Full Version: Oldest Archaeological Site Discovered in North America
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A new study by archaeologists digging in San Diego county suggests evidence for human habitation in North America as old as 130,000 years.

Preview letter in Nature:

CBC news:


If this finding is confirmed, the forthcoming study will be the most important discovery in all of North American archaeology. Nature is the most prestigious scientific journal in the world.

What would this mean for A-P? It would have ramifications affecting the aboriginal status of Native Americans, theories of Paleo-Indians, Clovis and Pre-Clovis theory, and most importantly, theories around Mega-faunal extinction.

There are presently two main theories about the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna. One, that humans hunted megafauna into extinction, and the other, that climate change caused the extinctions of megafauna. There is also a combination theory, but most scientists tend to like simpler, 'ultimate' causal explanations. (note: another hypothesis put forward by Ross MacPhee was the hyper-disease theory i.e. some unknown pathogen that spread worldwide. But currently almost no scientist agrees with this).

The human hunting theory was first elaborated by Paul S. Martin in the 1960s. It had a fair amount of evidence behind it and quickly garnered relatively widespread popularity. However, some archaeologists found holes in it, and with new and improved paleo-climate models available now, there is mounting evidence for climate being the culprit. Part of the human hunting theory, usually called 'Overkill', rests on the premise that humans entering new territory and continents would find animals unfamiliar with them, and therefore be unafraid. This would make those animals easier to hunt and kill. For North America, Paul S. Martin suggested a time frame of about 1,000 years for humans to sweep across the continent and kill off most of the megafauna. Martin nicknamed this scenario 'Blitzkreig' (after the Nazi Germany invasion method). Martin figured this occurred over approx. 1,000 years, which would not be enough evolutionary time for animals to adapt to the new human presence, given North America's vast size. This also fit with evidence from Africa, where the least number of megafauna went extinct, and where humans had been co-existing with animals the longest. The megafauna in Africa had long been used to humans and learned to be afraid and keep their distance.

If this new study in Nature is confirmed, it will refute the Blitzkreig hyptheisis, since 130,000 years will be more than enough time for Mastadons, Mammoths, etc to get used to humans. It won't necessarily refute the overall human hunting theory completely (humans might still have possibly somehow killed off the North American megafauna very slowly) but it makes the human hunting theory more implausible. Paleo-humans would therefore not be "just like" the rapacious anti-environmental polluters of today, the  excuse that humans 'have always been this way'.

It would also rewrite the North American history books, along with the Bering Strait crossing theory. Not only North America , but Africa. It could also rewrite human origins textbooks.

"If confirmed, this would extend tenfold the time that human beings are known to have been present in the Americas and predate the time that modern humans are thought to have first left Africa. The identity of the hominin species—if any—remains unknown."  -- from the Nature editorial.
Saw this earlier, it was very interesting.
Made me think of that Vine Deloria bit about Bering Strait being needed by Western History to fit its extractivist expansion into a prevailing Christian eschatological story. (Not sure about that myself, but this news update reminded me of it...)
Wow! If this is true, this truly does change everything for prehistory. 130,000 yrs?? That's such a huge jump from the previous estimates. I hope they're right but somehow I fear the isotope dating will prove to be wrong somehow :(

On a side note it would be great to drive a nail into the over-hunting hypothesis