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(Courtesy Bob Dawe, Royal Alberta Museum)Removal of plaster-covered roasting pit, Head-Smashed-In, Canada

 

Source: A Removable Feast

Royal Alberta Museum archaeologist Bob Dawe recently returned to the scene of an unusual discovery he made in 1990. While excavating at Head-Smashed-In, a prehistoric buffalo jump in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, he uncovered an intact 1,600-year-old sandstone-lined roasting pit. Such archaeological features are often found near buffalo jumps and were probably used to cook large quantities of meat for celebratory feasts—but they are always empty. This example was brimming with bones belonging to a buffalo calf, at least two adult buffalo, and a canine, probably a dog-wolf hybrid. The people who had hoped to dine on the meat, likely ancestors of today’s Blackfoot, never retrieved it. Sensing excavation of the pit would be a complicated affair, Dawe covered it up and vowed to return when he had the time to investigate it properly.

Last summer, with the help of paleontologists, Dawe and his team dug around the roasting pit and encased it in a plaster jacket so they could lift it out of the earth intact. Dawe plans to methodically excavate the feature in the laboratory, and eventually put it on display, but he doesn’t expect to ever find out just why the lavish banquet remained in the ground. “It would have been quite a feast,” says Dawe, “so something drastic must have happened. Maybe there was a blizzard, or a prairie fire. Or maybe other people drove them away.”

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The mammoth was found on the left bank of Yenisey river, not far from Sopochnaya Karga meterological station. Pictures: Vladimir Pitulko, Alexei Tikhonov

The mammoth was found on the left bank of Yenisey river, not far from Sopochnaya Karga meterological station. Pictures: Vladimir Pitulko, Alexei Tikhonov

inside_excavations_1

 

Original article:

siberiantimes.com

By Anna Liesowska

30 May 2016

 

When Science journal earlier this year highlighted an ancient woolly mammoth with suspected spear wounds it provoked media interest around the world. Until now, the pictures of the remarkable prehistoric ‘injuries’ were not widely seen outside academic circles.

Today The Siberian Times is publishing the images which respected Russian scientists believe is clear proof of ancient man’s attacks on a creature preserved in the permafrost.

If true, the implications are enormous. It would mean, firstly, that man was present in the frozen Arctic wastes a full 10,000 years earlier than previously understood.

Yet it would also establish that early Siberians were just 2,895 miles (4,660 kilometres) from what was then a land bridge between modern Russia and Alaska. A long distance, for sure, but far from insurmountable, opening the possibility that Stone Age Siberians colonised the Americas at this early point.

The 15-year-old male mammoth died on the eastern bank of the giant Yenisei River in northern Siberia, and its remains were found by a 11 year old schoolboy in 2012. It is known variously as the Zhenya mammoth, after the boy who found it, and the Sopkarginsky mammoth, deriving from the location where it was found.

Forensic analysis of the remains – which included still-preserved soft tissue – found evidence that the animal, now long extinct, was hunted and killed by early man using primitive weapons and tools made of bone and stone.

Dr Vladimir Pitulko, lead author of the study published in Science, told The Siberian Times: ‘Most likely the hunters threw relatively light spears. It is a usual hunting tactic, in particular in elephant hunts, which is still practiced in Africa.

‘An elephant is bombarded with a large number of light spears. Then, pierced with such ‘needles’ like a hedgehog, the animal starts losing blood. Even a light spear can penetrate quite deep and injure the vital organs.

‘The mobility of the animal is seriously limited, and then it is soon possible to finish it with a strait blow. I think that the same happened to the Sopkarginsky mammoth.’

He said: ‘The most remarkable injury is to the fifth left rib, caused by a slicing blow, inflicted from the front and somewhat from above in a downward direction. Although it was a glancing blow, it was strong enough to go through skin and muscles and damage the bone.

‘A similar but less powerful blow also damaged the second right front rib. Such blows were aimed at internal organs and/or blood vessels.

‘The mammoth was also hit in the left scapula at least three times. Two of these injuries were imparted by a weapon, which went downwards through the skin and muscles, moving from the top and side. These markings indicate injuries evidently left by relatively light throwing spears.

‘A much more powerful blow damaged the spine of the left scapula. It may have been imparted by a thrusting spear, practically straight from the front at the level of the coracoid process. The weapon went through the shoulder skin and muscle, almost completely perforating the spine of the scapula.

