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Great Old One
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PostPosted: 10-01-2009 17:03    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Stonehenge’ At The Bottom Of Lake Michigan


[Image: Standing stones beneath Lake Michigan? View larger].

In a surprisingly under-reported story from 2007, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College, discovered a series of stones – some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon – 40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan.
If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old – coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

[Image: The stones beneath Lake Michigan; view larger].

In a PDF assembled by Holley and Brian Abbott to document the expedition, we learn that the archaeologists had been hired to survey a series of old boatwrecks using a slightly repurposed "sector scan sonar" device. You can read about the actual equipment – a Kongsberg-Mesotech MS 1000 – here.
The circular images this thing produces are unreal; like some strange new art-historical branch of landscape representation, they form cryptic dioramas of long-lost wreckage on the lakebed. Shipwrecks (like the Tramp, which went down in 1974); a "junk pile" of old boats and cars; a Civil War-era pier; and even an old buggy are just some of the topographic features the divers discovered.
These are anthropological remains that will soon be part of the lake's geology; they are our future trace fossils.
But down amongst those otherwise mundane human remains were the stones.

[Image: The "junk pile" of old cars and boat skeletons; view larger].

While there is obviously some doubt as to whether or not that really is a mastodon carved on a rock – let alone if it really was human activity that arranged some of the rocks into a Stonehenge-like circle – it's worth pointing out that Michigan does already have petroglyph sites and even standing stones.
A representative of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology has even commented that, although he's skeptical, he's interested in learning more, hoping to see better photographs of the so-called "glyph stone."

[Image: The stones; view larger].

So is there a North American version of Stonehenge just sitting up there beneath the glacial waters of a small northern bay in Lake Michigan? If so, are there other submerged prehistoric megaliths waiting to be discovered by some rogue archaeologist armed with a sonar scanner?
Whatever the answer might be, the very suggestion is interesting enough to think about – where underwater archaeology, prehistoric remains, and lost shipwrecks collide to form a midwestern mystery: National Treasure 3 or Da Vinci Code 2. Even Ghostbusters: The Return.
But only future scuba expeditions will be able to tell for sure.

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Psycho Punk
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PostPosted: 28-01-2009 16:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comet Impact Theory Disproved

Understanding whether rapid changes in climate have caused wild fires in the past will help understand whether current changes in global temperatures will cause more frequent fires at the present time. Such fires have a major impact on the economy and health of the population, as well as feeding into the increase in global warming.

by Staff Writers
Bristol, UK (SPX) Jan 28, 2009
New data disproves the recent theory that a large comet exploded over North America 12,900 years ago, causing a shock wave that travelled across North America at hundreds of kilometres per hour and triggering continent-wide wildfires.

Dr Sandy Harrison from the University of Bristol and colleagues tested the theory by examining charcoal and pollen records to assess how fire regimes in North America changed between 15 and 10,000 years ago, a time of large and rapid climate changes.

Their results provide no evidence for continental-scale fires, but support the fact that the increase in large-scale wildfires in all regions of the world during the past decade is related to an increase in global warming.

Fire is the most ubiquitous form of landscape disturbance and has important effects on climate through the global carbon cycle and changing atmospheric chemistry. This has triggered an interest in knowing how fire has changed in the past, and particularly how fire regimes respond to periods of major warming.

The end of the Younger Dryas, about 11,700 years ago, was an interval when the temperature of Greenland warmed by over 5 degrees C in less than a few decades. The team used 35 records of charcoal accumulation in lake sediments from sites across North America to see whether fire regimes across the continent showed any response to such rapid warming.

They found clear changes in biomass burning and fire frequency whenever climate changed abruptly, and most particularly when temperatures increased at the end of the Younger Dryas cold phase. The results published, January 26, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Understanding whether rapid changes in climate have caused wild fires in the past will help understand whether current changes in global temperatures will cause more frequent fires at the present time. Such fires have a major impact on the economy and health of the population, as well as feeding into the increase in global warming.
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Great Old One
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PostPosted: 17-06-2009 11:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

Local site rewrites history of early humans in America
6/12/2009 12:30 AM

Since 1998, archaeologists at a site in Allendale County have been making discoveries that have the potential to rewrite the history - or more precisely, the prehistory - of our state.

The Topper site, named for a local resident who first found ancient artifacts at this location that borders the eastern shore of the Savannah River, has been the subject of major media attention because of the unearthing of evidence that human habitation in North America predates traditional estimates.

One of the staple beliefs of paleoamerican research - the term "paleo" is derived from the Greek word for "ancient" - holds that the first Americans appeared no earlier than 13,000 years ago; these early humans, it is thought, originated in Northeast Asia and crossed over to our continent after the last Ice Age.

Labeled the Clovis culture by scientists because the first evidence of these ancestors of the indigenous people of North America was found in the 1930s near present-day Clovis, N.M., these prehistoric humans were noted for their creation of distinctly shaped stone spear points used in the hunting of bison and mastodon and other early mammals.

