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Monday, May 26, 2008

SC 50,000 YBP Artifacts

Several pictures at the cite. Flood on the Savannah River forces
archaeologist Al Goodyear to leave Big Pine Tree site for Topper site.
Caveat: The source is the "alternative newspaper" for the Charleston,
SC area. It is a good "story", well-illustrated, but not written for a
technical audience.


Al Goodyear and the Secrets of the Ancient Americans
USC Professor Discovers 50,000 Year-Old Artifacts in S.C.
by : Ron Aiken


It was the summer of 1998, and University of South Carolina
archaeologist Al Goodyear had a problem on his hands.


Fourteen years of digging at an ancient chert quarry outside Allendale
had begun to bear fruit: At a site called Big Pine Tree, Goodyear was
well on his way to establishing that a substantial Clovis population
lived here. If you’ll recall your history lessons from high school,
the Clovis people — named such because the first evidence of them was
found at a site near Clovis, N.M. — were believed to be the first
Americans who came into the North American continent across the Bering
Sea land bridge from Asia some 13,000 years ago.


A volunteer carefully excavates a portion of the Topper site, being
careful to leave artifacts exactly where they were discovered to
catalog. Photo courtesy of USC


Now, thanks to a flood that had whipped the normally serene Savannah
River into a frenzy, Goodyear had to move his team, filled with
researchers and avid volunteers, away from the dig’s most prosperous
site to a backup location identified years earlier — Topper, named
after local man David Topper who first led Goodyear to the area in
1981.


Goodyear was less than thrilled about the move.


“We honestly had no place else to go,” Goodyear says. “Word was just
beginning to get out about the site, interest was high and now we
couldn’t dig where we wanted.


“Topper, which was higher up, was high and dry and was the only
choice. I remember it broke my heart at the time to leave behind a
site I thought was the best we’d find. I remember thinking ‘OK, I
guess we have to go to Topper.’”


What his team found that year and every year since has made it,
arguably, the most important archaeological site in North America,
with radiocarbon dating verifying human habitation at around 50,000
years ago — the oldest ever found.


And the site isn’t just for archaeologists: It is open for a dig now
through June 7, and volunteers can sign up to help by visiting
allendale-expedition.net. The dig will focus on both the 50,000 year-
old level and a massive new Clovis area discovered in 2004.


Because of Topper and a handful of other sites, in a matter of 10
years everything scholars thought they knew about who the first
Americans were, where they came from and when was wrong. Not just by a
little, but by nearly 40,000 years.


Topper is significant for other reasons, too: Evidence from the site,
published late last year, also supports the idea that a comet exploded
over the Great Lakes 12,900 years ago, scorching the entire Eastern
Seaboard through massive wildfires that would have left Columbia
nothing but ash and cinder and which led to the extinction of the
woolly mammoth and displaced the entire Clovis population.


And the best part?


Topper isn’t anywhere near finished giving up its ancient secrets.


Glossary


Chert: a sedimentary rock that flakes easily and can be worked to
produce tools such as knives, arrows, axes and blades.


Clovis: The common name for a hunting people believed to have come to
America via the Bering Sea land bridge around 13,000 years ago
following large game.


Paleoindian: The name given to ancient Native Americans living roughly
between 16,000 and 10,000 years ago following the end of the last Ice
Age.


Solutrean Theory: A theory that Clovis peoples entered America not
from Siberia but from Europe, making their way along the edge of the
ice sheets chasing marine mammals and fish.


Younger-Dryas: A 1,300-year period beginning approximately 12,900
years ago in which the Northern Hemisphere underwent a dramatic,
unexpected cooling period in which animals larger than 220 pounds
died.


The Gospel of Clovis First


Back at Topper in 1998 — and with time running out on the summer’s dig
— Goodyear had a decision to make. He remembered reading about a pre-
Clovis site in Monte Verde, Chile, the year before in which evidence
was found to substantiate a human presence around 14,500 years ago,
and an odd thought popped in his head.


“I thought if all the experts had agreed on that date and people were
in South America at that time, a thousand miles south and a thousand
years before, how could they have not been here?” Goodyear says. “How
could they miss a 20-million-year-old chert quarry on the Savannah
River, which has always been about the same place it is now and has a
relatively temperate climate like it does now?


“So I talked to my team about the Monte Verde find and asked them if
they wanted to dig deeper than anyone had before in America to see
what’s there. Of course, they don’t have to go to national meetings
and defend results, so they were all like, “Yeah! Let’s do it! We’ll
ruin your career!’


“To most people of my generation, saying you’re searching for
something pre-Clovis is tantamount to saying you’re going looking for
Elvis or E.T. It was that entrenched — it’s what I was taught myself
and what I taught my students to believe. And lo and behold the first
week we start finding artifacts.”


To understand why chert was so crucial to early man is simple: Its
properties enable anyone, with a little training, to fashion razor-
sharp stone blades to be used for axes, knives and arrows that were
critical to human survival. Knives cut through animal skin to make
clothes. Bigger tools are used to cut trees for fire and shelter.
Spears are used to hunt the game they chased, including woolly
mammoths. Smaller blades are used for everything from carving bone to
tattooing flesh.


Simply put, without a chert supply, which is to say without tools,
survival is nearly impossible. That’s what led Goodyear to the
Allendale chert quarry to begin with — there’s just no way ancient
peoples, especially in a warm climate with a river for food and
transportation, could have missed the benefits of living near the
Southeast’s largest exposed chert supply.


The roofed structure protects archaeologists and the dig from the heat
and elements. It was built through donations from Clariant Corp.,
which owns the land, and many others. Clariant also donated the
viewing platform so the public can watch the dig in progress. Photo
courtesy of USC


“That was a big psychological time of change for me, those last few
weeks of 1998,” Goodyear says. “We just kept finding more and more. As
a Clovis-first person myself, I had to re-evaluate what I thought I
knew against what I was holding in my hands. And once you accept that,
all of a sudden everything that came before it is fair game, too.”


Still buzzed from the pre-Clovis Topper findings, Goodyear wrote a
letter, which he had done every year once work was finished, to all
his volunteers thanking them for their efforts and letting them know
what they’d found.


“And all I said to them was that for two weeks we dug deeper and found
something under Clovis,” Goodyear says. “That’s all I said; I didn’t
call up newspapers or anything. I just shared it with them.”


An eager volunteer, aware of research being done in Pennsylvania by
archaeologist James Adovasio, faxed a copy of the letter to him. As
fate would have it, Adovasio happened to be working with U.S. News &
World Report writer Tom Petit for an upcoming cover story, and when
Adovasio shared the information with Petit, the reporter wasted no
time calling Goodyear.


“I told him what we found, and next thing I know we’re splashed all
through the article,” Goodyear says. “Topper wasn’t a secret anymore.”


Dating the Evidence


Despite the growing evidence of artifacts, Goodyear knew if he was
ever going to mollify critics, he needed precise dates no one could
argue with. In 2000, Goodyear welcomed scientists from across the
country to come and collect radiocarbon samples for dating as well as
a geochronologist who specialized in using optically stimulated
luminescence (OSL) methods to date the soil itself. Their research
confirmed the first solid pre-Clovis date at Topper to between 16,000
and 20,000 years ago.


“At that point, the big boys started getting interested that we had
dates for 20,000 [years ago] that were done by some of the best people
in the country,” Goodyear says. “Finally, we had that baseline we
needed for the rest of the scientific community to examine.”


One of those scientists was Dennis Stanford. As curator of archaeology
for the Smithsonian Institution, his word carries serious weight in
the field.


“At the time, I was very interested in Al’s work,” Stanford says.
“Al’s recognized as a good, solid archaeologist. He’s not a crackpot —
when Al speaks, we tend to listen. I was quite pleased to hear that he
was considering examining lower levels and had found something.
“But I also remember thinking that I was glad Al was doing it and not
me. The Clovis-first model was the accepted thinking for close to a
century, a 60-year deadlock mold, and we realized that what it was was
a theory, not proof. And as proof started to come, I think people just
couldn’t deny it any longer.


“So finally we have people agreeing that yes, a certain people did
come over the land bridge. What we didn’t know is that it just so
happens there were people already here when they did it. It made us
all realize just how little we knew and know about America’s past.”


By 2002-03, Goodyear was set upon the task of accumulating evidence to
support his earlier dates, though he continued digging ever downward.
In 2003 he hit a white sand layer that was hard as concrete and, as he
dug slowly deeper, began noticing what looked like artifacts sticking
out of it. In 2004, The New York Times sent its top science writer,
Pulitzer-prize winner John Noble Wilford, down to investigate, and
that same year Goodyear found a layer of charcoal in it to date.