‘Taking into account the scapula’s location in the skeleton and the estimated height of this mammoth, the point of impact would be approximately 1500 mm high, in other words, the height of an adult human’s shoulder.’

Another injury – possibly evidence of a mis-directed blow – was spotted on the left jugal bone. The blow was evidently very strong and was suffered by the animal from the left back and from top down, which is only possible if the animal was lying down on the ground.

Dr Pitulko, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in St Petersburg, believes that it was ‘the final blow’, which was aimed to the base of the trunk.

Modern elephant hunters still use this method ‘to cut major arteries and cause mortal bleeding’. Yet in this case the prehistoric hunters obviously missed and struck the jugal bone instead.

Luckily the spear left the clear trace on the bone, making possible to learn what kind of weapon it was.

The bone was studied with X-ray computed tomography – a CT scan – by Dr Konstantin Kuper, from the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk. He also created a 3D model of the injury in the bone. This led to the conclusion that the tip of the weapon was made of stone and had a thinned symmetric outline – and was relatively sharp.

Paleontologist Dr Alexei Tikhonov, from the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, who lead the excavations, said: ‘It’s hard to say which blow was the mortal one, at least judging by the traces on the bones.

‘There was quite a strong blow to the scapula, yet I think it was rather the totality of wounds that caused the death. It is interesting that the most of the injuries are on the left side of the animal.

‘I would suppose that the hunters could attack the mammoth which was already lying on the ground. When we examined the skull, we noticed the abnormal development of the upper jaw.

‘We believe that this mammoth got a kind of injury at a very young age, which impacted on its left side. There was no left tusk and I presume that the left side was weak, so it could help the hunters kill the animal.’

The injuries found on the bones also gave clues what did the hunters with the mammoth after they killed it. The right tusk had the traces of human interference on the tip of the tusk.

They did not try and pull the entire tusk off the killed mammal but instead tried to remove ‘long slivers of ivory with sharp edges, which were usable as butchering tools’, said Dr Pitulko.

A butchery mark was also found on the fifth left rib, seen as evidence that the hunters cut meat from the carcass to take it with them. Ancient man also extracted the mammoth tongue, seen as a probable delicacy to these hunters.

Yet the theory that the animal was butchered does not convince all experts.

Dr Robert Park, a professor of anthropology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wrote in an email to Discover, that the skeleton is not consistent with other evidence from early human hunters.

He wrote: ‘The most convincing evidence that it wasn’t butchered is the fact that the archaeologists recovered the mammoth’s fat hump. Hunter-gatherers in high latitudes need fat both for its food value and as fuel. So the one part of the animal that we would not expect hunters to leave behind is fat.’

But Dr Pitulko countered: ‘Yes, ancient man – and not so ancient, in fact – has used and uses animal fat as fuel and food, nothing to argue about here. Why in this very case they did not use their prey in full is impossible to say.

‘There may be dozens of reasons, for example – they could not – the carcass was lying at the water’s edge, and it was late autumn. Or they did not have time: the carcass fell into the water on thin coastal ice. Or it did not correspond to their plans – they killed the poor animal just to have a meal and replenish the supply of food for a small group.’

They might have killed another animal nearer to their camp, and so abandoned this one. He said ‘a thousand and one reasons’ might explain not purloining the fat.

The expert added: ‘I believe that the main reason for hunting mammoths were their tusks. Mammoth as a source of food wasn’t very necessary although I believe they were useful.

‘People needed tusks because they were living in landscapes free of forests, so called mammoth steppe. In the course of time, a technology to produce spears out of tusks was developed.’

On the significance for the New World, he told Discovery the human role in killing the mammoth ‘is especially important’ because ‘now we know that eastern Siberia up to its Arctic limits was populated starting at roughly 50,000 years ago’.

 

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Fossil analysis suggests Neanderthals ate a diet of 80 percent meat. Photo by OrdinaryJoe/Shutterstock

Fossil analysis suggests Neanderthals ate a diet of 80 percent meat. Photo by OrdinaryJoe/Shutterstock

 

Original Article:

ups.com

By Brooks Hays, March 19, 2016

 

Researchers have long debated the precise diet of early humans, but the latest study is the first to nail down precise percentages.

 

Neanderthals were apparently too busy hunting and scavenging to pay much attention to Michael Pollan’s dietary advice: eat mostly plants.