The Topper site offers rich evidence of Clovis occupation in the Central Savannah River Area; in fact, the team responsible for excavating the site, members of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, think that they have discovered at Topper an early quarry used by the Clovis people to gather the materials - in this case, a type of rock known as chert - for fashioning their stone tools.

Just its identification as a Clovis site would have been enough to make Topper an archaeological location of intense scientific interest, but a decision made by Dr. Albert Goodyear, the founder and director of the Allendale Paleoindian Expedition, to dig deeper than is generally the case at most such sites led to hypotheses that have made headlines.

In 2004, Goodyear and his team dug four meters below the surface and found artifacts in a layer of burnt plant remains that were subsequently tested via radiocarbon dating. The finding that this charcoal deposit is as old as 50,000 years may lend credence to the theory that human habitation on this continent dates much, much earlier than anyone supposed. Goodyear himself asserts that "Topper is the oldest radiocarbon-dated site in North America."

The verdict is still out, however, as to whether this evidence alone contradicts the long-held belief that early humans first arrived in America from Asia 13,000 years ago.

Many scientists argue that there is still not sufficient proof - incontrovertible material evidence - to support that contention.

Still, this pre-Clovis claim is tantalizing - and the search for further proof is under way, thanks to the ongoing work of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at USC. Excavation continues unabated, with the active encouragement of the Clariant Corporation, which owns 2,000 acres in Allendale County, including the Topper site.

This Swiss-based company not only decided to provide camping facilities for the staff of the Southeastern Paleoamerican Survey but also made a significant financial contribution to the construction of a pavilion that shelters some of the most critical area of excavation - a viewing deck was added at this spot for the convenience of visitors in 2007.

Anyone can take part in this history-making effort to rewrite our state's prehistorical past.

Each summer, members of the public can join the "expedition" and participate in the dig by paying a largely tax-deductible fee; in return, they get to "work" the site and learn more about excavation techniques and artifact identification. For more information, visit

Dr. Mack is a Carolina Trustee Professor at USC Aiken.

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Psycho Punk
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PostPosted: 03-09-2009 15:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans

ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2009) — In one of the more dramatic moments of an underwater archaeological survey co-led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist James Adovasio along Florida’s Gulf Coast this summer, Andy Hemmings stood on an inundated river’s edge where man hasn't set foot in more than 13,000 years.

Donning full scuba gear, Hemmings stood in 130 feet of water on a peninsula at the intersection of two ancient rivers nearly 100 miles offshore from Tampa. The last time humans could have stood in that spot, mammoth and mastodon roamed the terrain.

“The successful tracking of the St. Marks-Aucilla River and the Suwannee River, between 50 and 150 kilometers respectively, represents what we believe to be the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done anywhere in the world,” Adovasio said.

Another pivotal find is the identification of chert at three dive sites along the river systems; chert is a superior quality fine-grained stone used by prehistoric peoples to make tools.

“There is no doubt,” Adovasio said, “that we have found the haystacks and are one step closer to uncovering the archaeological needles;” in effect, narrowing the search for evidence of early Americans in the now submerged Inner Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.

Hemmings, one of the leading Paleoindian underwater archaeologists in North America, agreed. “My feeling is, given a little time to probe the sediments with a dredge, we will quickly find human artifacts.”

The signature expedition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research began in the summer of 2008 when a distinguished group of scientists led by Mercyhurst’s Adovasio and Hemmings identified and mapped buried river channels that could potentially help document the late Pleistocene landscape. This year’s mission, undertaken July 23 to Aug. 5, further traced the river systems along whose beaches prehistoric people may have populated and identified raw materials that they may have used in tool making.

The mission also has advanced underwater understanding and research methodology exponentially, Adovasio said.

“We have developed protocols for exploring deep water, which is both time and labor intensive, as well as expensive, unlike anything done before,” he said.

From the Weatherbird II, flagship of the Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg, researchers electronically mapped the modern sea floor with a side scan sonar device and created images of the layered sediments below the seafloor surface with a sub-bottom profiler. Using GPS technology, the team selected dive locations based on an understanding of what the surface should look like, and what was hidden below that surface adjacent to the old river channels.

On the peninsula where the relict Suwannee River intersects another ancient system, divers were able to collect a 1m sediment core but were unable to complete a lengthier search for human artifacts because the water neared 130 feet, the maximum depth level for this year’s dive. The team plans to return to this spot next year, increasing the divers’ depth level certification to 165 feet and using a dredge to lift the silt away and see if there is an archaeological site at this confluence.

“Proof of past human habitation here would reinforce the disintegration of the once prevalent hypothesis about who the first Americans were, how they got here and when they arrived,” said Adovasio, who rose to fame 30 years ago while excavating the Meadowcroft Rockshelter near Pittsburgh, Pa. Besides primary funding from NOAA, this summer’s work was supported by the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Gault School of Archaeological Research, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Institute of Oceanography, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, among others. Students from Mercyhurst, Harvard, the University of Michigan and Texas A & M were also part of the research group.


Adapted from materials provided by Mercyhurst College.
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Psycho Punk
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PostPosted: 13-10-2009 15:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

North America comet theory questioned
No evidence of an extraterrestrial impact 13,000 years ago, studies say.