What came back, just like in 1998, blew him away yet again.


The typical Clovis spear point, evidence of a technology so effective
in hunting it was the WMD of its day. Photo by Daryl P. Miller,
S.C.I.A.A.


“I was hoping that dating would bring back numbers around 25,000 years
ago,” Goodyear says. “That was a date people could probably swallow.


“But no, I have to get back dates of 50,000 years ago, which according
to the dating and amount of error means that no matter what it’s at
least 40,000, if not much more. I was in an awkward position. Here are
artifacts we know are tools, here are the dates we know are accurate
and here I go again, getting up there in front of creation, on CNN
announcing a 50,000 date, the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North
America.


“Just as I had gotten people accustomed to 15-16,000, here I come
again. I had a lot of people blanch at the 50,000, but I told them it
was my opinion, take it or leave it, and people have done both.”


What most troubles people about Homo sapiens occupying South Carolina
50,000 years ago is, obviously, how did they get there? Commonly
accepted dates have the first Homo sapiens coming out of Africa around
70,000 years ago, making their way as far east as Australia by 50,000
year ago. To have made the East Coast by that time means either they
moved a lot more quickly than was believed possible, they left Africa
earlier than previously thought or they came a different route
altogether.


That’s where Stanford comes in. Since 1999, he has proposed a theory
of coastal migration called the Solutrean Theory, which contends that
early man made his way from Iberia, not Siberia, by following the ice
across from Europe and Greenland to North America between 17,000 and
21,000 years ago.


“Boats were the key,” Stanford says. “People say, ‘Well, why aren’t we
finding evidence of ancient boats and settlements?’ That’s because
those coastal settlements are now under hundreds of feet of water
because ancient sea levels were much lower. In the time period we’re
talking about, the coasts were up to 60-70 miles out to sea from where
they are now.


“Just a week or so ago we found out that some mastodon remains dredged
up in the 1970s off the coast of Virginia had a bi-pointed projectile
point embedded in it from material in North Carolina. People aren’t
willing to imagine cavemen out on the sea in boats, but that’s just a
crock of hooey. We know boats have been around from 40,000 to 60,000
years. They absolutely were, chasing oil-rich seals and mammals they
needed to survive.


“The food was on the water, and that’s where the people went. We have
to stop seeing the ocean and rivers as barriers. They weren’t
barriers, they were highways.”


Goodyear likes Stanford’s coastal-migration theory, though Stanford
admits that 50,000 years is “too early for our guys” coming from the
Iberian Peninsula.


“The key is to figure out how they got here. We know that people were
around 100,00 years ago, so there is a population that is available.
But I’m glad that’s for others to figure out.”


Source: Wikimedia.org, supplemented with information from Al Goodyear
and Dennis Stanford.


Topper Now: Comets, Clovis and Extinction


Allen West often visualizes the scene.


Clovis hunters, well established in places like Allendale, look up one
morning to a scene few have ever witnessed. Flashing across the sky
are streaks of fire, literally tearing the atmosphere apart. Then, a
series of explosions so loud they could be heard for thousands of
miles, followed closely after by a fireball that would have set most
of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific on fire.


“To start with, people would have been able to see these objects
coming for some time before they hit, just extremely bright,” says
West, a geophysicist from Arizona who used the Topper site to help
pioneer research that only in the last couple of years solved the
ancient mystery of what caused a mass extinction in America
approximately 12,900 years ago.


“It was most likely a fragmented comet, and it would have stretched
across the sky for thousands of miles. Then, the explosions — it would
have been like the atmosphere became a boiler. The only thing I can
think of is to imagine what it’s like to be in a nuclear exchange, one
explosion after another after another. It would have been a canopy of
fire from horizon to horizon in all directions.”


Scientists have long known that for some reason, much of the flora and
most of the large animals in North America — including the woolly
mammoth — went extinct in a very short time. Many ascribed the die-off
to overhunting by Clovis peoples, disease, abrupt climate change or a
combination of the three.


West wasn’t buying it, and turned to what was known: Just as America
was warming itself following the last Ice Age 13,000 years ago, a
temperature reversal sparked a 1,000-year cold period, known as the
Younger-Dryas interval. West believed only a comet or volcano could
have initiated a nuclear winter-type effect, and no volcanic culprit
fit the bill.


“We had reason to believe, markers, that showed us that it’s possible
a comet exploded over the Great Lakes area around 12,900 years ago,”
West says. “We knew that most every animal over 220 pounds died, and
only animals less than 220 pounds lived.


“What we needed to find were sites that were at that established
Clovis level and look for evidence of an impact. Only a few, like
Topper, were active, so we went looking and got in touch with Al.”


Goodyear remembers the conversation well.


“Allen came down in 2005 and said he was looking for extraterrestrial
markers here,” Goodyear says. “And it’s at a time after I’ve announced
50,000 years and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is all I need,
someone really looking for E.T.’”


West recalls a similar exchange.


“Al is a friendly guy who is always willing to listen, and he listened
politely but was skeptical,” West says. “But as we began to find
markers in the form of nanodiamonds and magnetic microspherules, we
all began to get excited. There is no other natural function that
produces these things besides an extraterrestrial event.”


With evidence of both the explosion and mass fires, West, who also
postulates that the popular “Carolina Bays” formations are related to
this ancient event, got together with Goodyear to see whether and how
Clovis people would have been impacted.


“Obviously, if it’s not good for animals over 220 pounds, it’s not
going to be so hot for humans, either.”


That’s when Goodyear decided to look into it on his own.


“I went back and re-examined our South Carolina paleopoint database,
and found that Clovis points dropped off significantly after that date
until the advent of what we call the Redstone people,” Goodyear says.
“It was about a four-to-one drop-off, which doesn’t make sense just
because it had gotten cold. It was suspicious. These are people who
have survived ice ages, and yet I found similar, if not even more
drastic drop-offs in points in North Carolina and Virginia. I kind of
timidly laid those facts out there to them and they were able to use
it.”
With that information, West could begin to argue that the event
absolutely took its toll on Clovis, either wiping them out or driving
them off for some thousand years.


“That was solely Al Goodyear that led us to that,” West says. “Lo and
behold he found it, and that was really because Topper is such a
fantastic Clovis site besides its pre-Clovis value.
“Al’s reputation has been essential; he’s been one of our great team
members. We had 26 co-authors for the paper, each of whom brought
something essential, and Topper was key for us because it’s so well
known and investigated.”


Goodyear can’t say for sure what Topper has in store, only that it
isn’t nearly as excavated as it could be.


“Topper is like a box of chocolates, as Forest Gump says,” Goodyear
says. “You never know what you’re going to get out of it.


“The idea that we could have found stuff at 50,000 years, that blew my
mind. It’s now a matter of collecting more artifacts; it’ll be a while
before we’re able to overwhelm people.


“As someone who was Clovis-first, to find and accept not just pre-
Clovis but pre- pre- pre-Clovis, that’s something else. It’s a stretch
to get people to realize that there once were woolly mammoths walking
down Main Street, that there were people walking around here 50,000
years ago, but it’s true.


“Though it took the Savannah River to chase me to Topper, I’m glad it
worked out how it did. I’ve learned not to say that Topper has
finished giving up its secrets.”


Let us know what you think: Email n...@free-times.com or e

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One Mother Tongue?

"If we identify the origin of current linguistic diversity with
the appearance of behaviorally modern people--a not
unreasonable inference given the linguistic and
archaeological evidence--then the linguistic similarities
connecting all the world's languages may have had a
common origin as recently as 50,000 years ago. If this
scenario is correct--and linguistic, genetic, and
archaeological evidence seem to support it--then all
modern humans (and all contemporary human
cultures and languages) share a recent common origin."