New isotopic analysis suggests prehistoric humans ate mostly meat. As detailed in a new study published in the journal Quaternary International, the Neanderthal diet consisted of 80 percent meat, 20 percent vegetables.

Researchers in Germany measured isotope concentrations of collagen in Neanderthal fossils and compared them to the isotopic signatures of animal bones found nearby. In doing so, scientists were able to compare and contrast the diets of early humans and their mammalian neighbors, including mammoths, horses, reindeer, bison, hyenas, bears, lions and others.

“Previously, it was assumed that the Neanderthals utilized the same food sources as their animal neighbors,” lead researcher Herve Bocherens, a professor at the University of Tubingen’s Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, said in a news release.

“However, our results show that all predators occupy a very specific niche, preferring smaller prey as a rule, such as reindeer, wild horses or steppe bison, while the Neanderthals primarily specialized on the large plant-eaters such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses,” Bocherens explained.

All of the Neanderthal and animal bones, dated between 45,000 and 40,000 years old, were collected from two excavation sites in Belgium.

Researchers have long debated the precise diet of early humans, but the latest study is the first to nail down precise percentages.

Bocherens and his colleagues are hopeful their research will shed light on the Neanderthals’ extinction some 40,000 years ago.

“We are accumulating more and more evidence that diet was not a decisive factor in why the Neanderthals had to make room for modern humans,” he said.

 

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Image courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF A salmon bone is show as it is excavated from the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

Image courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF
A salmon bone is show as it is excavated from the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

 

mage courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF Researchers work on excavation at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

mage courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF
Researchers work on excavation at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

Original article:

By Naomi Horne

September 21, 2015

news.uaf.edu

 

Researchers in Alaska have found the earliest known evidence that Ice Age humans in North America used salmon as a food source, according to a new paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings counter traditionally held beliefs that Ice Age Paleoindians were primarily big-game hunters. They are based on analysis of 11,500-year-old chum salmon bones found by University of Alaska Fairbanks anthropologist Ben Potter and colleagues at the Upward Sun River site in Interior Alaska. Excavation of the site has revealed human dwellings, tools and human remains, as well as the salmon bones.

“Salmon fishing has deep roots, and we now know that salmon have been consumed by North American humans at least 11,500 years ago,” said lead author Carrin Halffman, a UAF anthropologist who helped analyze the fish bones with co-authors Brian Kemp of Washington State University, Potter and others.

The findings also suggest that salmon spawning runs were established much earlier and much farther north than previously thought, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, also known as the last Ice Age.

Ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis verified the fish remains as sea-run chum salmon that migrated upriver some 1,400 kilometers from where the mouth of the Yukon River now exists. These analyses indicate that modern salmon migrations may have ancient roots, dating back to at least the end of the last Ice Age.

“We have cases where salmon become landlocked and have very different isotopic signatures than marine salmon. Combining genetic and isotopic analyses allow us to confirm the identity as chum salmon, which inhabit the area today, as well as establish their life histories,” said Potter. “Both are necessary to understand how humans used these resources.”

The salmon were found in an ancient cooking hearth in a residential structure. Fish remains pose a challenge to archaeologists because their bones are very small and fragile and typically do not preserve well. Because of these challenges, their remains are likely underrepresented in global archaeological studies and findings.

Findings show that ancient Beringian diets were broader than earlier thought and that Ice Age humans used complex strategies and specialized technology to obtain their food, Potter said. He also noted that there is no evidence to suggest that salmon runs weren’t also present in the area a few thousand years prior to the time when people were living at the Upward Sun River site. “This suggests that salmon fishing may have played a role in the early human colonization of North America.”

The excavation and analysis were funded in part by the National Science Foundation. Other contributors to the paper include UAF postdoctoral researcher Holly McKinney, Bruce Finney of Idaho State University, and Antonia Rodrigues and Dongya Yang of Simon Fraser University.

ON THE WEB:
http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/
http://www.uaf.edu/cla/

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Carrin Halffman, 90- 474-7051, cmhalffman@alaska.edu; Ben Potter, 907-474-7567, bapotter@alaska.edu; Brian Kemp, 509-335-8170, bmkemp@wsu.edu. Marmian Grimes, UAF public affairs, 907-474-7902, mlgrimes@alaska.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Click on the photos above to download. A copy of the paper is available by contacting Grimes or Horne.

NH/9-21-15/054-16

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1297722397011_ORIGINAL

MITCHELL, S.D. — Archaeologists in the northwestern state of South Dakota have uncovered corn cobs, corn kernels and sunflower kernels that are over 1,000 years old.