Rex Dalton

An independent study has cast more doubt on a controversial theory that a comet exploded over icy North America nearly 13,000 years ago, wiping out the Clovis people and many of the continent's large animals.

Sediments at the San Jon site, in eastern New Mexico, contained very low abundances of magnetic spherules said to be evidence of an impact.Vance HollidayArchaeologists have examined sediments at seven Clovis-age sites across the United States, and did not find enough magnetic cosmic debris to confirm that an extraterrestrial impact happened at that time, says the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)1. It is the latest of several studies unable to support aspects of the impact hypothesis.

In 2007, a team led by Californian researchers announced a theory2 that a comet or asteroid had exploded over the North American ice sheet, creating widespread fire and an atmospheric soot burst followed by a cooling period known as the Younger Dryas. Sometime after this, the Clovis people, sophisticated large-animal hunters known for their spear points, mysteriously disappeared; the team linked their vanishing to the environmental effects of the proposed impact.

Key evidence came in the form of magnetic microspherules discovered in sediments at 25 locations, including eight Clovis-age sites. Richard Firestone, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and his colleagues argued that the microspherules were remnants of cosmic debris from an explosion.

But in more than 18 months of sedimentary analysis, a team led by Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was unable to detect microspherule peaks. Two of the seven sites the group studied were places where Firestone's team identified spherule peaks.

"I spent hundreds of hours at the microscope examining sediment samples," says Surovell, "and I didn't find any physical evidence to support their theory."

Standing firm
The other team isn't backing down. "Their study doesn't negate our hypothesis," says James Kennett, a palaeoceanographer at the University of California at Santa Barbara and one of Firestone's co-authors. Another co-author, avocational geophysicist Allen West of Prescott, Arizona, says that Surovell's group didn't use the correct technique to extract, identify and quantify the microspherules.

Several other groups have been unable to support important aspects of the comet theory.

In a PNAS article published in February3, Jennifer Marlon, a doctoral geography student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and her colleagues found no systematic burning of biomass — as would have occurred if continent-wide fires had happened — at the time of the Younger Dryas in pollen and charcoal records at 35 sites. And at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in August, Jacquelyn Gill, a palaeoecology doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reported finding no evidence of massive burning in sediment cores taken from lake beds in Ohio and Indiana.


Kennett, however, calls these studies "flawed". In August, his team published a report4 saying they had found nanometre-sized diamonds, purportedly created during an impact, and soot in sediments dated to the Younger Dryas on Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of California.

More studies of the theory — both critical and supportive — are in the publishing pipelines at other journals.

Surovell's co-author Vance Holliday, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and his colleagues have an article in press at Current Anthropology that says the archaeological and geochronological records don't support a collapse of Clovis people at the time of the purported impact.

Surovell, T. A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA advance online publication doi:10.1073/pnas.0907857106 (2009).
Firestone, R. B. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 16016-16021 (2007). | Article | PubMed
Marlon, J. R. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 2519-2524 (2009). | Article | PubMed
Kennett, D. J. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 12623-12628 (2009). | Article | PubMed
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Psycho Punk
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PostPosted: 21-10-2009 15:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pre-Columbian Societies Knew a Thing About Extracting Gold
By Charles C. Mann
ScienceNOW Daily News
20 October 2009

When Spanish conquistadors seized the Inka emperor Atawalpa in 1532, they demanded an enormous ransom of silver and gold. For weeks, llama trains carried tons of gold and silver statues, cups, and other objects to the Europeans, who then ordered them melted down to ingots for transport back to Spain. Such an enormous stash suggests that the Andean people knew sophisticated metallurgy, but there has been little evidence to support this. Now a team of geologists and archaeologists have found clues that these indigenous people refined gold with mercury amalgamation, an important metallurgical technique that is still in use today.
To extract precious metals from ore, workers mix liquid mercury with finely ground gold or silver ore, creating an amalgam or alloy. They then separate out the heavier amalgam and heat it to boil away the mercury, arriving at almost-pure silver or gold. The Romans knew of mercury amalgamation in the 1st century, but it was not widespread in Europe until the 12th century. Polish engineer-archaeologist Arthur Posnansky insisted as far back as 1945 that amalgamation was used near the famed Incan site of Machu Picchu, but archaeologists have always vigorously disputed these claims, noting that much of Posnansky's work was overly credulous. Instead, experts believed that the process was nonexistent in the Americas until colonist Bartolomé de Medina developed a variant in Mexico in 1557.

But William Brooks, a geologist based in Reston, Virginia, couldn't believe that societies, which produced large quantities of gold, lacked techniques to recover it from placer gold, the minute gold flakes in stream beds found along coastal Peru. So Brooks and colleagues in Peru and Colombia analyzed residual mercury levels in seven samples of pre-European-contact gold foil--three from the Sicàn culture, which existed between 750 C.E. and 1375 C.E. in Peru, and four from Colombia. The team found signs of amalgamation similar to those seen in contemporary gold foil in southeastern Peru, it reports today at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. "We think this technique was used throughout the Andes, probably centuries before it was commonly used in Europe," Brooks says.

