Evidence Puts Humans in North America 50,000 Years Ago
Theories Crumbling in Light of Recent Finds
Radiocarbon tests of carbonized plant remains where artifacts were unearthed along the Savannah River in Allendale County by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear in 2004 indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old, meaning that humans inhabited North American long before the last ice age.
Goodyear, who has garnered international attention for his discoveries of tools that pre-date what is believed to be humans' arrival in North America, announced the test results, which were done by the University of California at Irvine Laboratory, Wednesday (Nov .17).
"The dates could actually be older," Goodyear says. "Fifty-thousand should be a minimum age since there may be little detectable activity left."
The dawn of modern homo sapiens occurred in Africa between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. Evidence of modern man's migration out of the African continent has been documented in Australia and Central Asia at 50,000 years and in Europe at 40,000 years. The fact that humans could have been in North America at or near the same time is expected to spark debate among archaeologists worldwide, raising new questions on the origin and migration of the human species.
"Topper is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America," Goodyear says. "However, other early sites in Brazil and Chile, as well as a site in Oklahoma also suggest that humans were in the Western Hemisphere as early as 30,000 years ago to perhaps 60,000."
In 1998, Goodyear, nationally known for his research on the ice age PaleoIndian cultures dug below the 13,000-year Clovis level at the Topper site and found unusual stone tools up to a meter deeper. The Topper excavation site is on the bank of the Savannah River on property owned by Clariant Corp., a chemical corporation headquartered near Basel, Switzerland. He recovered numerous stone tool artifacts in soils that were later dated by an outside team of geologists to be 16,000 years old.
For five years, Goodyear continued to add artifacts and evidence that a pre-Clovis people existed, slowly eroding the long-held theory by archaeologists that man arrived in North America around 13,000 years ago.
Last May, Goodyear dug even deeper to see whether man's existence extended further back in time. Using a backhoe and hand excavations, Goodyear's team dug through the Pleistocene terrace soil, some 4 meters below the ground surface. Goodyear found a number of artifacts similar to the pre-Clovis forms he has excavated in recent years.
Then on the last day of the last week of digging, Goodyear's team uncovered a black stain in the soil where artifacts lay, providing him the charcoal needed for radiocarbon dating. Dr. Tom Stafford of Stafford Laboratories in Boulder, Colo., came to Topper and collected charcoal samples for dating.
"Three radiocarbon dates were obtained from deep in the terrace at Topper with two dates of 50,300 and 51,700 on burnt plant remains. One modern date related to an intrusion," Stafford says. "The two 50,000 dates indicate that they are at least 50,300 years. The absolute age is not known."
The revelation of an even older date for Topper is expected to heighten speculation about when man got to the Western Hemisphere and add to the debate over other pre-Clovis sites in the Eastern United States such as Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Pa., and Cactus Hill, Va.
In October 2005, archaeologists will meet in Columbia for a conference on Clovis and the study of earliest Americans. The conference will include a day trip to Topper, which is sure to dominate discussions and presentations at the international gathering. USC's Topper: A Timeline
May, 1998 — Dr. Al Goodyear and his team dig up to a meter below the Clovis level and encounter unusual stone tools up to two meters below surface.
May 1999 — Team of outside geologists led by Mike Waters, a researcher at Texas A&M, visit Topper site and propose a thorough geological study of locality.
May 2000 — Geology study done by consultants; ice age soil confirmed for pre-Clovis artifacts.
May 2001 — Geologists revisit Topper and obtain ancient plant remains deep down in the Pleistocene terrace. OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dates on soils above ice age strata show pre-Clovis is at least older than 14,000.
May 2002 — Geologists find new profile showing ancient soil lying between Clovis and pre-Clovis, confirming the age of ice age soils between 16,000 - 20,000 years.
May 2003 — Archaeologists continue to excavate pre-Clovis artifacts above the terrace, as well as new, significant Clovis finds.
May 2004 — Using backhoe and hand excavations, Goodyear and his team dig deeper, down into the Pleistocene terrace, some 4 meters below the ground surface. Artifacts, similar to pre-Clovis forms excavated in previous years, recovered deep in the terrace. A black stain in the soil provides charcoal for radio carbon dating.
November 2004 — Radiocarbon dating report indicates that artifacts excavated from Pleistocene terrace in May were recovered from soil that dates some 50,000 years. The dates imply an even earlier arrival for humans in this hemisphere than previously believed, well before the last ice age. DR. ALBERT C. GOODYEAR III
University of South Carolina archaeologist Albert C. Goodyear joined the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in1974 and has been associated with the Research Division since 1976. He is also the founder and director of the Allendale PaleoIndian Expedition, a program that involves members of the public in helping to excavate PaleoAmerican sites in the central Savannah River Valley of South Carolina.