Officials say the discoveries at the Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell show that people who lived in the region at the time farmed and had a diverse diet.

The village is an active archaeological site and open to the public. Students from the University of Exeter in England and Augustana College in Sioux Falls work every year at the site that holds dual status as a National Register and National Historic Landmark site.

Augustana archaeology professor Adrien Hannus told The Daily Republic that the new discoveries indicate the village dwellers weren’t exactly primitive. He says it was a successful village of farmers, hunters and foragers.

Posted July 9, 2015

TorontoSun

I just discovered the article from The Daily Republic, with more information:

Each year, something new is uncovered at the Thomsen Center Archeodome at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

Researchers working the archaeological site along Lake Mitchell have discovered troves of small, charred kernels of corn and sunflowers, each only a few millimeters wide, that remain intact more than 1,000 years after people lived in the area along Firesteel Creek. Researchers have also found corn cobs, which they say show how much agriculture has changed, and affirms that people of the region had a diverse diet.

The findings are significant for those investing their time and resources into the Mitchell site. Alan Outram, who is in his 12th year bringing students from the University of Exeter, in England, to partner with Augustana College students, said the team has found as much carbonized plant matter in the last two weeks than from the last 11 years.

“Of course, it’s important to this area,” he said. “The thing is, this is an agricultural area and this is the history of that agriculture.”

Augustana College Professor of Archeology Adrien Hannus, who serves as the project director at the site, said when the archeodome was being built and finished in 1999, they got an idea of where the best deposits would be. That hinted to Hannus that they would get a good look at the way of life for the American Indians who settled in the area.

“It showed at the time that there was probably 12 feet there, and we’re really just scratching the surface,” Hannus said. “This village isn’t the origin of prehistoric agriculture, but it is one of the key sites in understanding what was done here.”

The discovery was made through cache pits, which were large holes used to store things like food and tools. When the people who used them discovered they were not ideal for keeping food, they turned them into trash receptacles. In those pits, archeological students have also found broken pottery pieces and other items.

In this part of the country, Hannus said, the prehistoric pits would have a wide opening and then would belly out at the bottom, sometimes 4 to 5 feet deep. They would be capped with clay and ash, because insects such as beatles can’t survive climbing through ash, according to researchers. Until this year, Thomsen Center Archeodome researchers had never found a cache pit with an unbroken clay and ash cap.

As for the corn findings, the longest cobs are about the size of an adult finger. Hannus said the people of that time were either roasting or boiling the entire cob, and Outram said they show the growth of corn crops since that time.

“They tell us a lot about these strains of plants have changed over time,” he said. “They’re a lot smaller. You can see that the corn kernels are about the same size, but the cobs were a lot smaller and there were a lot fewer kernels on the cobs.”

The charring helped to preserve the seeds, Outram said. Otherwise, that seed might have grown out of the ground over time.

“For a 1,000-year-old seed, they’re very nicely preserved,” he said. “But they’re only preserved because they’re charred.”

Hannus said the findings reiterate that the American Indians of the area—about 200 to 250 of them at the site at any one time—had a complex diet and weren’t exactly a primitive people.

“I guess the real positive story is that we know this was a successful village of farmers, hunters, foragers; they collected fish and wildlife; they hunted bison and deer and smaller mammals,” he said. “This wasn’t a starvation story here. It’s a story about a very vital, alive group of people who lived here.”

Hannus has worked at the site for last 31 years, and says the parallels with modern South Dakota are still evident.

“I keep trying to convince people that are visiting, this is not some kind of bizarre, alien culture,” he said. “This isn’t something that people should not be able to relate to. You’ve got small, rural towns in South Dakota right now, today, that are functioning not much differently than the people did then.”

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village Executive Director Cindy Gregg agreed with the researchers, saying if the average person was dropped in the Amazon, “they would be considered primitive, too,” she said.

The 18 students, who are from the U.S., England, Ireland, Russia and Spain, are about 60 percent complete with their time at the site this year and will be in Mitchell through July 16.

The discoveries come on the cusp of the village’s biggest event of the year, Archeology Awareness Days, which is this Saturday and Sunday. Primitive technologists from around the country will be here and demonstrating the skills used more than 1,000 years ago. There will also be summer Lakota Games and cultural programs.