The researchers' work has not escaped criticism, however. Almost all known Sicàn gold artifacts were looted from elite burial sites, which makes their context uncertain, says Izumi Shimada of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, director of the Sicàn Archaeological Project. Moreover, he says, both artifacts and bodies in the tombs were often "painted from head to foot in cinnabar," a brilliant vermillion pigment made from a mercury-sulfur compound, which could have contaminated the scientists' measurements. To confirm mercury amalgamation, Shimada says, "would require an independent testing of items recovered from a nonfunerary context."

Brooks agrees that contamination is a potential issue and says that the museums preparing their samples carefully removed the cinnabar deposits. If there were still cinnabar contamination, however, Brooks says he would have expected random variations between samples instead of the consistent measurements his team observed. Also, amalgamation, he says, just makes sense: "They had to have some way to produce all that gold, and an obvious candidate is the metallurgical technique used everywhere else in the world."
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PostPosted: 06-11-2009 14:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

The headline here is in error, and should say "oldest directly datable" artifact, and should reference North America. There's a layer under Monte Verde that Dillehay has tentatively dated to 30,000 YBP, and certain stone artifacts at Gault, Topper, and Meadowcroft may well turn out to be older than this one; but dating bone is a much more straightforward business than dating stone.

Oldest American artefact unearthed
Oregon caves yield evidence of continent's first inhabitants.

Rex Dalton

An Oregon cave has yielded the oldest artefact ever found in the Americas.
Tom StaffordArchaeologists claim to have found the oldest known artefact in the Americas, a scraper-like tool in an Oregon cave that dates back 14,230 years.

The tool shows that people were living in North America well before the widespread Clovis culture of 12,900 to 12,400 years ago, says archaeologist Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Studies of sediment and radiocarbon dating showed the bone's age. Jenkins presented the finding late last month in a lecture at the University of Oregon.

His team found the tool in a rock shelter overlooking a lake in south-central Oregon, one of a series of caves near the town of Paisley.

Kevin Smith, the team member who uncovered the artefact, remembers the discovery. "We had bumped into a lot of extinct horse, bison and camel bone – then I heard and felt the familiar ring and feel when trowel hits bone," says Smith, now a master's student at California State University, Los Angeles. "I switched to a brush. Soon this huge bone emerged, then I saw the serrated edge. I stepped back and said: 'Hey everybody — we got something here.'"

Coprolite controversy
Whether the cave dwellers were Clovis people or belonged to an earlier culture is uncertain. None of the Clovis people's distinct fluted spear and arrow points have been found in the cave.

"They can't yet rule out the Paisley Cave people weren't Clovis," says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon who wasn't involved in the research.

The only other American archaeological site older than Clovis is at Monte Verde in Chile, which is about 13,900 years old.

Last year, Jenkins and colleagues reported that Paisley Cave coprolites, or fossilized human excrement, dated to 14,000 to 14,270 years ago1. That report established the Paisley Caves as a key site for American archaeology.

Analysis of ancient DNA marked the coprolites as human. But in July, another group argued that the coprolites might be younger than the sediments that contained them2.

This team, led by Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also questioned the 2008 report because no artefacts had been found in the crucial sediments. The Oregon team strongly disputed the criticisms3.

Laid to rest?
The dating of the bone tool, and the finding that the sediments encasing it range from 11,930 to 14,480 years old, might put these questions to rest. "You couldn't ask for better dated stratigraphy," Jenkins told the Oregon meeting.

"They have definitely made their argument even stronger," says Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who was not involved in the research.

Other researchers questioned whether the cave's inhabitants would have been mainly vegetarian, as the coprolites suggested4. In his recent lecture Jenkins noted other evidence reflecting a diet short on meat but including edible plants such as the fernleaf biscuitroot Lomatium dissectum.

In late September, a group of archaeologists who study the peopling of the Americas met with federal officials and a representative of the local Klamath tribe to review the evidence at Paisley Caves. The specialists spent two days examining sediments, checking the tool, and assessing other plant and animal evidence.

"It was an impressive presentation," says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, who attended the meeting. "This is clearly an important site, but there are some tests that need to be done to seal the deal." One key, he says, is to better understand how the specimens got to the cave.

1.Gilbert, W.T.P. et al. Science 320, 786-789 (2008).
2.Poinar, H. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).
3.Rasmussen, M. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).
4.Goldberg, P., Berna, F. & Macphail, R.I. Science 325, 5937, 148 (2009).
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PostPosted: 30-07-2010 17:53    Post subject: Ancient Woman Suggests Diverse Migration Reply with quote

Mexico: Ancient woman suggests diverse migration

By MARK STEVENSON (AP) – 6 days ago

MEXICO CITY — A scientific reconstruction of one of the oldest sets of human remains found in the Americas appears to support theories that the first people who came to the hemisphere migrated from a broader area than once thought, researchers say.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History on Thursday released photos of the reconstructed image of a woman who probably lived on Mexico's Caribbean coast 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. She peeks out of the picture as a short, spry-looking woman with slightly greying hair.

Anthropologists had long believed humans migrated to the Americas in a relatively short period from a limited area in north-east Asia across a temporary land corridor that opened across the Bering Strait during an ice age.

