Humans Settled In Americas 15,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought
Fascinating new findings from Mexico have revealed that human beings could well have settled in the Americas far, far earlier than was previously believed.
Archaeologists working at the site of Chiquihuite Cave in north-central Mexico’s Astillero Mountains have discovered hundreds of ancient stone tools, which are believed to dating back at least 20,000 years.
For human beings to have been present in this area back then, they would have had to have travelled through Canada before huge sheets of ice northern-most part of the continent covered the Northern hemisphere between 26,500 and 19,000 years ago.
These findings, which have today been published today in Nature, could well suggest people had been living there as long ago as 33,000 years, at least 15,000 years earlier than what previously thought.
The discovery was made by a team led by Dr. Ciprian Ardelean of the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, whilst carrying out an excavation. Nearly 2,000 stone tools were discovered, 239 of which were embedded inside gravel layers which carbon dating has shown to be between 25,000 and 32,000 years old.
The material artefacts used to make the tools reportedly belong to a type of material culture never before seen in the Americas, which could well point towards a previously unknown lithic (or stone) industry.
This discovery is reportedly supported by new statistical analysis which incorporates data collected at other archaeological sites.
As per Nature, the first human beings to arrive in the Americas originated from East Asia, however the exact time of their arrival is still up for debate.
The widely accepted view is that humans began to settle in the Americas some 15,000 or 16,000 years ago. This is based upon genetic evidence as well artefacts recovered from sites such as Chile’s 14,000-year-old Monte Verde II.
Some researchers believe settlers could have made their home in this region as long ago as 130,000 years, however the majority of archaeological evidence does not support this theory.
For example, some uncovered stone artefacts are so very simple that they potentially could have been produced accidentally by natural geological processes rather than by actual human hands.
This latest discovery has brought the popular consensus into question, providing fresh evidence for the antiquity of human settlers in the Americas.
Going forward, researchers hope more archaeological investigations in Central and South America will lead to more continent-wide models being developed.
As per a press release from the University of New South Wales, Dr Ardelean has described the findings as being ‘extremely exciting’:
The archaeology is older than anything we have seen before and the stone tools are of a type that is unique in the Americas. Human-made flaked stone artefacts are there by the thousands, embedded in layered sedimentary deposits that are now well-dated.
It is curious that the site was occupied so much earlier than others – it seems likely to us that the people of Chiquihuite represent a ‘failed colonisation’, one which may well have left no genetically detectable heritage in today’s First Americans populations.
As per The Scientist, the team are continuing to work at the cave, and have so far reportedly only excavated a small portion.
Therefore, these findings are still far from conclusive. The stone tools aside, precious little evidence of the existence of ancient humans has been detected, and a search for DNA in the cave dirt has so far proved fruitless.
Sceptics of these new findings have noted that the tools could well have been moved into deeper layers through geological or biological activity – for example, by animals – which could well make them appear far older than in reality.
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UNSW Sydney Newsroom