Wikipedia
Merritt Ruhlen
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Vegetation zones during and after the Last Glacial Maximum Options

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Peter Alaca View profileSome sources which can be of help in the current discussion about the peopling of America. Ray, N. and J. M. Adams (2001). "A GIS-based Vegetation Map of the World at the Last Glacial Maximum (25,000-15,000 BP)" Internet Archaeology 11 Abstract "A preliminary, broad-scale vegetation map reconstruction for use by archaeologists and anthropologists is presented here for the world at the Last Glacial Maximum (18,000 BP, but broadly representing the interval from 25,000 to 15,000 BP). The global LGM map was produced from a range of literature and map sources, and drawn on a GIS with topographic information. Extended coastlines due to LGM sea-level drop were obtained using bathymetric information." The original is only accessible by subscribers but here is a minimal version with the maps and the full 44 pp article is avialable for free from there [1.9 mb] --------------------------------------------- Jonathan Adams "Global land environments since the last interglacial" North America during the last 150,000 years (or click 'North America'on the main page) qoutes concerning the key period "14,000 radiocarbon years ago. Indicators of a significant warming and moistening of climate begin to appear at around this time, but only in some areas. In Alaska, a widespread change from herb- dominated to moist shrub-dominated tundra occurred at around this time, suggesting moister and slightly warmer conditions (Andrews & Brubaker 1993.). A similar trend towards moister and warmer conditions is seen in the changing tundra flora and insect fauna on the eastern part of the Beringian land bridge (Elias et al. 1996). Further retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet had occurred, but the future ice-free corridor still remained blocked by around 800 km of ice." "13,000 radiocarbon years ago. The vegetation distribution seems to have been much the same as at 14,000 14C years ago, though with continuing glacial retreat exposing new surfaces in North America. At around this time, a continuous ice-free corridor opened for the first time beween Alaska and the contiguous USA. However, for a considerable part of its length (about 750 km) it would have been less than 50 km wide, and further obstructed in several places by large meltwater lakes. The chronology of the first appearance of the ice free corridor is not completely settled however; although the southern and northern ends were open by this time, it is quite possible that the central region was still closed. However, conditions at the southern end of the ice-free corridor (e.g. in the area around 50-52 deg.N and 110-115 deg.W) still seem to have been fairly arid. Burns et al (1993) note the absence of radiocarbon dates on faunal remains between about 21,300 and 11,600 14C y.a. in the Edmonton area, suggesting that the landscape was incapable of supporting fauna during this interval. Beaudoin suggests - on the basis of various pollen sites - that the vegetation in southern Alberta between about 16,100 to 11,900 14C y.a. was a dry Artemisia-Betula shrubland." -- p.a.
More options May 20, 3:48 am

Newsgroups: sci.archaeology
From: Peter Alaca
Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 09:48:12 +0200
Local: Tues, May 20 2008 3:48 am
Subject: Vegetation zones during and after the Last Glacial Maximum
Reply | Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Report this message | Find messages by this author
Some sources which can be of help in the current
discussion about the peopling of America.

Ray, N. and J. M. Adams (2001).
"A GIS-based Vegetation Map of the World at the
Last Glacial Maximum (25,000-15,000 BP)"
Internet Archaeology 11


Abstract
"A preliminary, broad-scale vegetation map
reconstruction for use by archaeologists and
anthropologists is presented here for the
world at the Last Glacial Maximum (18,000 BP,
but broadly representing the interval from
25,000 to 15,000 BP). The global LGM map was
produced from a range of literature and map
sources, and drawn on a GIS with topographic
information. Extended coastlines due to LGM
sea-level drop were obtained using
bathymetric information."


The original is only accessible by subscribers

but here is a minimal version with the maps

and the full 44 pp article is avialable for free
from there

[1.9 mb]


---------------------------------------------
Jonathan Adams
"Global land environments since the last interglacial"



North America during the last 150,000 years

(or click 'North America'on the main page)


qoutes concerning the key period


"14,000 radiocarbon years ago.
Indicators of a significant warming and
moistening of climate begin to appear at
around this time, but only in some areas.
In Alaska, a widespread change from herb-
dominated to moist shrub-dominated tundra
occurred at around this time, suggesting
moister and slightly warmer conditions
(Andrews & Brubaker 1993.). A similar trend
towards moister and warmer conditions is seen
in the changing tundra flora and insect fauna
on the eastern part of the Beringian land
bridge (Elias et al. 1996).
Further retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet
had occurred, but the future ice-free
corridor still remained blocked by around 800
km of ice."


"13,000 radiocarbon years ago.
The vegetation distribution seems to have
been much the same as at 14,000 14C years
ago, though with continuing glacial retreat
exposing new surfaces in North America. At
around this time, a continuous ice-free
corridor opened for the first time beween
Alaska and the contiguous USA.
However, for a considerable part of its
length (about 750 km) it would have been less
than 50 km wide, and further obstructed in
several places by large meltwater lakes.
The chronology of the first appearance of the
ice free corridor is not completely settled
however; although the southern and northern
ends were open by this time, it is quite
possible that the central region was still
closed.


However, conditions at the southern end of
the ice-free corridor (e.g. in the area
around 50-52 deg.N and 110-115 deg.W) still
seem to have been fairly arid. Burns et al
(1993) note the absence of radiocarbon dates
on faunal remains between about 21,300 and
11,600 14C y.a. in the Edmonton area,
suggesting that the landscape was incapable
of supporting fauna during this interval.
Beaudoin suggests - on the basis of various
pollen sites - that the vegetation in
southern Alberta between about 16,100 to
11,900 14C y.a. was a dry Artemisia-Betula
shrubland."

Source
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Did Humans Colonize the World by Boat?

Jon Erlandson uncovers dozens of stemmed points from San Miguel
island, one of California's Channel Islands. San Miguel was one of the
islands that made up the "mega" Island Santa Rosae at the time of the
Arlington Woman (13000 ya).


Erlandson seems to be expanding his idea of the Kelp Highway by doing
archaeology on sites that would be expected to serve as way-points on
such a system.


Pictures at the cite.


Did Humans Colonize the World by Boat?
05.20.2008
Research suggests our ancestors traveled the oceans 70,000 years ago.
by Heather Pringle


Jon Erlandson shakes out what appears to be a miniature evergreen from
a clear ziplock bag and holds it out for me to examine. As one of the
world’s leading authorities on ancient seafaring, he has devoted much
of his career to hunting down hard evidence of ancient human
migrations, searching for something most archaeologists long thought a
figment: Ice Age mariners. On this drizzly late-fall afternoon in a
lab at the University of Oregon in Eugene, the 53-year-old Erlandson
looks as pleased as the father of a newborn—and perhaps just as
anxious —as he shows me one of his latest prize finds.


The little “tree” in my hand is a dart head fashioned from creamy-
brown chert and bristling with tiny barbs designed to lodge in the
flesh of marine prey. Erlandson recently collected dozens of these
little stemmed points from San Miguel Island, a scrap of land 27 miles
off the coast of California. Radiocarbon dating of marine shells and
burned twigs at the site shows that humans first landed on San Miguel
at least 12,000 years ago, and the dart head in my hand holds clues to
the ancestry of those seafarers. Archaeologists have recovered similar
items scattered along the rim of the North Pacific, and some have even
been found in coastal Peru and Chile. The oldest appeared 15,600 years
ago in coastal Japan. To Erlandson, these miniature trees look like a
trail left by mariners who voyaged along the stormy northern coasts of
the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the Americas during the last Ice Age.
“We haven’t published the evidence for this hypothesis yet, and I’m
kind of nervous about it,” he says. “But we are getting very close.”


Until recently most researchers would have dismissed such talk of Ice
Age mariners and coastal migrations. Nobody, after all, has ever
unearthed an Ice Age boat or happened upon a single clear depiction of
an Ice Age dugout or canoe. Nor have archaeologists found many coastal
campsites dating back more than 15,000 years. So most scientists
believed that Homo sapiens evolved as terrestrial hunters and
gatherers and stubbornly remained so, trekking out of their African
homeland by foot and spreading around the world by now-vanished land
bridges. Only when the Ice Age ended 12,000 to 13,000 years ago and
mammoths and other large prey vanished, archaeologists theorized, did
humans systematically take up seashore living—eating shellfish,
devising fishing gear, and venturing offshore in small boats.


But that picture, Erlandson and others say, is badly flawed, due to
something researchers once rarely considered: the changes in sea level
over time. Some 20,000 years ago, for example, ice sheets locked up
much of the world’s water, lowering the oceans and laying bare vast
coastal plains—attractive hunting grounds and harbors for maritime
people. Today these plains lie beneath almost 400 feet of water, out
of reach of all but a handful of underwater archaeologists. “So this
shines a spotlight on a huge area of ignorance: what people were doing
when sea level was lower than at present,” says Geoff Bailey, a
coastal archaeologist at the University of York in England. “And that
is especially problematic, given that sea level was low for most of
prehistory.”


Concerned that evidence of human settlement and migration may be lost
under the sea, researchers are finding new ways of tracking ancient
mariners. By combining archaeological studies on remote islands with
computer simulations of founding populations and detailed examinations
of seafloor topography and ancient sea level, they are amassing
crucial new data on voyages from northeast Asia to the Americas 15,000
years ago, from Japan to the remote island of Okinawa 30,000 years
ago, and from Southeast Asia to Australia 50,000 years ago. New
evidence even raises the possibility that our modern human ancestors
may have journeyed by raft or simple boat out of Africa 60,000 to
70,000 years ago, crossing the mouth of the Red Sea. “If they could
travel from Southeast Asia to Australia 50,000 years ago, the question
now is, how much farther back in time could they have been doing it?”
Bailey asks. “Why not the Red Sea?”


