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 mastodonsâ€”a slightly smaller cousin of the woolly mammothâ€”died out some 11,000 years ago.
But the dig site turned out to be even more revelatoryâ€”and now, with a paper in the journal Natureâ€”controversial. See, this site wasnâ€™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 agoâ€”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.