But government archaeologist Alejandro Terrazas says the picture has now become more complicated, because the reconstruction more resembles people from south-eastern Asian areas like Indonesia.

"History isn't that simple," Terrazas said. "This indicates that the Americas were populated by several migratory movements, not just one or two waves from northern Asia across the Bering Strait."

Some outside experts caution that the evidence is not conclusive.

Ripan Malhi, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, said that "using facial reconstructions to assign ancestry to an individual is not as strong as using ancient DNA to assess the ancestry of the individual, because the environment can influence the traits of the face."

"All of the current genetic evidence points to North-east Asia as the main source for Native Americans," Malhi said.

However, there have been few opportunities to use DNA or other methods to identify the origins of the first inhabitants because only a handful of skeletons from 10,000 years ago have survived.

The female is known as "La Mujer de las Palmas," or "The Woman of the Palms," after the sinkhole cave near the Caribbean resort of Tulum where her remains were found by divers and recovered in 2002.

Because rising water levels flooded the cave where she died or was laid to rest, her skeleton was about 90 percent intact. Archaeologists and physical anthropologists calculated she was between 44 and 50 years old when she died, was about 5 feet (1.52 metres) tall and weighed about 128 pounds (58 kilograms).

Experts also measured skull features and calculated the muscle and other tissue layers that once covered her face, which served as a guide for experts in paleo-anthropological modelling at the Atelier Daynes in France to complete a model of the woman.

The model shows a stocky woman and clad in a simple knee-length woven tunic. She had a broad face, prominent cheeks, thin lips, and little trace of the epicanthic eye-folds that characterize many modern Asian populations.

"Her body structure, skin and eyes are similar to the population of South-east Asia," the institute said in a statement.

Susan Gillespie, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, noted that while the Bering land bridge theory still has a lot of support, "the situation is messier than the straightforward scenario ... of big-game hunters chasing woolly mammoths over the exposed `Bering bridge' to Alaska."

"Recently there has been more serious inquiry into the various origins of migrants, modes of transportation, and dates of when they got here," Gillespie said in an e-mail message. "Dates for peopling of the Americas have been pushed way back, and with the finding of very early skeletal remains, the genetic/skeletal linkages to peoples of north-east Asia has become more cloudy."

But Gillespie cautioned against comparing a reconstructed face from 10,000 years ago to modern populations in places like Indonesia, which have also probably changed over 10 millennia.

"You have to find skeletons of the same time period in Asia, or use genetic reconstructions, to make a strong connection, and cannot rely on modern populations," she wrote. "Do we have any empirical data on what South-east Asian women looked like ... 10,000 years ago?"

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press.

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PostPosted: 02-08-2010 02:47    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that. I've never really believed in the single migration theories.

It's now been proven that Australia was settled in waves as well.

History isn't that simple.

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PostPosted: 02-08-2010 03:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

10,000 years ago, Northern Europe was still an icy and frigid wasteland. That doesn't mean that humans and their surviving relatives (if any), hadn't been industrious and busy, elsewhere.

Where will the DNA evidence eventually take us, on the journey into our collective pasts? Surprises on the way, probably.

Merged: 'Ancient Woman ...', with 'First Americans'. P_M
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PostPosted: 04-10-2010 13:38    Post subject: Reply with quote


No Evidence for Clovis Comet Catastrophe, Archaeologists Say

These are Clovis Points. (Credit: David Meltzer)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2010) — New research challenges the controversial theory that an ancient comet impact devastated the Clovis people, one of the earliest known cultures to inhabit North America.

Writing in the October issue of Current Anthropology, archaeologists Vance Holliday (University of Arizona) and David Meltzer (Southern Methodist University) argue that there is nothing in the archaeological record to suggest an abrupt collapse of Clovis populations. "Whether or not the proposed extraterrestrial impact occurred is a matter for empirical testing in the geological record," the researchers write. "Insofar as concerns the archaeological record, an extraterrestrial impact is an unnecessary solution for an archaeological problem that does not exist."

The comet theory first emerged in 2007 when a team of scientists announced evidence of a large extraterrestrial impact that occurred about 12,900 years ago. The impact was said to have caused a sudden cooling of the North American climate, killing off mammoths and other megafauna. It could also explain the apparent disappearance of the Clovis people, whose characteristic spear points vanish from the archaeological record shortly after the supposed impact.

As evidence for the rapid Clovis depopulation, comet theorists point out that very few Clovis archaeological sites show evidence of human occupation after the Clovis. At the few sites that do, Clovis and post-Clovis artifacts are separated by archaeologically sterile layers of sediments, indicating a time gap between the civilizations. In fact, comet theorists argue, there seems to be a dead zone in the human archaeological record in North America beginning with the comet impact and lasting about 500 years.

But Holliday and Meltzer dispute those claims. They argue that a lack of later human occupation at Clovis sites is no reason to assume a population collapse. "Single-occupation Paleoindian sites -- Clovis or post-Clovis -- are the norm," Holliday said. That's because many Paleoindian sites are hunting kill sites, and it would be highly unlikely for kills to be made repeatedly in the exact same spot.