Our new understanding of climate and sea-level change sheds light on
something that has long puzzled archaeologists: How did modern humans
colonize the far reaches of the globe so quickly after their exodus
from Africa? If Erlandson and his colleagues are right, it was a
series of sea voyages and river crossings that brought our ancestors
to alien lands, launching the greatest biological invasion of all
time.


ANCIENT ISLAND-HOPPERS


Erlandson never bought the long-held assumption among archaeologists
that our distant ancestors were the ultimate land lovers. He grew up
near the ocean, surfing and snorkeling as a boy in Southern California
and Hawaii and earning the nickname Shredded Coconut for his sun-
bleached hair. He could not fathom anyone’s resisting the call of the
sea.


Erlandson began actively questioning the received wisdom while still
an undergraduate. After reading about simple reed boats that the
Chumash people once paddled along the California coast, he and a few
friends decided to make a replica. They dried tule reeds, lashed them
together in bundles, and coated them with tar to make a 17-foot-long
vessel capable of carrying three people plus cargo. Then they launched
it off the Santa Barbara coast. Paddling effortlessly from kelp forest
to kelp forest, Erlandson once voyaged 14 miles in an afternoon. “The
boat soaked up a lot of water, but it was unsinkable,” he recalls. “So
it doesn’t take that much ingenuity and complex technology to make a
pretty sound boat that can get you across a fairly substantial
strait.”


By the 1980s, coastal archaeologists were beginning to mull over some
remarkably early finds in Australia. A series of excavations by Jim
Bowler, Alan Thorne, and others in the continental interior revealed
that ancient humans had fished and collected freshwater mussels along
the shores of the Willandra Lakes 50,000 years ago, possibly earlier.
How on earth had humans managed to arrive down under so early? Even
then Australia was an island continent, and some researchers reported
that its indigenous inhabitants, the Aborigines, historically lacked
oceangoing boats. It did not seem possible that their ancestors had
arrived by watercraft.
+++


Points found on the Channel Islands in California


Image courtesy of Jon Erlandson


What’s more, detailed studies of the Southeast Asian coastline of
50,000 years ago showed that an 800-mile-long stretch of islands and
at least eight ocean straits separated the island continent from the
Asian mainland. “By any route, you have to island-hop to Australia,
with one water crossing greater than 44 miles,” Erlandson says. “So it
is a real exercise to get across, and the magnitude of that is
illustrated by the fact that, before anatomically modern humans made
the leap, no large-bodied animal ever got all the way across.”


But modern humans possessed the wherewithal to paddle to Australia.
With stone knives they could have felled Asia’s giant bamboo and then
tied the canes together to make a raft large enough to carry several
passengers. Moreover, they could have navigated by sight for most of
the journey. As they set out from one island to the next, they could
generally have spied at least a smudge of land on the far horizon.


Even where land lay beyond view, ancient mariners could have deduced
its presence from natural indicators such as cloud formations that
tend to gather over islands, mats of drifting land vegetation, and the
flight paths of land-roosting seabirds. Traditional navigators in the
Caroline Islands, northeast of New Guinea, make use of such signs
today, and many researchers believe that our modern human ancestors
possessed the cognitive skills both to perceive the significance of
these indicators and to communicate them to potentially fearful
passengers.


“It looks like seafaring capabilities and seafaring technology have a
much greater antiquity than conventional wisdom among archaeologists
would lead one to expect,” says James O’Connell, an archae­ologist at
the University of Utah.


“I think water crossing goes with modern language and with modern
art,” says Geoff Irwin, an expert on ancient seafaring at the
University of Auckland in New Zealand. “I think they are a package.”


GENES AND TOOLS AROUND THE PACIFIC RIM


In the wake of the Australian finds, archaeologists are looking long
and hard at other major migrations of ancient humans. For decades
researchers have promoted the idea that the first Americans were clans
of Siberian big-game hunters who trekked hundreds of miles on foot
over a vast land bridge (where the Bering Strait is now) and came
south from Alaska some 13,000 years ago. But were these Siberian
hunters the first to explore the Americas? Or could they have been
beaten there by skilled mariners exploring ice-choked northern coasts?


Erlandson has been examining this possibility since the late 1990s,
when he read of a dig on the island of Okinawa, some 1,000 miles
southwest of Tokyo. Poring over archaeological reports from the
region, he learned that Japanese researchers had unearthed the 32,000-
year-old bones of a child on Okinawa in the 1950s. He also examined
studies of ancient sea levels and a detailed bathymetric map showing
the depth of the seafloor between the islands of Okinawa and Japan.
Some 32,000 years ago, a coastal plain joined Japan to the Asian
mainland, allowing travelers to tramp back and forth by foot. But they
could not have trekked to Okinawa, a distant island even then.
“Several sea voyages would have been required to reach it from Japan,”
explains Erlandson, “including one crossing roughly 46 miles long.”
Intrigued, he delved further into Japanese archaeological reports.
Other ancient mariners, he discovered, had ventured into stormier
waters to the north: Some 21,000 years ago, people had paddled boats
across 30 miles of choppy water from Honshu to Kozushima Island to
fetch shiny black obsidian, a type of volcanic glass, for stone tools.


Almost certainly these voyagers traveled in small, sturdy boats—
perhaps a type of kayak—and possessed sufficient seafaring skill to
avoid spills that would lead to hypothermia and death. With such
experience, the mariners and their children could well have headed
northward at least 16,000 years ago. Crossing the straits by boat and
walking the beaches, they could have gradually explored the coasts of
the Kuril Islands, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Bering Land Bridge
until finally reaching the west coast of the Americas, a journey of
several thousand miles. A trail of distinctively shaped points and a
telltale pattern of genes support this hypothesis.


Last November an international team of geneticists out of University
College London and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor published a
key new study of genetic diversity among Native Americans. The
researchers examined repetitive stretches of short DNA sequences known
as micro­satellites in DNA samples taken from 422 individuals, ranging
geographically from Chipewyan and Cree individuals in northern Canada
to Guarani and Huilliche people in South America. What they discovered
was that genetic diversity decreased from north to south and was
higher among tribal groups living along the Pacific coast than among
those residing in the continent’s interior. This suggested to the team
that the first Americans migrated down the west coast of the Americas;
only later did smaller bands—with less genetic diversity—move inland.
Moreover, another new genetic study by Brazilian researchers pegs the
date for that coastal migration somewhere between 18,000 and 15,000
years ago.


Taken together, the genetic and archaeological evidence now strongly
suggests that ancient mariners from northeast Asia could well have
explored the coast of the Americas at least 12,000 or 13,000 years
ago, and conceivably earlier. Erlandson has found two stone tools and
a bone bead on San Miguel Island that may be 18,000 years old, but he
has yet to confirm the date via further excavation. “We need to know
more,” he says.


Just what drew ancient seafarers from northeast Asia to California
remains a puzzle. As they ventured along the southern coast of the
Bering Land Bridge, which was an arid grassland at that time, they
could have pursued both terrestrial and marine prey. Then, as they
moved into coastal North America after ice sheets there began
retreating around 16,000 years ago, they could have continued to dine
on a wealth of coastal foods.


Erlandson believes that kelp forests—rich oases of seaweed—were key to
their success all along the route. Giant kelp grows nearly two feet a
day, reaching lengths of 150 feet in the water. Kelp forests teem with
abalone, rockfish, and other seafood delicacies. Furthermore, the
fronds of kelp are edible, and its stemlike stipe can be cut to create
fishing lines, making it possible to catch fish that live outside the
kelp beds, such as halibut and cod.


Ice Age migrants journeying from kelp forest to kelp forest, Erlandson
says, would have had no need to adjust to strange new ecosystems or
devise brand-new hunting technologies as they pushed along the rim of
the North Pacific. “I think they were just moving along and
exploring,” he muses. “It was like a kelp highway.”
+++


OUT OF AFRICA—BY BOAT


As the evidence for Ice Age mariners mounts in Australia, Asia, and
the Americas, researchers are now peering further and further back in
time for traces of seafarers. When and where, they ask, did humans
first journey over the water? One highly controversial piece of
evidence surfaced a decade ago during an excavation at Mata Menge on
the island of Flores in Indonesia. There Michael Morwood, an
archaeologist at the University of New England in Australia, recovered
several stone tools as well as the bones of crocodiles and stegodonts—
extinct elephantlike animals—beneath a layer of volcanic ash.
Geologists dated the finds to some 800,000 to 880,000 years ago—a time
when early humans known as Homo erectus wandered parts of Southeast
Asia. To Morwood, the remains at Mata Menge pointed to a remarkable
human journey. More than 800,000 years ago, he theorized, H. erectus
crossed 12 miles of ocean to reach Flores.


