California Fossils, Stone Tools May Rewrite New World Human History

28 April, 2017, 00:44 | Author: Lorena Waters
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Further research showed that the bones were broken while still fresh by blows from the hammer stones that appeared strategically aimed to get at any marrow inside. Palaeontologists called to the site confirmed that the bones belonged to a long-extinct Pleistocene mastodon, a significant discovery on its own.

"This discovery is rewriting our understanding of when humans reached the New World", said Judy Gradwohl, president and CEOP of the San Diego Natural History Museum, which made the find and managed the excavation.

"If they look carefully at this paper, that's been through rigorous peer review that Nature insists for their publication, if people honestly look at the data ... and have questions they want to pose, we are open for this sort of scholarly assessment of our work", said Thomas Demere, curator of paleontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum. "For example, one tusk was positioned vertically".

The bones of the mastodon were arranged at the site - known as the Cerutti Mastodon site - in such a way that suggests it wasn't done naturally.

The layer of finely grained sand silt holding the bones was completely intact, but within it, the researchers found several large cobbles with signs of wear. Some researchers now believe the San Diego site marks a much older beginning of humans in North America, though that is not definitive.

"The distributions of natural uranium and its decay products both within and among these bone specimens show remarkably reliable behavior, allowing us to derive an age that is well within the wheelhouse of the dating system", said Paces, the study co-author.

The bones' collagen, a protein that can be used for radiocarbon dating, was long gone. The results he obtained surprised the researchers.

The site was first discovered in the 1990s when a large road was being built, and has only now been dated to 130,000 years old.

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The remains were found in 1992, but they could not be accurately dated until technological advances allowed this to happen in 2011. Other proposed hypotheses, such as trampling, weather, and modification of eating habits, do not match the observations, as no carnivores at the time were able to break those bones without help.

"I just couldn't believe this was happening, but the evidence is right there in front of you", said lead author Steve Holen, director of research at the Center for American Paleolithic Research in South Dakota.

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".

Parts of the bones were also used to make tools. It could not have been the work of carnivorous predators that broke the mastodon's bones. He and many other archaeologists say it will take much stronger evidence to convince them that the bones were fractured by ancient people.

The researchers are confident that under careful examination, other scientists will come to the same conclusions.

The remains of a mastodon found in California have revealed that humans may have been in North America earlier than had previously been thought. Researchers cite the need of looking for more clues concerning the earliest days of man in the continent.

"Human remains of any distant past are very, very rare so if you only have two at 13,000 years old, we would be extremely skeptical at finding any at 130,000 years old", Holen said. "So the evidence at this site is truly remarkable and really does demonstrate human interference". Indeed, it would be very unlikely that they were, given that our species is generally held to have migrated out of Africa only around 60,000 years ago.

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