"So there is nothing surprising about a Clovis occupation with no other Paleoindian zone above it, and it is no reason to infer a disaster," Holliday said.

In addition, Holliday and Meltzer compiled radiocarbon dates of 44 archaeological sites from across the U.S. and found no evidence of a post-comet gap. "Chronological gaps appear in the sequence only if one ignores standard deviations (a statistically inappropriate procedure), and doing so creates gaps not just around [12,900 years ago] but also at many later points in time," they write.

Sterile layers separating occupation zones at some sites are easily explained by shifting settlement patterns and local geological processes, the researchers say. The separation should not be taken as evidence of an actual time gap between Clovis and post-Clovis cultures.

Holliday and Meltzer believe that the disappearance of Clovis spear points is more likely the result of a cultural choice rather than a population collapse. "There is no compelling data to indicate that North American Paleoindians had to cope with or were affected by a catastrophe, extraterrestrial or otherwise, in the terminal Pleistocene," they conclude.

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The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

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PostPosted: 27-02-2011 20:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oldest subarctic North American human remains found
February 24th, 2011 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

A man pulls a whaler's boat across the frozen Arctic Ocean in Browerville, Alaska, in 2006

A man pulls a whaler's boat across the frozen Arctic Ocean in Browerville, Alaska, in 2006. Scientists on Thursday announced they have discovered the oldest human remains ever found in sub-Arctic North America, offering a new window into the lives of the continent's earliest inhabitants.

( -- A newly excavated archaeological site in Alaska contains the cremated remains of one of the earliest inhabitants of North America. These remains may provide rare insights into the burial practices of Ice Age peoples, while shedding new light on their daily lives, according to a paper published Feb. 25 in the journal Science.

The find is also notable because archaeologists and Alaska Natives are working hand-in-hand to insure the excavation and subsequent examination of the remains of this child estimated to be approximately three years old at the time of death. This research will benefit science and the heritage studies while respecting traditional Athabaskan culture.

The apparent age of the remains found at the site, the researchers said, would certainly make these the oldest human remains found in Northern North America, as well as the second youngest Ice Age child on the continent.

The child has been named Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin (pronounced hausau chag ts'eneen), which translates to "Upward Sun River Mouth Child," based on a local native place name. The site, Xaasaa Na' (Upward Sun River), was formerly known as Little Delta Dune.

Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and his colleagues describe in the paper finding the skeletal remains in an ancient fire pit within an equally ancient dwelling near the Tanana River in central Alaska.

Radiocarbon dating of wood at the site indicates the cremation of the child may have taken place roughly 11,500 years ago, when the Bering Land Bridge may still have connected Alaska with Asia.

Initial observations of the teeth indicate the child is biologically affiliated with Native Americans and with Northeast Asians.

"This site reflects many different behaviors never before seen in this part of the world during the last Ice Age, and the preservation and lack of disturbance allows us to explore the life ways of these ancient peoples in new ways," Potter says.

The researchers note both the burial and the house itself are the earliest of their kind known in the North American near-Arctic. They add that discovery of burial sites of this age in North America is very rare; the buried remains of children even more so.

"The discovery of the remains was unexpected," Potter added.

In fact, it was an older occupation at the site (about 13,200 years ago) that first attracted the researchers to the site. Only while investigating this early occupation did the evidence of the burial come to light.

The initial excavation of the site was supported by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs with funds awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

OPP's Division of Arctic Sciences supports disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and broad, interdisciplinary investigations directed toward both the Arctic as a region of special scientific interest and a region important to global systems.

In the paper, the researchers note that the pit contained not only the child's remains—the researchers estimate less than 20 percent of the skeleton survived the cremation—but also remains of small mammals, birds, and fish as well as plant remains. Because the human remains were in the uppermost part of the pit, above the animal remains, the researchers suspect the pit was not originally designed as a grave, but evidence suggests the occupants abandoned the house after the cremation-burial.

Both researchers and tribal leaders agreed that the process of working together on this new find has fostered mutual respect and cooperation between them

Earliest human remains in US Arctic reported (AP)

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows a trench connecting both areas of the site in Alaska. Some 11,500 years ago one of America's earliest families laid the remains of a three-year-old child to rest in their home in what is now Alaska. Today archaeologists are learning about the life and times of the early settlers who crossed from Asia to the New World, researchers thank to that burial. (Ben A. Potter, Science)
"This exciting, groundbreaking and multi-faceted research is in the best traditions of the research that NSF supports in the Arctic," said Anna Kerttula de Echave, program officer in the NSF Office of Polar Programs who oversees this award. "Equally significant is that the approach taken by the researchers reflects the importance, in modern Arctic science, of collaborating with Native people as full partners in discovery."

Potter and his colleagues' excavation and analysis were sanctioned by the local federally recognized Tribe, Healy Lake Traditional Council and its affiliated regional consortium, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC). Through consultation, initiated at the time of the discovery, Healy Lake and TCC support the scientific examination of both the site and the remains themselves.

"I would like to learn everything we can about this individual," said First Chief Joann Polston, of Healy Lake Traditional Council.

