Researchers base opinion on tools found next to mastodon site in San Diego
April 26, 2017
A team of scientists believe they have found evidence of human activity in North America that dates back 130,000 years — more than 100,000 years earlier than believed.
The evidence comes from an archeological site in San Diego County, Calif. In 1992, a site was uncovered containing mastodon bones, along with stone anvils and hammerstones. Dating the tools proved to be challenging. However, using recent technology, including uranium dating, the team believes they have firm evidence that humans were using tools to break apart the bones and make other tools.
‘I was skeptical when I first looked at the material myself, but it’s definitely an archeological site.’– Steve Holen, researcher
The find is controversial, as there has been a consensus among paleontologists and anthropologists that humans made the journey to North America roughly 15,000 years ago.
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. It’s not believed that the humans killed the animal, however. Instead, it’s likely they were breaking up the limb bones, removing parts of the bones and probably making tools with them. They also may have extracted marrow from the bones for nutrition.
The bones also displayed spiral fractures, which suggests that they were broken while fresh and not some years later. Five large hammerstones and anvils also show wear and tear that didn’t occur through geological processes, the researchers said.
The findings challenge current evidence that suggests humans arrived in North America about 15,000 years ago and will most certainly be carefully scrutinized, something the authors are well aware of. During their press conference on Tuesday, they invited other researchers to examine the evidence, some of which will be on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum next week.
‘I’d say the jury’s still out. There’s still some information missing.’– Ariane Burke, Universite de Montreal
“I know people will be skeptical of this because this is so surprising,” Holen said. “I was skeptical when I first looked at the material myself, but it’s definitely an archeological site.”
Ariane Burke, an anthropology professor at the University of Montreal, said that she’d like to see more analysis of the bones and tools before concluding that humans were indeed here so long ago.
“Normally at an archeological site you find chipped stone tools, irrespective of what they’re doing at the site. People are notorious litterbugs, even back then,” she told CBC News. “So you kind of expect to see some of that trace of a human presence. I’m not saying they’re absolutely wrong and it cannot be a human site, but I’d say the jury’s still out. There’s still some information missing.”