Ancient humans may have reached Americas 100000 years earlier than thought

by Fredrick Graves April 30, 2017, 1:22
Ancient humans may have reached Americas 100000 years earlier than thought

In this February 1993 photo provided by the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum paleontologists C. Paul Majors and Matt Colbert work at the Cerutti Mastodon site in San Diego, Ca. This is very significant, as it predates the (former) earliest evidence of humans in North America by 115,000 years.

The study is considered controversial among scientists, according to the Nature journal, largely because it "would force a dramatic rethink of when and how the Americas were first settled - and by who".

"This discovery is rewriting our understanding of when humans reached the New World", said Judy Gradwohl, the museum's president and CEO.

Researchers work at the Cerutti Mastodon site near San Diego in an image released April 26, 2017, by the San Diego Natural History Museum.

However, the new fossils were found embedded in fine- grained sediments that had been deposited much earlier, during a period long before humans were thought to have arrived on the continent.

"The bones were positioned in quite an unusual way", said Thomas Deméré, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and lead author of the new study.

"Since the original discovery, dating technology has advanced to enable us to confirm with further certainty that early humans were here significantly earlier than commonly accepted", Demere said.

"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 finding poses a lot more questions than answers. That species, Homo heidelbergensis, left Africa around 500,000 years ago, but never moved much beyond the Middle East and Asia.

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It was a human relative, then, one of the many extinct hominin species.

The puzzling part is that scientists believed that humans only arrived in America around 13,000 years ago - and the skeleton dates from 100,000 years before that.

"How did these early hominins get here?" We are talking about a time 130,000 years in the past. These were modern humans-Homo sapiens-that probably crossed from Siberia into what is today Alaska, by land or along the coast.

In reexamining the materials from the Cerutti Mastodon site, Steven Holen and his colleagues believe they found evidence of human activity. Scale bars - 5cm (a), 2cm (b, g, h), 1mm (c, i), 2mm (d), 10cm (e, f).

"I think they've done their homework", he said, noting that Holen is one of the world's leading experts on what mastodon bones look like when they are broken naturally versus when they are smashed open by humans.

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".

"The evidence from the Cerutti Mastodon site has been rigorously researched and presented, and might be more hard to refute, even though the proposed hominin narrative derived from these data has some gaping holes that need filling", Erella Hovers, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes in a commentary on the study.

"The bones and several teeth show clear signs of having been deliberately broken by humans with manual dexterity and experiential knowledge", stated Dr Holen. Attempts to establish the age of the site using radiocarbon dating failed, because there was no collagen preserved in the bones, the scientists said. "We were able to put together virtual refits that allow exploration of how the multiple fragments from one hammerstone fit back together".

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