations also made important genetic contributions. The paper is published in the journal Nature today.

"For years it has been contentious whether the settlement of the Americas occurred by means of a single or multiple migrations from Siberia," said Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment), who coordinated the study. "But our research settles this debate: Native Americans do not stem from a single migration. Our study also begins to cast light on patterns of human dispersal within the Americas."

In the most comprehensive survey of genetic diversity in Native Americans so far, the team took data from 52 Native American and 17 Siberian groups, studying more than 300,000 specific DNA sequence variations called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms to examine patterns of genetic similarities and differences between the population groups.

The second and third migrations have left an impact only in Arctic populations that speak Eskimo-Aleut languages and in the Canadian Chipewyan who speak a Na-Dene language. However, even these populations have inherited most of their genome from the First American migration. Eskimo-Aleut speakers derive more than 50% of their DNA from First Americans, and the Chipewyan around 90%. This reflects the fact that these two later streams of Asian migration mixed with the First Americans they encountered after they arrived in North America.

"There are at least three deep lineages in Native American populations," said co-author David Reich, Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. "The Asian lineage leading to First Americans is the most anciently diverged, whereas the Asian lineages that contributed some of the DNA to Eskimo–Aleut speakers and the Na-Dene-speaking Chipewyan from Canada are more closely related to present-day East Asian populations."

The team also found that once in the Americas, people expanded southward along a route that hugged the coast with populations splitting off along the way. After divergence, there was little gene flow among Native American groups, especially in South America.

Two striking exceptions to this simple dispersal were also discovered. First, Central American Chibchan-speakers have ancestry from both North and South America, reflecting back-migration from South America and mixture of two widely separated strands of Native ancestry. Second, the Naukan and coastal Chukchi from north-eastern Siberia carry 'First American' DNA. Thus, Eskimo-Aleut speakers migrated back to Asia, bringing Native American genes.

The team's analysis was complicated by the influx into the hemisphere of European and African immigrants since 1492 and the 500 years of genetic mixing that followed. To address this, the authors developed methods that allowed them to focus on the sections of peoples' genomes that were of entirely Native American origin.

"The study of Native American populations is technically very challenging because of the widespread occurrence of European and African mixture in Native American groups," said Professor Ruiz-Linares.

"We developed a method to peel back this mixture to learn about the relationships among Native Americans before Europeans and Africans arrived," Professor Reich said, "allowing us to study the history of many more Native American populations than we could have done otherwise."

The assembly of DNA samples from such a diverse range of populations was only possible through a collaboration of an international team of 64 researchers from the Americas (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Russia and the USA), Europe (England, France, Spain and Switzerland) and Russia.

More information: 'Reconstructing Native American population history' is published in the journal Nature on 11 July 2012. DOI: 10.1038/nature11258
Provided by University College London

"Native American populations descend from three key migrations." July 11th, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-07-native-ame ... d-key.html
 

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Oregon stone tools enliven 'earliest Americans' debate
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18814522
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

Western Stemmed points differ significantly from Clovis design at their base

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Scientists studying how North America was first settled have found stone spearheads and darts in Oregon, US, that date back more than 13,000 years.

The hunting implements, which are of the "Western Stemmed" tradition, are at least as old as the famous Clovis tools thought for a long time to belong to the continent's earliest inhabitants.

Precise carbon dating of dried human faeces discovered alongside the stone specimens tied down their antiquity.

Science magazine has the full report.

It has published the scholarly findings of an international team investigating the Paisley Cave complex in south-central Oregon.

Researchers, led by Dennis Jenkins, describe a range of projectile points discovered 1-2m (3-7ft) down in the cave sediments.

"Mostly, we're looking at discards; these are broken and left behind," said the University of Oregon archaeologist.

"Most of these appear to be dart points and have been cast at an animal and broken in the process of being used," he told reporters.

Human faeces
Western Stemmed projectile points differ from comparable Clovis tools at their base, which reflects the way they were shaped and attached to a wooden shaft.