“We’ve had our most productive dig season in the 12 years we’ve been doing this,” Gregg said. “This is an exciting time for us.”

mitchellrepublic.com

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Farmer’s discovery of mastodon tooth turns field into archaeological dig site

BELLVILLE, Ohio — The item, bonelike and bigger than the fist of the farmer who found it, showed up in a pile of dirt.

It was all cusps and bumps and looked prehistoric, so the farmer took it into his house and started searching the Internet. The item was so distinctive that it didn’t take long to find a photo match online.

What he thought was a bone was the tooth of a mastodon, a prehistoric elephantlike mammal that roamed North America more than 10,000 years ago.

The farmer called some historians, who called some geologists, who have spent the past three months carefully excavating a site near the farmer’s soybean field in Morrow County.

For Nigel Brush, the Ashland University professor leading the excavation, it was among the most exciting discoveries of his career.

Mastodon remains have been found in Ohio before, but they are usually incomplete — a tooth, or a bit of tusk.

A full or almost-full skeleton would be rare.

“I’ve been waiting a couple of decades for a call like that,” Brush said during a recent Saturday at the excavation site. “It has the potential to be special.”

It has even more potential to be special because of the things the scientists are finding around the bones.

The bones mostly have been discovered on piles of rocks and gravel. The researchers have found bits of flint and lines of charcoal, too.

The soybean field leads to a bog, which the scientists say probably existed back in the Ice Age when it likely was a little bit bigger — maybe the size of a small lake.

All the evidence leads Brush to believe that Ice Age hunters chased this mastodon across the field, trapped it on the uneven wet ground near the lake, and then killed it, cleaned it on those rock piles and cooked the meat right there.

It’s just a hypothesis, but labs can test the flint for blood and determine whether it belonged to a mastodon. If there is a match, the site would become even more special because it would mean that Brush could conclusively say that Paleoindians hunted and captured a mastodon there.

“It’s about human behavior, that’s what we ultimately want to get at,” said Nick Kardulias, an archaeology and anthropology professor at the College of Wooster who is helping Brush with the dig.

“The objects themselves are wonderful. But the ultimate connection is really between the items that you find and reconstructing that scene, and understanding what happened in the past.”

The team of scientists already has sent off some pieces for testing.

Their excavation will take as long as two years, Brush said. The Dispatch is not identifying the farmer to protect the site from vandals. It could be a while before researchers find out how many bones remain in tact.

A few mostly complete mastodon skeletons have been found around Ohio, but those discoveries are generally few and far between.

The Conway mastodon, which is on display at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, was found by a farmer in a swamp near the Clark-Champaign county line in 1887. Another was found in Johnstown in 1926. That skeleton is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Brush has excavated just one other mastodon in his career, in Holmes County in 1993.

As the scientists and volunteers have worked over the last three months on this find, they’ve discovered other bones from the mastodon — legs, ribs, ankles. They’ve found pieces of tusk.

On a recent Saturday, about 40 people worked on the site, including students from Ashland and Wooster, and professors from Ohio State University and the University of Toledo.

Melissa Baltus, an archaeology professor at the University of Toledo, knelt in the dirt and brushed bits of soil off rocks and stone.

She pointed out charcoal and said some of the bones they’ve found there have had marks that could have been made by prehistoric tools cutting meat from a bone.

Fast-forward a few millennia to a farm where a farmer tills his land and brings a tooth to the surface.

“History is often big people, big names, big events,” Baltus said. “So to get to see how the general public lived on a day-to-day basis is very exciting.”

So is the simple act of touching something that no one has seen for thousands of years.

“When you stick your trowel in the ground, you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to find until you uncover it,” said George DeMuth, president of the Sandusky Bay Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Ohio.

“And that’s a thrill.”

Tricia Goff, a business administration student at Ashland, is taking one of Brush’s classes and took him up on an offer to help on the dig. It was a bucket-list opportunity, she said.

“Holding something that’s 10,000 to 20,000 years old, that no one has ever held before … it’s exciting,” she said.

Brush said the excavation site will be covered through the winter.

In the meantime, the farmer who found the tooth said he likes to walk back to the field at sunrise and imagine the hunt that took place in that exact spot when saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths ruled the land.

“Often we come back here and we think, you know, we think we know so much,” the farmer said. “ And we have no idea.”

larenschield@dispatch.com

By Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch • Sunday October 19, 2014 6:39 AM

Original article:

dispatch.com

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There’s a new mega-mammal on the menu of America’s first hunters.