Although the Mata Menge discoveries attracted much media attention,
there is no conclusive evidence that Flores was even an island at the
time. Moreover, archaeologists have yet to find any other strong
evidence of island-hopping by H. erectus. Instead, Erlandson and
others believe that coastal voyaging began with our modern human
ancestors, Homo sapiens. Current research shows that H. sapiens
evolved in Africa some 200,000 years ago and soon took an intense
interest in the sea. At Pinnacle Point, a coastal site in South Africa
that borders the Indian Ocean, Arizona State University archaeologist
Curtis Marean and his colleagues found table scraps from humans’
feasting 164,000 years ago. The favorite item was the brown mussel,
which is exposed in large numbers during low spring tides. “People
think that shell­fish are easy to capture, that it’s a no-brainer,”
Marean says. “It’s not that way at all. There are optimal times to get
shellfish, and going into the water when it’s roaring in the
intertidal zone can easily be fatal.”


Along the Semliki River in Congo, wandering bands began fishing in
earnest 80,000 years ago. To catch catfish lurking at the bottom of
the river, they devised a lethal new weapon—a composite harpoon tipped
with a beautifully manufactured, symmetrical barbed point carved from
bone. No earlier hominin had ever created such a specialized
technology for systematic fishing. “Those harpoons,” Erlandson says,
“are not like anything the Neanderthals or archaic humans ever
produced. They are extraordinary.” With such creative abilities,
ancient water-loving Africans could well have devised a new technology
for fishing deep waters: the raft.


It is even possible, say some seafaring experts, that H. sapiens
spread out of Africa by watercraft 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. Until
recently, most scientists assumed that our modern human ancestors
migrated to Asia on foot via the Sinai Peninsula and the eastern shore
of the Mediterranean. But current genetic research suggests that they
took a more southerly route, crossing from the African coast of the
Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula and then following the coast to
India. Mitochondrial DNA studies conducted by Lluís Quintana-Murci of
the Pasteur Institute in Paris and a team of international researchers
reveal, for example, that humans migrated from East Africa to western
India more than 50,000 years ago.


Today a 20-mile stretch of choppy water separates Africa from the
Arabian Peninsula. Locals call this strait Bab el Mandeb, or “Gate of
Tears,” but it was not always so formidable. University of York
archaeologist Geoff Bailey recently led a major study of the ancient
Red Sea coastline. Between 90,000 and 10,000 years ago, the strait got
as narrow as 2.5 miles across. For Bailey and other coastal
archaeologists, this raises a fascinating question. Could our modern
human ancestors have rafted out of Africa, crossing the mouth of the
Red Sea 60,000 years ago to reach Saudi Arabia? Bailey reflects on
this question a moment. “I think it’s entirely possible,” he says.


Still, many researchers want more evidence of seafaring. At the
Natural History Museum in London, for example, Chris Stringer, an
expert on modern human origins, continues to lean toward a terrestrial
migration route out of Africa. He believes that boats did not become
necessary until modern humans had already left Africa on foot and
confronted coastal mangrove swamps and great river mouths in southern
Asia. Even so, Stringer is looking at the new evidence carefully,
noting that he is keeping an open mind on the subject.


Twenty years ago, most archaeologists would simply have laughed at the
idea of Ice Age mariners colonizing the globe. These days, as minds
are opening to the possibility, Erlandson and others are beginning to
receive major grants that will speed up the pace of research. “Now
that people are thinking about coastal migration,” Erlandson says, “we
have a truly golden opportunity.”


Right, from top: An Aleutian man fishes for cod in an 1872 drawing by
Henry Wood Elliott; a replica of a 9,000-year-old dugout, the world’s
oldest known boat (the original is now on view at the Drents Museum in
the Netherlands); islanders in the Torres Strait (between Australia
and New Guinea) pose aboard a bamboo raft in a 1906 photo. Below:
Points? found on the Channel Islands in California.
Arch News
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When Neanderthals and Modern Humans Met, long book review Options

When Neanderthals and Modern Humans Met
Nicholas J. Conard (ed.)
Tübingen: Tübingen Publications in Prehistory, Kerns Verlag, 2006, 501
pp. (hardback), $68.50.
ISBN: 3935751036.
Reviewed by JULIEN RIEL-SALVATORE
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Stephen Leacock
Building Rm. 717, 855 Sherbrooke St. W., Montréal, Québec H3A 2T7,
CANADA; julien.rielsalvat...@mail.mcgill.ca
When Neanderthals and Modern Humans Met comprises 20 papers first
presented in the context of a conference
held in Tübingen in 2004 on the nature of the interactions
between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons (i.e., Homo sapiens sapiens)
during the interval commonly referred to as the Middle-Upper
Paleolithic Transition. Edited by Nicholas Conard, this book
constitutes a wide-ranging and eclectic (in the best sense of the
term) compendium of studies
representing where our understanding of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic
transition stands at the close of the first decade of the 21st
century. In that sense, the book's goal to present how far studies of
the interaction between Neanderthals
and modern humans--at least presumably, as the fossil record is all too
scant for this time period--have come since 1856 is met with great
success.
While the book's overall production value is very high, it does
contains a few typos and illustrations are of unequal quality across
contributions. This does not, however, detract
from the wealth of information it contains about the 'transitional'
record of Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Russian plains,
and almost every point in between. As such, it is a must-have for the
library of any researcher seriously engaged in 'transition studies,'
as it provides not only abundant new data about the
paleoanthropological record of this crucial time period, but also some
new and very promising perspectives from which to approach what may
seem to some to have become a threadbare issue.
The volume opens with an introductory chapter by Conard who draws a
provocative pan-Eurasian picture of how contacts between Neanderthals
and modern humans--
when and where they happened--likely unfolded, and of the various
behavioral mechanisms which enabled modern humans to outcompete
Neanderthals throughout their range. This is followed by a paper by
Weniger who reviews broadly what the empirical record allows us to say
about population dynamics across the transition and that it is
important to base any interpretations first and foremost on those
coarse-grained data rather than on preconceived notions of how
Neanderthals must have disappeared. This theme is also touched upon by
Haidle, albeit from a very different perspective--she argues that
Neanderthals are consistently construed as the stereotypical "other"
in most narratives of modern human origins and that, as in many works
of fiction, prevalent scenarios about their interaction with modern
humans reflect tacit preconceptions and the tendency of framing
encounters in us-versus-them terms.
The next two chapters are among the best contributions
to the volume and are likely to become requisite reading
for all paleoanthropologists. In Chapter 4, O'Connell uses four cases,
drawn from ethnography and archaeology,
of replacement of one forager group by another to derive test
implications about what may have facilitated a replacement of
Neanderthal by modern humans in the Paleolithic. Although not
accounting for all of the nuances of the Early Upper Paleolithic
record, this approach admirably
highlights the proper referential basis on which we should be building
models of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer interactions, as opposed to
drawing from inappropriate analogies from European colonization of the
Americas and Australia. In Chapter 5, Hovers presents a very
thoughtful discussion of ecological theory to recast the parameters of
Neanderthal-modern human interaction and suggests that, as congruent
competitors, they likely coexisted in a state of dynamic equilibrium.
This perspective has the advantage of accounting for the very similar
archaeological signatures
of the two groups of hominins over tens of millennia, a situation
Hovers rightly emphasizes is quite distinct from that of Europe during
the transition interval.
In the next chapter, Bräuer presents a critical evaluation of claims
about the possibility of a substantial genetic contribution
of Neanderthals to the gene pool of early European
modern humans. He concludes that the identification of Neanderthal
features in Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens is largely unconvincing,
based as it is on misleading assessment
of certain features and/or on using features which he considers
problematic. He concludes that there was likely only a very modest
amount of gene flow between the two groups. In Chapter 7, Hublin and
Bailey seek to address much the same issue, but approach it from the
opposite perspective, namely by looking for modern features in late
Neanderthals remains. They conclude that, especially when features
linked to strong genetic signals are given primacy, there is little
convincing evidence for interbreeding or in situ evolution towards
modern human morphology. The conclusions of these two studies stand in
notable contrast to those of Trinkaus and colleagues (Chapter 9) who
present
new details about the context and morphology of the Peºtera cu Oase
early modern human remains. These authors
conclude that the presence of archaic features in these specimens
indicates phylogenetic affinities to some kind of archaic hominin
group, likely Neanderthals.
Bocherens and Drucker (Chapter 8) present new stable isotope evidence
to address the question of Neanderthal and early modern human diet and
its inferential link to potential
dietary competition between the two groups. They complement their
analyses of hominin dietary patterns by
PaleoAnthropology 2008: 88-90. (c) Source PDF
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Latest in Underwater Archeology

U.S. Navy uses mine detection unmanned undersea craft to examine
possible underwater archaeological targets. Private and academic
interests at the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle fest (AUVfest) see the
three-D pictures the Navy's mine detection equipment supplies.