Previous examples found at dig sites in the western US and which have been reliably dated would suggest the technology is more recent than the Clovis tradition.

But Jenkins' group has been able to show the Paisley artefacts were being used contemporaneously to, and perhaps even before, the other cultural tradition.

To do this, the scientists employed state-of-the art radiocarbon dating techniques on human coprolites - desiccated excrement - found in the same layers of the cave's sediments.

"These coprolite samples were all taken under very controlled conditions," explained Eske Willerslev, from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

"When they were discovered in the sediments, people with full body suits, face masks and gloves took the coprolites out and put them into a sterile container."

The samples were sent to independent labs to establish their status - their age and DNA content.

'Clovis first'
Multiple tests placed the coprolites and, by association, the oldest projectile points at 13,200 years before the present day - concurrent with our time estimates for the use Clovis technology in other parts of North America.


Dennis Jenkins holds a human coprolite dating to about 13,000 years ago
The scientists did date Paisley faeces as far back as 14,500 years ago, but no stone tools were found alongside those specimens, and so no really firm conclusions can be drawn about whether Western Stemmed points predated Clovis.

"We've got people in the cave at [14,500 years ago]; we have them showing up again right down through 13,000 years [ago], and there's no evidence of Clovis or precursor to Clovis. Therefore, the most likely answer is that it's Western Stemmed - but we have not proven that," cautioned Prof Jenkins.

For decades, it was assumed that the people associated with Clovis technology were the first human inhabitants of the New World - that they were the ancestors of all the indigenous cultures of North and South America.

It was argued that they crossed from Siberia into Alaska via a land bridge which became exposed when sea levels dropped about 13,500 years.

But this narrative has lost its currency in recent years as more and more evidence has emerged of earlier occupations - some of them confirmed to 15,000-16,000 years ago.

The new Paisley finds further undermine the simplistic "Clovis first" model.

Genetic studies
No-one really knows if the humans using Western Stemmed weaponry represented a completely separate immigrant population to those using Clovis technology, but clearly the traditions of the two groups are different - and it is impossible now for anyone to argue that Clovis is some sort of precursor to Western Stemmed.

What seems to be emerging is a much more nuanced story of how modern humans came to settle in the Americas.

Genetic research published by the journal Nature this week would indicate that the peopling of the Americas from Asia/Siberia occurred in at least three major streams - that modern Native American populations cannot trace their ancestry to a single immigration.

The Jenkins study in Science has something to add to this analysis through the DNA pulled out of the coprolites, although the location in human cells from where that material is derived limits its scope, concedes Prof Willerslev.

"The haplogroups, or the DNA types, are similar to what you find among certain Asian groups, also among [modern] Native American groups. So, in terms of the mother line, this definitely suggests that [the Paisley Cave] people are Asians in origin and possibly - it's not 100% certain - could be ancestral to Native Americans."
 

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Popped across to Above Top Secret, tonight. Always nice to get a slightly different perspective.

There was a new thread: The Giants Of Ancient America: “8' Tall With Double Rows Of Teeth”, with a link to a You Tube vid of a lecture given by stone mason and keen amateur archaeologist, Jim Vieira, at a recent 'TEDx' event, that's well worth a visit.

The video is the best thing I've seen, in ages!

Stone Builders, Mound Builders and the Giants of Ancient America | Jim Vieira at TEDxShelburneFalls :yeay:

There are slides of 'New England Root Cellars' with some of the very best dry stone corbelling I've seen since I visited and dug at neolithic chambered tombs in the Orkneys and in the Cotswolds. Extraordinary archaeological remains that barely get a mention in the official literature.

Then, just over half way through, as Vieira says, his lecture enters, 'The Twilight Zone'. Eight, nine foot, plus, giants with double rows of teeth and talk of cover ups at the Smithsonian... Wonderful stuff. Vieira's heart is definitely in the right place. There's one picture, near the end, of an apparently nine foot tall native American mummy that I've never seen before. Most Fortean thing you'll watch tonight.

I would love to see Vieira give a talk at the next UnCon! :)
 
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