Goodyear earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Florida (1968), his master's degree in anthropology from the University of Arkansas and his doctorate in anthropology from Arizona State University (1976). He is a member of the Society for American Archaeology, the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, the Archaeological Society of South Carolina, and the Florida Anthropological Society. He has served twice as president of the Archaeological Society of South Carolina and is on the editorial board of The Florida Anthropologist and the North American Archaeologist.
Goodyear developed his interest in archaeology in the 1960s as a member of the F1orida Anthropological Society and through avocational experiences along Florida's central Gulf Coast. He wrote and published articles about sites and artifacts from that region for The Florida Anthropologist in the late 1960s. His master's thesis on the Brand site, a late PaleoIndian Dalton site in northeast Arkansas, was published in 1974 by the Arkansas Archeological Survey. At Arizona State University, he did field research on Desert Hohokam mountain hunting and gathering sites in the Lower Sonoran desert of Southern Arizona.
Goodyear, whose primary research interest has been America's earliest human inhabitants, has focused on the period of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition dating between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago. He has taken a geoarchaeological approach to the search for deeply buried early sites by teaming up with colleagues in geology and soil science. For the past 15 years he has studied early prehistoric sites in Allendale County, S.C., in the central Savannah River Valley. These are stone tool manufacturing sites related to the abundant chert resources that were quarried in this locality.
This work has been supported by the National Park Service, the National Geographic Society, the University of South Carolina, the Archaeological Research Trust (SCIAA), the Allendale Research Fund, the Elizabeth Stringfellow Endowment Fund, Sandoz Chemical Corp. and Clariant Corp., the present owner of the site.
Goodyear is the author of over 100 articles, reports and books and regularly presents public lectures and professional papers on his PaleoIndian discoveries in South Carolina.
The above story is based on materials provided by University Of South Carolina.
From Science Daily @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041118104010.htm
Do tools belonging to Stone Age hunters found on U.S. east coast prove the first Americans came from Europe NOT Asia?
- New discovery of European-style tools being heralded as among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for decades
- Supports the theory that Stone Age humans could make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic during Ice Age
By Jill Reilly
Across six locations on the U.S. east coast, several dozen stone tools have been found. After close analysis it was discovered that they were between 19,000 and 26,000 years old and were a European-style of tool.
The discovery suggests that the owners of the tools arrived 10,000 years before the ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World, reported The Independent.
Finding the tools is being heralded as one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades. Archaeologists are hopeful that they will add another dimension to understanding the spread of humans across the world.
Three of the sites were discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware, while another one is in Pennsylvania and a fifth site is in Virginia.
Fishermen discovered a sixth on a seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast, which in prehistoric times would have been dry land.
But the age of the newly-discovered tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago and are virtually exactly the same as western European materials from that time, reported The Independent.
Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, were the two leading archaeologists who analysed the evidence.
They have argued that Stone Age humans were able to make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice and suggested that from Western Europe, Stone Age people migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age.
About three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year at the peak of the Ice Age.
However, beyond the ice, the lure of the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources for hunters.
But until now there was relatively little evidence to support their thinking.
They are presenting their theory and evidence in a new book - Across Atlantic Ice - which is published this month.
Buoyed by the recent discovery, archaeologists are now turning to new locations in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas, all sites which are they believe will produce more Stone Age evidence.
But most of the areas where the newcomers stepped off the ice on to dry land are now up to 100 miles out to sea - along with any possible evidence.
From the Daily Mail @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2107418/Could-tools-belonging-Stone-Age-hunters-U-S-east-coast-finally-answer-really-discovered-America.html
Early North Americans Lived With Extinct Giant Beasts, Study Shows
A University of Florida study that determined the age of skeletal remains provides evidence humans reached the Western Hemisphere during the last ice age and lived alongside giant extinct mammals.
"The Vero site is still the only site where there was an abundance of actual human bones, not just artifacts, associated with the animals," said co-author Barbara Purdy, UF anthropology professor emeritus and archaeology curator emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "Scientists who disputed the age of the human remains in the early 20th century just did not want to believe that people were in the Western Hemisphere that early. And 100 years later, every single book written about the prehistory of North America includes this site and the controversy that still exists."
Following discovery of the fossils in South Florida between 1913 and 1916, some prominent scientists convinced researchers the human skeletons were from more recent burials and not as old as the animals, a question that remained unanswered because no dating methods existed.