The (Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage) commission
owns the four abandoned wrecks that the high-tech instruments were
sent to probe during the past two weeks. These included the British
frigates Cerberus and Lark, which were ordered scuttled when cornered
by larger French warships that came to the aid of America in 1778. The
other two wrecks included a wooden barge, off Prudence Island,
believed to be carrying granite blocks and a more modern steel ship.


Vessels offer glimpse of what lies beneath


01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, May 22, 2008


By Richard Salit


Journal Staff Writer


Brennan Phillips, an engineer, is onboard a torpedo weapon retriever
ship with the REMUS 600, which had been exploring the wreck of the
British ship Cerberus.


The Providence Journal Frieda Squires


NEWPORT — You won’t find any historic or dignified names on these
vessels, no USS John F. Kennedy or USS Saratoga.


Instead, the collection of sleek unmanned undersea craft on display
yesterday in a warehouse-style building at the Naval Undersea Warfare
Center bore the type of numbing technological acronyms — BPAUV, REMUS,
MARV and HAUV — you’d expect from the military and the scientists
gathered here to show them off.


While their names may be inscrutable, their purpose is clear: To
protect Navy vessels from hidden mines, the weapon that has wreaked
more damage and sunk more ships than all others combined. What isn’t
so obvious, however, is the devices’ practical applications,
particularly their ability to reveal what’s on, and beneath the sea
floor.


For the past two weeks, the Navy has brought together civilian and
military experts from around the country to demonstrate and test how
the high-tech apparatus can be used to help marine archaeologists. The
experiments have focused on several wrecks off the shores of Aquidneck
Island, including British warships scuttled in shallow waters during
the Revolutionary War.


“This is state-of-the-art stuff,” said D.K. Abbass, founding director
of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which has been
searching for, and studying, shipwrecks in state waters since 1991.
“The images are just so much better.”


The event that has united Abbass and her fellow archaeologists with
military officials and technologists is AUVfest 2008, a periodic
gathering the Navy hosts to support the development of so-called
“autonomous undersea vehicles.” This is the first time since its
creation more than 10 years ago that AUVfest has been held in Newport.
It began May 12 and ends tomorrow.


Yesterday, the media was invited into the secretive and typically off-
limits Naval Undersea Warfare Center, while today Navy admirals and
nearly 200 other guests will get to tour the same areas. The highlight
of the event is a building on Narragansett Bay, where the collection
of undersea vessels is on display.


Most are yellow and look smooth and narrow like torpedoes. A few have
wings while one even has four fins, making it the only one “capable of
swimming and crawling,” according to a brochure. All have a variety of
imaging systems, such as sonar, that use acoustics or magnetics or
other properties to detect underwater objects. They weigh from 180 to
2,000 pounds.


The smallest of these, the HAUV, with its vaguely crab-like shape,
demonstrated its ability to closely survey a ship’s hull for
explosives. Its operators sent it under water to inspect the bottom of
the mothballed aircraft carrier Saratoga, tied to a pier near
AUVfest’s expo center.


“It moves without touching it,” said Jerome Vaganay, a spokesman for
its designer, Bluefin Robotics. It follows a precise pattern during an
inspection, he said, but “you can stop the vehicle with a joystick” to
have it focus on suspicious areas.


Those on hand came from government labs, private companies and
academic institutions, such as applied research labs at Pennsylvania
State University and the University of Texas, according to William H.
Schopfel, demonstration manager for the Navy’s Office of Naval
Research.


He and others emphasized the collaboration between the Navy, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean
Exploration and Research, the University of Rhode Island and area
archaeologists, including Abbass’ group and representatives of the
state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.


The commission owns the four abandoned wrecks that the high-tech
instruments were sent to probe during the past two weeks. These
included the British frigates Cerberus and Lark, which were ordered
scuttled when cornered by larger French warships that came to the aid
of America in 1778. The other two wrecks included a wooden barge, off
Prudence Island, believed to be carrying granite blocks and a more
modern steel ship.


During the week, information from the various undersea vehicles that
scrutinized the murky Bay waters was transmitted to a room at NUWC
equipped with computers and large monitors. There, operators sought to
instantly produce images of objects being studied and to create three-
dimensional maps of the underwater areas.


“The exercise is to see if we can use more technologies … to secure a
port as quickly as possible,” Schopfel said.


But other benefits include improved charts, detection of undersea
debris and abandoned fishing gear and archaeological discoveries.


“We found something that isn’t on the charts,” said Schopfel. “It is a
large piece of metal on the bottom.”


He showed yesterday’s audience numerous images of the sea floor that
showed ghostly, blurred objects and patterns. One, he said, was curved
and resembled an anchor while another was long and narrow and
metallic.


“Everyone is pretty much in agreement this is a cannon,” he said.


“The technology is very impressive and moves us forward in very
exciting ways,” Abbass said.

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Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives

Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives


Last Updated: 12:01am BST 23/05/2008


A new study on ancient human migrations suggests that Orcadians and
Siberians are closely related, writes Roger Highfield.


Orkney Islanders are more closely related to people in Siberia and in
Pakistan than those in Africa and the near East, according to a novel
method to chart human migrations.
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The surprising findings come from a new way to infer ancient human
movements from the variation of DNA in people today, conducted by a
team from the University of Oxford and University College Cork, which
has pioneered a technique that analyses the entire human genetic
makeup, or genome.


Although it provides relative genetic contributions of one group to
another, rather than timings, it confirms how the first modern humans
came out of Africa 50,000 years ago, mostly from a group in southern
Africa called the San.


But the subsequent movements around the world, via the near east,
central Asia and then Europe, turned up some surprises including a
strong similarity between the Sindih, a people who once lived in
Pakistan, and Orkney Islanders, or Orcadians.


In turn, the Orcadians are closely related to the people who first
colonised Siberia.


"Reindeer herders (a people called the Yakut) are indeed unexpectedly
related to British, because one of their strongest signals of ancestry
is from Orcadians, the only British population in the sample" says Dr
Daniel Falush of University College Cork, a co-author on the paper in
the journal PLoS Genetics.


The Orcadians, or those closely related to them in central/northern
Europe, also contribute to two other North East Asian populations, the
Hezhen and Han from Northern China.


"Humans like to tell stories and amongst the most captivating is the
story of the global spread of modern humans from their original
homeland in Africa," says Dr Falush.


"Traditionally this has been the preserve of anthropologists but
geneticists are now starting to make an important contribution."


Previous methods have either concentrated on one part of the human
genetic code (for example, just the Y-chromosome) or a greatly
oversimplified model of heredity.


"Our technique enables us to identify more subtle details about
genetic contributions than other methods," says Dr Garrett Hellenthal
of the University of Oxford, a co-author.


"By incorporating the inheritance of 'blocks' of DNA between
generations, rather than just individual genes, it captures a
panoramic view of the sharing of patterns of DNA across the entire
human genome," he says.


"This allows us to consider a vast number of possible colonisation
scenarios - not just the ones people have already thought of - and use
an algorithm to determine the most likely migration routes."


The new technique was used to analyse 2540 genetic markers using DNA
data from 927 individuals of diverse ethnicity whose DNA was collected
by the Human Diversity Project.


The researchers believe their method can cope with much larger
datasets with over 500,000 genetic markers and are now working on a
detailed picture of migrations into Europe.

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New research forces U-turn in population migration theory

Public release date: 23-May-2008


Contact: Jo Kelly
joke...@campuspr.co.uk


University of Leeds
New research forces U-turn in population migration theory


Research led by the University of Leeds has discovered genetic
evidence that overturns existing theories about human migration into
Island Southeast Asia (covering the Philippines, Indonesia and
Malaysian Borneo) - taking the timeline back by nearly 10,000 years.


Prevailing theory suggests that the present-day populations of Island
Southeast Asia (ISEA) originate largely from a Neolithic expansion
from Taiwan driven by rice agriculture about 4,000 years ago - the so-
called "Out of Taiwan" model.


However an international research team, led by the UK’s first
Professor of Archaeogenetics, Martin Richards, has shown that a
substantial fraction of their mitochondrial DNA lineages (inherited
down the female line of descent), have been evolving within ISEA for a
much longer period, possibly since modern humans arrived some 50,000
years ago.


