Settlement of the New World made even more ancient and mysterious

(ORDO NEWS) — Approximately 37 thousand years ago, unknown to us, the oldest Americans killed a female mammoth and her baby mammoth.

In 2013, Professor Timothy Rowe, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin (USA), discovered mammoth bones, including the remains of a split skull, on his personal plot of land in New Mexico.

The bones looked deliberately broken, as if it were a butchering place for animal carcasses. Question about dating.

Traditionally, traces of human presence in North and South America are established through finds of processed stone tools.

The origins of this tradition date back to the Upper Paleolithic revolution in Western Europe, which happened about 45 thousand years ago.

After that, complex stone tools spread to Central Asia and Siberia, and then the ancestors of the Native Americans brought them to America – about 16 thousand years ago.

Settlement of the New World made even more ancient and mysterious 2
Traces of cutting on the ribs of a mammoth

The earliest evidence of Upper Paleolithic stone technology in the Americas is usually equated with the arrival of the first humans.

However, genetic data on the two populations – the founders of America (the Clovis culture and their unknown predecessors) allow us to speak of two separate settlements of people, between which there was a time interval calculated for millennia.

It turns out that the first arrival of humans was an event quite separate from the introduction of Upper Paleolithic technologies in America.

But if people without advanced stone tools occupied the Americas long before the ancestors of today’s Native Americans, how can we identify these older settlements in the archaeological record?

To find out, Professor Rowe and his colleagues examined the found mammoth bones and the layer in which they were found. The results are presented in a paper published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution .

It turned out that in this place were the remains of the bones of two animals at once – a female mammoth and her baby mammoth.

The bones of the latter were split in such a way that they became a kind of disposable knives – for cutting a larger carcass. The edges of these knives have worn off during use.

Settlement of the New World made even more ancient and mysterious 3
Found parts of an adult female mammoth

In addition, the researchers found traces of fire in this place: a chemical analysis of the deposits surrounding the bones showed that it was a long and controlled burning, and not a lightning strike or a forest fire.

The material also contained crushed bones and the charred remains of small animals, mostly fish, but also birds, rodents and lizards.

There are holes in the bones of mammoths, which were most likely made to melt the marrow. It looks like the routine work of butchering a hunted animal. But there are two differences.

First, no stone tools were found on the spot. Secondly, the results of carbon dating of collagen extracted from mammoth bones indicate that the age of the site is from 36,250 to 38,900 years.

This makes it one of the oldest known sites left by ancient people in North America. If we talk about reliable dating, then we are talking about the oldest traces of man in the New World.

So far, the oldest evidence of human presence on the American continent has been found in the Mexican caves of Chiquihuite and Coxcatlán.

In the first, archaeologists found almost two thousand stone tools, the age of which was determined (although not indisputably) in the range from 13 to 33 thousand years.

In the second, bones of a rabbit and a deer were found, on which there were traces of butchering, as well as minimally processed stone tools.

They, according to the results of the analysis, are approximately 28-33 thousand years old.

In other words, stone tools appeared in America before the transfer of the fruits of the Upper Paleolithic revolution there.

Probably, the tools of the very first settlers were not as advanced as those of the “second wave” of colonization.

The new work confirms the results obtained earlier by geneticists, according to which, before the arrival of the carriers of the Clovis culture, there were already people in America – and they got there before the maximum of the last glaciation, that is, earlier than 26.5 thousand years ago. It remains to find out who they were and how exactly they got to the New World.


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