"The uptake of rare earth elements is time-dependent, so an old fossil is going to have very different concentrations of rare earth elements than bones from a more recent human burial," said lead author Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator. "We found the human remains have statistically the same concentrations of rare earth elements as the fossils."
The little information known about the first humans to appear in North America is primarily based on bone fragments and artifacts, such as stone points used for hunting. Other sites in California, Montana and Texas show human presence around the same time period based on artifacts, but two nearly complete human skeletons were discovered at the Vero Beach site.
As bones begin to fossilize they absorb elements from the surrounding sediment, and analysis is effective in distinguishing different-aged fossils deposited in the same locality. Instead of radiocarbon dating, which requires the presence of collagen in bones, researchers used mass spectrometry to compare rare earth elements in the specimens because a lack of collagen in the Vero Beach specimens made radiocarbon dating impossible, Purdy said.
Researchers analyzed samples from 24 human bones and 48 animal fossils in the Florida Museum's collections and determined the specimens were all from the late Pleistocene epoch about 13,000 years ago. While rare earth element analysis method is not as precise as radiocarbon dating, Purdy said the significance of human skeletons found in Vero Beach is unquestionable in terms of their presence in the Western Hemisphere.
"It is important to note that they [the authors] did not provide an absolute or chronometric date, rather the geochemistry shows that the trace elemental geochemistry is the same, thus the bones must be of the same age," said Kenneth Tankersley, an assistant professor in the University of Cincinnati anthropology and geology departments.
Native fauna during the last ice age ranged from extinct jaguars and saber-toothed cats to shrews, mice and squirrels still present in Florida. Researchers speculate humans would have been wanderers much like the animals because there was less fresh water than in later years, Purdy said.
"Humans would have been following the animals for a food supply, but that's about all we know," Purdy said. "We know what some of their tools looked like and we know they were hunting the extinct animals but we know practically nothing about their family life, such as how these ancient people raised their children and grieved for their dead."
Study co-authors include Krista Church of UF and the University of Texas, and Thomas Stafford Jr., of Stafford Research in Colorado and the University of Copenhagen.
"Vero is a historical context for the development of archaeology -- these are the beginnings of the people of America," MacFadden said. "The site is well-known in the literature but has been discounted, so we're sort of reviving an understanding of this important locality and using newer techniques to revive the question about the antiquity of the humans."
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Danielle Torrent.
From Science Daily @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503153929.htm
Comet May Have Exploded Over Canada 12,900 Years Ago After All
Micro-spherules from Clovis sites, including UofSC's Topper. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of South Carolina)
Did a massive comet explode over Canada 12,900 years ago, wiping out both beast and man in North America and propelling Earth back into an ice age?
USC archaeologist Albert Goodyear is a co-author on the study that upholds a 2007 PNAS study by Richard Firestone, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Firestone found concentrations of spherules (micro-sized balls) of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites that his team examined. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in Earth's atmosphere. Among the sites examined was USC's Topper, one of the most pristine U.S. sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.
"This independent study is yet another example of how the Topper site with its various interdisciplinary studies has connected ancient human archaeology with significant studies of the Pleistocene," said Goodyear, who began excavating Clovis artifacts in 1984 at the Topper site in Allendale, S.C. "It's both exciting and gratifying."
Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years. While that brief ice age has been well-documented -- occurring during a period of progressive solar warming after the last ice age -- the reasons for it have long remained unclear. The extreme rapid cooling that took place can be likened to the 2004 sci-fi blockbuster movie "The Day After Tomorrow."
Firestone's team presented a provocative theory: that a major impact event -- perhaps a comet -- was the catalyst. His copious sampling and detailed analysis of sediments at a layer in the Earth dated to 12,900 years ago, also called the Younger-Dryas Boundary (YDB), provided evidence of micro-particles, such as iron, silica, iridium and nano-diamonds. The particles are believed to be consistent with a massive impact that could have killed off the Clovis people and the large North American animals of the day. Thirty-six species, including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, went extinct.
The scientific community is rarely quick to accept new theories. Firestone's theory and support for it dominated the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union and other gatherings of Paleoindian archaeologists in 2007 and 2008.
However, a 2009 study led by University of Wyoming researcher Todd Surovell failed to replicate Firestone's findings at seven Clovis sites, slowing interest and research progress to a glacial pace.
This new PNAS study refutes Surovell's findings with its lack of reported evidence.