Moreover, the lineage can be shown to have actually expanded in the
opposite direction - into Taiwan - within the last 10,000 years.


Says Professor Richards: “I think the study results are going to be a
big surprise for many archaeologists and linguists on whose studies
conventional migration theories are based. These population expansions
had nothing to do with agriculture, but were most likely to have been
driven by climate change - in particular, global warming and the
resulting sea-level rises at the end of the Ice Age between
15,000-7,000 years ago.”


At this time the ancient continent known as Sundaland – an extension
of the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java – was flooded to
create the present-day archipelago.


Although sea-level rise no doubt devastated many communities, it also
opened up a huge amount of new coastal territory for those who
survived(1). The present-day coastline is about twice as great as it
was 15,000 years ago.


“Our genetic evidence suggests that probably from about 12,000 years
ago these people began to recover from the natural catastophes and
expanded greatly in numbers, spreading out in all directions,
including north to Taiwan, west to the Southeast Asian mainland, and
east towards New Guinea. These migrations have not previously been
recognised archaeologically, but we have been able to show that there
is supporting evidence in the archaeological record too.”


###


The interdisciplinary research team comprised colleagues from Leeds,
Oxford, Glasgow, Australia and Taiwan. The study was funded by the
Bradshaw Foundation and the European Union Marie Curie Early Stage
Training program and is published in the current issue of Molecular
Biology and Evolution (MBE).
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

50,000 Year Old Find on Savannah River

Several pictures at the cite. Flood on the Savannah River forces
archaeologist Al Goodyear to leave Big Pine Tree site for Topper site.
Caveat: The source is the "alternative newspaper" for the Charleston,
SC area. It is a good "story", well-illustrated, but not written for a
technical audience.


Al Goodyear and the Secrets of the Ancient Americans
USC Professor Discovers 50,000 Year-Old Artifacts in S.C.
by : Ron Aiken


It was the summer of 1998, and University of South Carolina
archaeologist Al Goodyear had a problem on his hands.


Fourteen years of digging at an ancient chert quarry outside Allendale
had begun to bear fruit: At a site called Big Pine Tree, Goodyear was
well on his way to establishing that a substantial Clovis population
lived here. If you’ll recall your history lessons from high school,
the Clovis people — named such because the first evidence of them was
found at a site near Clovis, N.M. — were believed to be the first
Americans who came into the North American continent across the Bering
Sea land bridge from Asia some 13,000 years ago.


A volunteer carefully excavates a portion of the Topper site, being
careful to leave artifacts exactly where they were discovered to
catalog. Photo courtesy of USC


Now, thanks to a flood that had whipped the normally serene Savannah
River into a frenzy, Goodyear had to move his team, filled with
researchers and avid volunteers, away from the dig’s most prosperous
site to a backup location identified years earlier — Topper, named
after local man David Topper who first led Goodyear to the area in
1981.


Goodyear was less than thrilled about the move.


“We honestly had no place else to go,” Goodyear says. “Word was just
beginning to get out about the site, interest was high and now we
couldn’t dig where we wanted.


“Topper, which was higher up, was high and dry and was the only
choice. I remember it broke my heart at the time to leave behind a
site I thought was the best we’d find. I remember thinking ‘OK, I
guess we have to go to Topper.’”


What his team found that year and every year since has made it,
arguably, the most important archaeological site in North America,
with radiocarbon dating verifying human habitation at around 50,000
years ago — the oldest ever found.


And the site isn’t just for archaeologists: It is open for a dig now
through June 7, and volunteers can sign up to help by visiting
allendale-expedition.net. The dig will focus on both the 50,000 year-
old level and a massive new Clovis area discovered in 2004.


Because of Topper and a handful of other sites, in a matter of 10
years everything scholars thought they knew about who the first
Americans were, where they came from and when was wrong. Not just by a
little, but by nearly 40,000 years.


Topper is significant for other reasons, too: Evidence from the site,
published late last year, also supports the idea that a comet exploded
over the Great Lakes 12,900 years ago, scorching the entire Eastern
Seaboard through massive wildfires that would have left Columbia
nothing but ash and cinder and which led to the extinction of the
woolly mammoth and displaced the entire Clovis population.


And the best part?


Topper isn’t anywhere near finished giving up its ancient secrets.


Glossary


Chert: a sedimentary rock that flakes easily and can be worked to
produce tools such as knives, arrows, axes and blades.


Clovis: The common name for a hunting people believed to have come to
America via the Bering Sea land bridge around 13,000 years ago
following large game.


Paleoindian: The name given to ancient Native Americans living roughly
between 16,000 and 10,000 years ago following the end of the last Ice
Age.


Solutrean Theory: A theory that Clovis peoples entered America not
from Siberia but from Europe, making their way along the edge of the
ice sheets chasing marine mammals and fish.


Younger-Dryas: A 1,300-year period beginning approximately 12,900
years ago in which the Northern Hemisphere underwent a dramatic,
unexpected cooling period in which animals larger than 220 pounds
died.


The Gospel of Clovis First


Back at Topper in 1998 — and with time running out on the summer’s dig
— Goodyear had a decision to make. He remembered reading about a pre-
Clovis site in Monte Verde, Chile, the year before in which evidence
was found to substantiate a human presence around 14,500 years ago,
and an odd thought popped in his head.


“I thought if all the experts had agreed on that date and people were
in South America at that time, a thousand miles south and a thousand
years before, how could they have not been here?” Goodyear says. “How
could they miss a 20-million-year-old chert quarry on the Savannah
River, which has always been about the same place it is now and has a
relatively temperate climate like it does now?


“So I talked to my team about the Monte Verde find and asked them if
they wanted to dig deeper than anyone had before in America to see
what’s there. Of course, they don’t have to go to national meetings
and defend results, so they were all like, “Yeah! Let’s do it! We’ll
ruin your career!’


“To most people of my generation, saying you’re searching for
something pre-Clovis is tantamount to saying you’re going looking for
Elvis or E.T. It was that entrenched — it’s what I was taught myself
and what I taught my students to believe. And lo and behold the first
week we start finding artifacts.”


To understand why chert was so crucial to early man is simple: Its
properties enable anyone, with a little training, to fashion razor-
sharp stone blades to be used for axes, knives and arrows that were
critical to human survival. Knives cut through animal skin to make
clothes. Bigger tools are used to cut trees for fire and shelter.
Spears are used to hunt the game they chased, including woolly
mammoths. Smaller blades are used for everything from carving bone to
tattooing flesh.


Simply put, without a chert supply, which is to say without tools,
survival is nearly impossible. That’s what led Goodyear to the
Allendale chert quarry to begin with — there’s just no way ancient
peoples, especially in a warm climate with a river for food and
transportation, could have missed the benefits of living near the
Southeast’s largest exposed chert supply.


The roofed structure protects archaeologists and the dig from the heat
and elements. It was built through donations from Clariant Corp.,
which owns the land, and many others. Clariant also donated the
viewing platform so the public can watch the dig in progress. Photo
courtesy of USC


“That was a big psychological time of change for me, those last few
weeks of 1998,” Goodyear says. “We just kept finding more and more. As
a Clovis-first person myself, I had to re-evaluate what I thought I
knew against what I was holding in my hands. And once you accept that,
all of a sudden everything that came before it is fair game, too.”


Still buzzed from the pre-Clovis Topper findings, Goodyear wrote a
letter, which he had done every year once work was finished, to all
his volunteers thanking them for their efforts and letting them know
what they’d found.


“And all I said to them was that for two weeks we dug deeper and found
something under Clovis,” Goodyear says. “That’s all I said; I didn’t
call up newspapers or anything. I just shared it with them.”


An eager volunteer, aware of research being done in Pennsylvania by
archaeologist James Adovasio, faxed a copy of the letter to him. As
fate would have it, Adovasio happened to be working with U.S. News &
World Report writer Tom Petit for an upcoming cover story, and when
Adovasio shared the information with Petit, the reporter wasted no
time calling Goodyear.


“I told him what we found, and next thing I know we’re splashed all
through the article,” Goodyear says. “Topper wasn’t a secret anymore.”


Dating the Evidence


Despite the growing evidence of artifacts, Goodyear knew if he was
ever going to mollify critics, he needed precise dates no one could
argue with. In 2000, Goodyear welcomed scientists from across the
country to come and collect radiocarbon samples for dating as well as
a geochronologist who specialized in using optically stimulated
luminescence (OSL) methods to date the soil itself. Their research
confirmed the first solid pre-Clovis date at Topper to between 16,000
and 20,000 years ago.


