New Study Claims Humans Lived in the Americas 130000 Years Ago

Camille Francis
April 28, 2017

Museum paleontologists found the bones, molars, and tusks of a mastodon in San Diego during routine mitigation work at a freeway expansion project site back in 1992.

Aside from ancient humans, none of the predators of 130,000 years ago could break open a mastodon thighbone, say the researchers.

Beeton added, "These humans came over during the last major interglacial period and were using stone tools, including hammer stones and anvils to process a mastodon".

In this April 28, 1993 photo provided by the San Diego Natural History Museum, a bulldozer refills the Cerutti Mastodon site, after the excavation and salvage of fossils.

"What's truly remarkable about this site is you can identify a particular hammer that was smacked on a particular anvil", said University of Wollongong archaeologist Richard Fullagar, a coauthor on the study who specializes in stone artifacts.

"When you put the total package together, there's certainly more evidence to reject [the study] than accept it", said Dillehay. To give some perspective, it's believed humans migrated out of Africa 125,000 years ago at the earliest.

"The CM (Cerutti Mastodon) site is, to our knowledge, the oldest in situ, well-documented archaeological site in North America and, as such, substantially revises the timing of arrival of Homo into the Americas", researchers wrote. These stones stood out at the site, particularly because the area is full of fine, silty sediment, not large rocks.

The other bone fragments that were unearthed showed that they too came from a single mastodon. On three different trials, they were able to reproduce similar breakage signs on bones effectively. The way the bones have broken - in spiral fractures - also suggests that they were broken while fresh.

The remains were found at the Cerutti Mastodon site, which dates from the early late Pleistocene. But instead of just showing the typical patterns of decay that bones exhibit over time, numerous fragments appeared to have been fractured shortly after the animal died.

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Holen called the discovery the biggest shock of his scientific career.

"I think the models are important in terms of supporting the paper because they allow anyone to look at this evidence in much the same way the co-authors did. It was quite shocking". The arrangement of the bones at Cerutti suggests the early appearance of humans at the site, the researchers said.

James Paces, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, used radiometric dating methods to determine that the mastodon bones were 130,000 years old.

"It's been a long, hard process", he said. The results kept pointing to the same age, the researchers said.

Experts not involved in the study, however, question the claim, in part because of the total lack of other evidence of a human presence so long ago. Researchers, for instance, have only found two examples of human remains for the Clovis culture, which existed about 13,000 years ago in the Americas.

Donald Grayson, an archaeologist at the University of Washington, said that the conclusion was faulty, saying that it may be a mistake to draw a connection between the bones and the rocks.

UM paleontologist Daniel Fisher, a co-author of the Nature paper, said several lines of evidence from the Cerutti Mastodon site point to "one interpretation that is nearly unavoidable because of the way these different lines of argument interlace".

"Of course, extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence". If more recent, wholesale disturbances - like cars or large construction machinery trundling over the buried archaeological site - had broken the bones, then the ribs would likely have fractures, too.

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