"Surovell's work was in vain because he didn't replicate the protocol. We missed it too at first. It seems easy, but unless you follow the protocol rigorously, you will fail to detect these spherules. There are so many factors that can disrupt the process. Where Surovell found no spherules, we found hundreds to thousands," said Malcolm LeCompte, a research associate professor at Elizabeth City State University and lead author of the newly released PNAS article.
LeCompte began his independent study in 2008 using and further refining Firestone's sampling and sorting methods at two sites common to the three studies: Blackwater Draw in New Mexico and Topper. He also took samples at Paw Paw Cove in Maryland, a site common to Surovell's study.
At each site he found the same microscopic spherules, which are the diameter of a human hair and distinct in appearance. He describes their look as tiny black ball bearings with a marred surface pattern that resulted from being crystalized in a molten state and then rapidly cooled. His investigation also confirmed that the spherules were not of cosmic origin but were formed from earth materials due to an extreme impact.
LeCompte said it was Topper and Goodyear's collaboration, however, that yielded the most exciting results.
"What we had at Topper and nowhere else were pieces of manufacturing debris from stone tool making by the Clovis people. Topper was an active and ancient quarry at the time," LeCompte said. "Al Goodyear was instrumental in our approach to getting samples at Topper."
Goodyear showed LeCompte where the Clovis level was in order to accurately guide his sampling of sediments for the Younger Dryas Boundary layer. He advised him to sample around Clovis artifacts and then to carefully lift them to test the sediment directly underneath.
"If debris was raining down from the atmosphere, the artifacts should have acted as a shield preventing spherules from accumulating in the layer underneath. It turns out it really worked!" Goodyear said. "There were up to 30 times more spherules at and just above the Clovis surface than beneath the artifacts."
LeCompte said the finding is "critical and what makes the paper and study so exciting. The other sites didn't have artifacts because they weren't tool-making quarries like Topper."
While the comet hypothesis and its possible impact on Clovis people isn't resolved, Goodyear said this independent study clarifies why the Surovell team couldn't replicate the Firestone findings and lends greater credibility to the claim that a major impact event happened at the Younger Dryas Boundary 12,900 years ago.
"The so-called extra-terrestrial impact hypothesis adds to the mystery of what happened at the YDB with its sudden and unexplained reversion to an ice age climate, the rapid and seemingly simultaneous loss of many Pleistocene animals, such as mammoths and mastodons, as well as the demise of what archaeologists call the Clovis culture," Goodyear said. "There's always more to learn about the past, and Topper continues to function as a portal to these fascinating mysteries."
Goodyear joined USC's College of Arts and Sciences and its South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology in 1974 to pursue prehistoric archaeology.
The Topper story
Al Goodyear, who conducts research through the University of South Carolina's S.C. Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology, began excavating Clovis artifacts along the Savannah River in Allendale County in 1984. It quickly became one of the most documented and well-known Clovis sites in the United States. In 1998, with the hope of finding evidence of a pre-Clovis culture earlier than the accepted 13,100 years, Goodyear began focused excavations on a site called Topper, located on the property of the Clariant Corp.
His efforts paid off. Goodyear unearthed small tools such as scrapers and blades made of the local chert that he believed to be tools of an ice age culture back some 16,000 years or more. His findings, as well as similar ones yielded at other pre-Clovis sites in North America, sparked great change and debate in the scientific community.
Goodyear reasoned that if Clovis and later peoples used the chert quarry along the Savannah River, the quarry could have been used by even earlier cultures.
Acting on a hunch in 2004, Goodyear dug even deeper into the Pleistocene terrace and found more artifacts of a pre-Clovis type buried in a layer of sediment stained with charcoal deposits. Radiocarbon dates of the burnt plant remains yielded ages of 50,000 years, which suggested man was in South Carolina long before the last ice age.
Goodyear's findings not only captured international media attention, but it has put the archaeology field in flux, opening scientific minds to the possibility of an even earlier pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas.
Since 2004, Goodyear has continued his Clovis and pre-Clovis excavations at Topper. With support of Clariant Corp. and SCANA, plus numerous individual donors, an expansive shelter and viewing deck now sit above the dig site to allow Goodyear and his team of graduate students and public volunteers to dig free from the heat and rain and to protect what may be the most significant early-man dig in America.
The above story is based on materials provided by University of South Carolina, via Newswise.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
1. M. A. LeCompte, A. C. Goodyear, M. N. Demitroff, D. Batchelor, E. K. Vogel, C. Mooney, B. N. Rock, A. W. Seidel. PNAS Plus: Independent evaluation of conflicting microspherule results from different investigations of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1208603109
From Science Daily @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918111320.htm
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