“At that point, the big boys started getting interested that we had
dates for 20,000 [years ago] that were done by some of the best people
in the country,” Goodyear says. “Finally, we had that baseline we
needed for the rest of the scientific community to examine.”


One of those scientists was Dennis Stanford. As curator of archaeology
for the Smithsonian Institution, his word carries serious weight in
the field.


“At the time, I was very interested in Al’s work,” Stanford says.
“Al’s recognized as a good, solid archaeologist. He’s not a crackpot —
when Al speaks, we tend to listen. I was quite pleased to hear that he
was considering examining lower levels and had found something.
“But I also remember thinking that I was glad Al was doing it and not
me. The Clovis-first model was the accepted thinking for close to a
century, a 60-year deadlock mold, and we realized that what it was was
a theory, not proof. And as proof started to come, I think people just
couldn’t deny it any longer.


“So finally we have people agreeing that yes, a certain people did
come over the land bridge. What we didn’t know is that it just so
happens there were people already here when they did it. It made us
all realize just how little we knew and know about America’s past.”


By 2002-03, Goodyear was set upon the task of accumulating evidence to
support his earlier dates, though he continued digging ever downward.
In 2003 he hit a white sand layer that was hard as concrete and, as he
dug slowly deeper, began noticing what looked like artifacts sticking
out of it. In 2004, The New York Times sent its top science writer,
Pulitzer-prize winner John Noble Wilford, down to investigate, and
that same year Goodyear found a layer of charcoal in it to date.


What came back, just like in 1998, blew him away yet again.


The typical Clovis spear point, evidence of a technology so effective
in hunting it was the WMD of its day. Photo by Daryl P. Miller,
S.C.I.A.A.


“I was hoping that dating would bring back numbers around 25,000 years
ago,” Goodyear says. “That was a date people could probably swallow.


“But no, I have to get back dates of 50,000 years ago, which according
to the dating and amount of error means that no matter what it’s at
least 40,000, if not much more. I was in an awkward position. Here are
artifacts we know are tools, here are the dates we know are accurate
and here I go again, getting up there in front of creation, on CNN
announcing a 50,000 date, the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North
America.


“Just as I had gotten people accustomed to 15-16,000, here I come
again. I had a lot of people blanch at the 50,000, but I told them it
was my opinion, take it or leave it, and people have done both.”


What most troubles people about Homo sapiens occupying South Carolina
50,000 years ago is, obviously, how did they get there? Commonly
accepted dates have the first Homo sapiens coming out of Africa around
70,000 years ago, making their way as far east as Australia by 50,000
year ago. To have made the East Coast by that time means either they
moved a lot more quickly than was believed possible, they left Africa
earlier than previously thought or they came a different route
altogether.


That’s where Stanford comes in. Since 1999, he has proposed a theory
of coastal migration called the Solutrean Theory, which contends that
early man made his way from Iberia, not Siberia, by following the ice
across from Europe and Greenland to North America between 17,000 and
21,000 years ago.


“Boats were the key,” Stanford says. “People say, ‘Well, why aren’t we
finding evidence of ancient boats and settlements?’ That’s because
those coastal settlements are now under hundreds of feet of water
because ancient sea levels were much lower. In the time period we’re
talking about, the coasts were up to 60-70 miles out to sea from where
they are now.


“Just a week or so ago we found out that some mastodon remains dredged
up in the 1970s off the coast of Virginia had a bi-pointed projectile
point embedded in it from material in North Carolina. People aren’t
willing to imagine cavemen out on the sea in boats, but that’s just a
crock of hooey. We know boats have been around from 40,000 to 60,000
years. They absolutely were, chasing oil-rich seals and mammals they
needed to survive.


“The food was on the water, and that’s where the people went. We have
to stop seeing the ocean and rivers as barriers. They weren’t
barriers, they were highways.”


Goodyear likes Stanford’s coastal-migration theory, though Stanford
admits that 50,000 years is “too early for our guys” coming from the
Iberian Peninsula.


“The key is to figure out how they got here. We know that people were
around 100,00 years ago, so there is a population that is available.
But I’m glad that’s for others to figure out.”


Source: Wikimedia.org, supplemented with information from Al Goodyear
and Dennis Stanford.


Topper Now: Comets, Clovis and Extinction


Allen West often visualizes the scene.


Clovis hunters, well established in places like Allendale, look up one
morning to a scene few have ever witnessed. Flashing across the sky
are streaks of fire, literally tearing the atmosphere apart. Then, a
series of explosions so loud they could be heard for thousands of
miles, followed closely after by a fireball that would have set most
of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific on fire.


“To start with, people would have been able to see these objects
coming for some time before they hit, just extremely bright,” says
West, a geophysicist from Arizona who used the Topper site to help
pioneer research that only in the last couple of years solved the
ancient mystery of what caused a mass extinction in America
approximately 12,900 years ago.


“It was most likely a fragmented comet, and it would have stretched
across the sky for thousands of miles. Then, the explosions — it would
have been like the atmosphere became a boiler. The only thing I can
think of is to imagine what it’s like to be in a nuclear exchange, one
explosion after another after another. It would have been a canopy of
fire from horizon to horizon in all directions.”


Scientists have long known that for some reason, much of the flora and
most of the large animals in North America — including the woolly
mammoth — went extinct in a very short time. Many ascribed the die-off
to overhunting by Clovis peoples, disease, abrupt climate change or a
combination of the three.


West wasn’t buying it, and turned to what was known: Just as America
was warming itself following the last Ice Age 13,000 years ago, a
temperature reversal sparked a 1,000-year cold period, known as the
Younger-Dryas interval. West believed only a comet or volcano could
have initiated a nuclear winter-type effect, and no volcanic culprit
fit the bill.


“We had reason to believe, markers, that showed us that it’s possible
a comet exploded over the Great Lakes area around 12,900 years ago,”
West says. “We knew that most every animal over 220 pounds died, and
only animals less than 220 pounds lived.


“What we needed to find were sites that were at that established
Clovis level and look for evidence of an impact. Only a few, like
Topper, were active, so we went looking and got in touch with Al.”


Goodyear remembers the conversation well.


“Allen came down in 2005 and said he was looking for extraterrestrial
markers here,” Goodyear says. “And it’s at a time after I’ve announced
50,000 years and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is all I need,
someone really looking for E.T.’”


West recalls a similar exchange.


“Al is a friendly guy who is always willing to listen, and he listened
politely but was skeptical,” West says. “But as we began to find
markers in the form of nanodiamonds and magnetic microspherules, we
all began to get excited. There is no other natural function that
produces these things besides an extraterrestrial event.”


With evidence of both the explosion and mass fires, West, who also
postulates that the popular “Carolina Bays” formations are related to
this ancient event, got together with Goodyear to see whether and how
Clovis people would have been impacted.


“Obviously, if it’s not good for animals over 220 pounds, it’s not
going to be so hot for humans, either.”


That’s when Goodyear decided to look into it on his own.


“I went back and re-examined our South Carolina paleopoint database,
and found that Clovis points dropped off significantly after that date
until the advent of what we call the Redstone people,” Goodyear says.
“It was about a four-to-one drop-off, which doesn’t make sense just
because it had gotten cold. It was suspicious. These are people who
have survived ice ages, and yet I found similar, if not even more
drastic drop-offs in points in North Carolina and Virginia. I kind of
timidly laid those facts out there to them and they were able to use
it.”
With that information, West could begin to argue that the event
absolutely took its toll on Clovis, either wiping them out or driving
them off for some thousand years.


“That was solely Al Goodyear that led us to that,” West says. “Lo and
behold he found it, and that was really because Topper is such a
fantastic Clovis site besides its pre-Clovis value.
“Al’s reputation has been essential; he’s been one of our great team
members. We had 26 co-authors for the paper, each of whom brought
something essential, and Topper was key for us because it’s so well
known and investigated.”


Goodyear can’t say for sure what Topper has in store, only that it
isn’t nearly as excavated as it could be.


“Topper is like a box of chocolates, as Forest Gump says,” Goodyear
says. “You never know what you’re going to get out of it.


“The idea that we could have found stuff at 50,000 years, that blew my
mind. It’s now a matter of collecting more artifacts; it’ll be a while
before we’re able to overwhelm people.


“As someone who was Clovis-first, to find and accept not just pre-
Clovis but pre- pre- pre-Clovis, that’s something else. It’s a stretch
to get people to realize that there once were woolly mammoths walking
down Main Street, that there were people walking around here 50,000
years ago, but it’s true.


“Though it took the Savannah River to chase me to Topper, I’m glad it
worked out how it did. I’ve learned not to say that Topper has
finished giving up its secrets.”
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