Category Archive 'North America'

16 May 2017

When Exactly Did Humans Arrive in North America?

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San Diego Natural History Museum Paleontologist Don Swanson pointing at a large horizontal mastodon tusk fragment.

Wired reports on a fossil find near San Diego from the 1990s that may completely upset the chronological apple cart.

In 1993, construction workers building a new freeway in San Diego made a fantastic discovery. A backhoe operator scraped up a fossil, and scientists soon unearthed a full collection of bones, teeth, and tusks from a mastodon. It was a valuable find: hordes of fossils, impeccably preserved. The last of the mastodons—a slightly smaller cousin of the woolly mammoth—died out some 11,000 years ago.

But the dig site turned out to be even more revelatory—and now, with a paper in the journal Nature—controversial. See, this site wasn’t just catnip for the paleontologists, the diggers who study all fossils. It soon had archaeologists swooping in to study a number of stone tools scattered around the bones, evidence of human activity. After years of debate over the dating technology used on the mastodon, a group of researchers now believes that they can date it and the human tools to 130,000 years ago—more than 100,000 years earlier than the earliest humans are supposed to have made it to North America.

The researchers expect a bit of controversy from a discovery that pushes back the arrival of humans in North America by a factor of ten.

RTWT

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16 Aug 2014

Solutrean Hypothesis

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cinmar-knife-1
Flaked blade recovered from Chesapeake Bay.

Business Insider describes one of the North American finds strikingly resembling Solutrean tools from Western Europe, which suggest the possibility of some Paleolithic settlement of North America from Europe.

Most researchers believe the first Americans crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia about 15,000 years ago and quickly colonized North America. Artifacts from these ancient settlers, dubbed the Clovis culture after one of their iconic archaeological sites in Clovis, New Mexico, have been found from Canada to the edges of North America.

But in 1974, a small wooden scallop trawler was dredging the seafloor, about 230 feet (70 meters) below the sea surface and nearly 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the coastline in the Chesapeake Bay.

“They hit a snag, or a hang, as they like to say, which meant that something pretty heavy was in their net,” said Dennis Stanford, an archaeologist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who has analyzed the find.

When they pulled up their net, they found the partial skull of a mastodon, a distant cousin of the woolly mammoth that began its slide into extinction about 12,000 years ago, Stanford said. The fishermen also noticed a flaked blade made of a volcanic rock called rhyolite.

The fisherman couldn’t lug the skull back to shore in their tiny wooden boat, so they sawed off the tusks and teeth, tossed the rest overboard and eventually handed portions to the crew as souvenirs. Capt. Thurston Shawn gave the remaining tusk portions, teeth and knife to a relative, who donated the remains to Gwynn’s Island Museum in Virginia. There they sat, unnoticed, for decades.

But while doing his doctoral dissertation, Darrin Lowery, a geologist at the University of Delaware, noticed the teeth and the tusk at the museum. …

By measuring the fraction of radioactive carbon isotopes (elements of carbon with different numbers of neutrons), the team found that the mastodon tusk was more than 22,000 years old.

There was no way to date the blade precisely, but the deft flint-knapping technique used to make it was similar to that found in Solutrean tools, which were made in Europe between 22,000 and 17,000 years ago.

Melting glaciers raised sea levels and submerged that area of the continental shelf about 14,000 years ago, so the knife must have been at least that old, Stanford added.

In addition, both pieces showed characteristic weathering that indicated they were exposed to the air for a while and then submerged in a saltwater marsh, before finally being buried in seawater.

That finding suggested that the two artifacts were possibly from the same environment — such as the marshes found between sand dunes that are often set back from the seashore. That would have been a perfect place for mastodons to find food, Stanford said.

“They like to chew on bushes and more rough shrubbery,” Stanford said.

To Stanford, Lowery and their colleagues, the discoveries suggest that people lived along the East Coast more than 14,000 years ago — potentially thousands of years before the Clovis culture emerged there. These first American colonizers may have even crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Stanford said.

Read the whole thing.

The problem with the theory of Solutrean settlement is that, so far, at least, DNA studies argue against the hypothesis.

29 Feb 2012

Evidence Increasing That North America Was First Settled From Europe

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The Daily Mail reports that discoveries of more sites and more artifacts are continuing to undermine the “Clovis First” theory. Evidence for what is being called the Solutrean Hypothesis keeps piling up.

America was first discovered by Stone Age hunters from Europe, according to new archaeological evidence.

Across six locations on the U.S. east coast, several dozen stone tools have been found.

After close analysis it was discovered that they were between 19,000 and 26,000 years old and were a European-style of tool.

The discovery suggests that the owners of the tools arrived 10,000 years before the ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World…

Finding the tools is being heralded as one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades.

Archaeologists are hopeful that they will add another dimension to understanding the spread of humans across the world.

Three of the sites were discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware, while another one is in Pennsylvania and a fifth site is in Virginia.

Fishermen discovered a sixth on a seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast, which in prehistoric times would have been dry land.

29 Dec 2010

North American Dialects

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Very interesting, but current computer screen technology leaves a lot to be desired for this size of map image and associated apparatus.


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