TCC President Jerry Isaac added that "This find is especially important to us since it is in our area, but the discovery is so rare that it is of interest for all humanity."

Although burned, some of the child's remains may retain DNA. Isaac intends to have his own DNA compared to the find. Polston would like to expand the opportunity to any Alaska Native in the region.

Based on the stratigraphy—or examination of layers of materials in the fire pit—and other evidence, the researchers describe a possible sequence for how the remains came to be interred at the site.

They hypothesize a small group of people, which included adult females and young children, who were foraging in the area in the vicinity of this residential camp, fishing and hunting birds and small mammals.

A pit was dug within a house, used for cooking and/or a means of disposing food debris for weeks or months preceding the death of the child.

The child died and was cremated in the pit.

The pit was likely filled with surrounding soil soon after the body was burned. The house was fairly soon abandoned, they concluded, due to the lack of artifacts found above this fill.

Potter noted the find is significant also because it crosses a number of disciplinary boundaries; the artifacts, features, stratigraphy, preservation, and the human remains. These finds allow for the integration and synthesis of stone tool technology, cultural affiliation, subsistence economy, seasonal use of the landscape, paleoenvironments and climate change at the end of the last Ice Age northern North America.

Provided by NSF
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PostPosted: 04-03-2011 13:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

Island tool finds show early settlers' diversity

California Channel Island finds (J Erlandson) The barbed points may even have been arrowheads, moving the earliest known use of arrows back by thousands of years

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Caches of tools and animal remains from around 12,000 years ago, found on islands off the California coast, have given remarkable insight into the lives of the first Americans.

a rich maritime economy existed there.

The tools vary markedly from mainland cultures of the era such as the Clovis.

The finds, reported in Science, also suggest that rather than a land route to South America, early humans may have used coastal routes.

A team studying California's Channel Islands, off its southern coast, has found that the islands show evidence both of differing technologies and a differing diet, even among the few islands.

"On San Miguel island we found a lot of pretty remarkable tools, but the animal materials there were largely shellfish," said Torben Rick, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

"Over on Santa Rosa, that site was dominated by bird remains and a few sea mammal and fish remains... and no shellfish at all.

"What's interesting about that is it shows us not only were these people out there living a coastal life, but they were taking advantage of the full suite of resources available to them; they had a very diversified maritime economy."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

As more research produces more sites, we will see that the story of the first Americans is not linear and that there will continue to be more surprises”

End Quote Tom Dillehay Vanderbilt University

The tools that the team found hold the greatest surprise, however, in that they differ significantly from those of mainland cultures like the Clovis and Folsom.

Points found on the islands - which could even be arrow-heads - are thin, serrated, and have barbed points that show striking workmanship for the period.

Inland tools had fluted points, and it is known they were used to hunt large animals including the woolly mammoth. The island points were so delicate as to almost certainly have been used for hunting fish. What is more, many of them do not reappear in the archaeological record.

"These are extremely delicate, finely made tools that don't occur later in time," Dr Rick said. "Finding these types of tools at all three of these sites really suggests a similar group of people, in terms of technology and subsistence - and were pretty different from what came later."

Dr Rick said that the evidence supported the idea that the islands were short-term or seasonal encampments, rather than permanent settlements. The team also found a piece of obsidian on the islands.

"The Coso obsidian source [is] on the mainland a couple hundred miles away, so we know they were participating in long-distance exchange networks," he said.
'More surprises'

A long-standing model of human exploration and settlement of the Americas holds that, after reaching North America through the Bering Straits off Alaska, a concerted push southward led early humans including the Clovis culture across inland parts of the continent to South America.

But anthropologist Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University said that the Channel Island finds were part of a mounting body of evidence against that simplistic story.
Chert crescent from California Channel Islands (U Oregon) The thin, serrated crescents are a testament to the island inhabitants' manufacturing capabilities

"What they tell us is that there was widespread cultural diversity at the outset of human entry and dispersion throughout the Americas, and that the old, now-dead Clovis first model often misleads us to believe that there was only one major way of first human expansion throughout the Western Hemisphere," he told BBC News.

"As today, there are cultural continuities but there also is constant change, which is well evidenced by these and other sites being discovered throughout the Americas. As more research produces more sites, we will see that the story of the first Americans is not linear and that there will continue to be more surprises.

"As I have published and said before, there were probably many different migrations and many different migration routes overland and along the coastal ways, and this evidence is pointing in that direction too."

However, Dr Rick said that it was too early to upend the larger picture of human migration across the Americas, and that further finds - some of which now lie underwater around the Channel Islands - could shed more light on the story in the future.

"My colleague Jon Erlandson refers to them as 'postcards from the past'," Dr Rick said. "They give us just a brief snapshot of 'hey, we were here and here's what we were doing for a brief period of time'.