On a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered 13,400-year-old weapons mingled with bones from an extinct elephant relative called the gomphothere. The animal was smaller than mastodons and mammoths, but most had four sharp tusks for defense.

The new evidence puts the gomphothere in North America at the same time as a prehistoric group of paleo-Indians known as the Clovis culture, whose beautifully crafted projectile points helped bring down giant Ice Age mammals, including mammoths. This is the first time gomphothere fossils have been discovered with Clovis artifacts.

“The Clovis stereotypically went out and hunted mammoth, and now there’s another elephant on the menu,” said Vance Holliday, a co-author on the new study, published today (July 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The archeological site, named “El Fin del Mundo” (the End of the Earth), marks two new extremes for both the Clovis and the gomphotheres. It is one of the oldest Clovis sites ever found, and the bones are the youngest gomphotheres ever discovered in North America. Until now, researchers thought gomphotheres vanished before humans reached North America. [In Photos: New Clovis site in Sonora]

“The implications are pretty simple, although certainly not trivial — early human explorers of interior North America opportunistically targeted the largest Pleistocene animals as part of their cultural pattern, and this pattern probably started almost as soon as people had made their way south into the lower 48 states,” said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in the study. The Pleistocene epoch spans from about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

An amazing find

The Sonora Clovis site is now scrubby desert, but it was once a spring-fed swamp that probably offered up a steady supply of fresh water. Nearby hills provided high-quality rock for the distinctive Clovis weapons, including spectacular quartz blades. “They are just mind-bogglingly beautiful,” said Holliday, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “There is definitely an aesthetic component to them.”

The blade makers also shaped chalcedony, chert, quartzite and rhyolite into blades and scrapers. However, four of the blades from the ranch are basalt, which is locally rare but looks remarkably similar to rocks at a Clovis site called El Bajio, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) to the east, the researchers reported.

The gomphothere remains are from two juveniles, probably each younger than 12 years old when they died, the researchers said. The scientists also found two bone ornaments, and a piece of burned bone.

The team, led by Guadalupe Sanchez, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Hermosillo, Mexico, excavated the cream-colored rock at the behest of the rancher who owns the land. He had noticed the bones and artifacts eroding from a small cliff, and invited the researchers to dig, Holliday said.

The scientists determined the site’s age through radiocarbon dating on charcoal. The researchers dated charcoal in layers with bone and Clovis weapons to 11,550 radiocarbon years ago, which doesn’t match up precisely with calendar dates. It’s equivalent to 13,390 years ago. (The discrepancy is because of changes in global radiocarbon concentrations over time.)

That age suggests the Clovis people were hunting large mammals in the Southwest for a span of several hundred years, Holliday said. [See Images of the Baby Woolly Mammoths]

The youngest Clovis sites are about 125 miles (200 km) to the north, along the San Pedro River (Rio San Pedro) in Arizona, Holliday said. “These hunters were around for a long time, at least 500 years,” he said. “It seems they were coming and going as they pleased, going from water source to water source and learning the land.”

However, other scientists said they would like to see more carbon dates from the site before reaching broad conclusions about the origins of the Clovis. “The Achilles’ heel is that there’s just one radiocarbon age,” said Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University in College Station, who was not involved in the study. “I think this is a very interesting and exciting archaeological discovery, but the age needs to be confirmed.”

America’s first culture

Though the Clovis people were not the very first settlers of the New World, they were probably North America’s first homegrown culture. Their trademark stone blades were the era’s equivalent of the iPhone — an innovative, disruptive technology — and rapidly replaced earlier bone and antler tools. “There are really no other artifacts like it on any other continents,” Holliday said. “This amazing technology just spread.”

Clovis points were so popular and widespread that they still litter the ground in many places, especially in the Southwest and Southeast, including Mexico.

But scientists do not agree on where the technology first emerged, or why the Clovis people invented it. The Sonoran site’s early age, combined with a similar age from a Clovis dig in Texas, suggests the culture may have risen in the South, Holliday said.

“This site opens up some new possibilities that the Clovis originated in the Southwest corner of North America or the southern half of North America,” Holliday said.

Earlier this year, a genetic analysis of a Clovis-era skeleton revealed that 80 percent of today’s Native Americans, including indigenous people in Mexico and South America, share direct genetic links with this single known Clovis ancestor.

Original article:
livescience.com

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