"We have to be a little cautious in our interpretations; we're trying to put together a puzzle, and the puzzle may have 150 pieces and we've got five of them. So it's really difficult to get the full picture of what they were doing."
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PostPosted: 25-03-2011 09:30    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stone tools 'demand new American story'
By Paul Rincon and Jonathan Amos, Science reporters, BBC News

The long-held theory of how humans first populated the Americas may have been well and truly broken.
Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone tools that predate the technology widely assumed to have been carried by the first settlers.
The discoveries in Texas are seen as compelling evidence that the so-called Clovis culture does not represent America's original immigrants.
Details of the 15,500-year-old finds are reported in Science magazine.

A number of digs across the Americas in recent decades had already hinted that the "Clovis first" model was in serious trouble.
But the huge collection of well-dated tools excavated from a creek bed 60km (40 miles) northwest of Austin mean the theory is now dead, argue the Science authors.
"This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, 'hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas'," Michael Waters, a Texas A&M University anthropologist, told reporters.

For 80 years, it has been argued that the Clovis culture was the first to sweep into the New World.
These people were defined by their highly efficient stone-tool technology. Their arrow heads and spear points were formidable hunting weapons and were used to bring down the massive beasts of the Ice Age, such as mammoth, mastodon and bison.

The hunter gatherers associated with this technology were thought to have crossed from Siberia into Alaska via a land bridge that became exposed when sea levels dropped. Evidence indicates this occurred as far back as about 13,500 years.

But an increasing number of archaeologists have argued there was likely to have been an earlier occupation based on the stone tools that began turning up at dig sites with claimed dates of more than 15,000 years.
Dr Waters and colleagues say this position is now undeniable in the light of the new artefacts to emerge from the Debra L Friedkin excavation.
These objects comprise 15,528 items in total - a variety of chert blades, bladelets, chisels, and abundant flakes produced when making or repairing stone tools.

The collection was found directly below sediment containing classic Clovis implements. The dating - which relied on a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) that can tell how long minerals have been buried - is robust, says the team. And, they add, the observed sequence is also reliable; the sediments have not been mixed up after the tools were dropped.
"The sediments were very rigid in the fact that they were clay, which worked to our advantage," explained Lee Nordt from Baylor University. "If you go to many other sites, they are loamy or sandy in texture, and they are mixed very rapidly by burrowing from animals or maybe from plant roots, etc."

The newly discovered tools are small, and the researchers propose that they were designed for a mobile toolkit - something that could be easily packed up and moved to a new location. Although clearly different from Clovis tools, they share some similarities and the researchers suggest Clovis technology may even have been derived from the capabilities displayed in the earlier objects.

"The Debra L Friedkin site demonstrates that people were in the Americas at least 2,500 years before Clovis," said Dr Waters.
"The discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop. People could experiment with stone and invent the weapons and tools that would potentially become recognizable as Clovis. In other words, [these tools represent] the type of assemblage from which Clovis could emerge."

But anthropologist Tom Dillehay, who was not involved with the latest study, commented: "The 'Clovis first' paradigm died years ago. There are many other accepted pre-Clovis candidates throughout the Americas now."
Professor Dillehay, from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told BBC News: "If you look at the prose of this paper, it bothers me a little bit because it's as if they are reconstituting the Clovis-Pre-Clovis debate and saying, 'Here's the site that kills it'."
He commended the researchers on their well-presented data and "tight discussion". But he said that the OSL technique was less reliable than radiocarbon dating, which has been applied to other early American sites.

And assigning the artefacts to Clovis and pre-Clovis technologies was not straightforward because the site lacked the projectile points required to reliably distinguish between the two. Clovis projectile points are unmistakeable.
In addition, said the Vanderbilt anthropology professor, the tools come from a floodplain deposit that is just 6-7cm thick. This, he said, was "potentially problematic" because of the possibility that artefacts were transported around by water.

Professor Gary Haynes, from the University of Nevada in Reno, US, praised the "good work" by the research team.
But he said it was plausible that natural processes could have caused some stone tools to migrate downwards in the clay - giving the impression of a pre-Clovis layer.
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PostPosted: 25-03-2011 14:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the same watershed as the Gault site, which I've mentioned here before, and it's a sign of the state of science reporting that it is not mentioned and the team there was not asked anything.

Also, that popular sources are still talking about "Clovis First" as the default model and single sites as if they are going to be the revolutionary discovery that changes everybody's mind. That's already happened - Dillehay's Monte Verde site in Chile. The number and quality of Preclovis sites grows steadily and they are all important.

The Clovis First model is not true. The people who believe it's true are the people who are simply too old to change their minds. We'll stop getting articles presenting the underdog Preclovis vs. the Clovis First folks when we get enough information about the people who preceded Clovis to create a coherent picture of a culture and give that culture a proper name. The term Preclovis defines a people by what they're not, which makes them hard to hold onto.

If, as seems likely, the "Preclovis" were not a single cohesive culture (why should they be, with sites as far apart as Chile, Alaska, and Pennsylvania?) but a number of wildly disparate ones, many of the traces of which were drowned at the end of the Ice Age, we could be at this a long time. It may be that the Central Texas Preclovis documented at Gault and Friedekind were cultural outliers who will in time become entrenched in textbooks as The Definitive First Culture, a view which will be pitched by future reporters as the Orthodox one against which the revolutionary information being discovered via new offshore digging technology is pitched in an underdog battle.
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