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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some scientists affirm early (33,000 ybp) Native presence

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Newsgroups: sci.archaeology
From: Jack Linthicum
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 10:16:10 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Tues, Jun 16 2009 1:16 pm
Subject: Some scientists affirm early (33,000 ybp) Native presence
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The break in the Clovis floor and the idea of a coastal migration from
Beringa into the Americas has opened certain archaeological areas to
new interpretations.

There are some who do not want to see this happen, disturbing sites
that push the clock back further still, Steven R. Holen, curator of
archaeology in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Department of
Anthropology said he is working on a site that is “probably much
older” than the 33,000-year-old evidence he now has, but he declined
to specify at this time how old the site could prove to be, or its
general location.


There is a photo of a mammoth femur at the citation. Dated at 33000
ybp in the article.


Some scientists affirm early Native presence
By Carol Berry, Today correspondent


Story Published: Jun 16, 2009


Story Updated: Jun 12, 2009


Many, if not most, Native people insist that their ancestors have
lived on this continent since time immemorial, and some mainstream
scientists are beginning to weigh in on their side.


Scholars are pushing evidence of human habitation in North America
well beyond the non-Native accepted wisdom that places it at a
relatively recent 13,000 to 14,000 years ago.


“Since Europeans came to the Americas, they have often been wrong
about the Native inhabitants and Western science has not been immune
to this problem,” said one Denver scientist May 29.


A perhaps-controversial 33,000 years ago, “and probably long before
that,” people lived here, according to Steven R. Holen, curator of
archaeology in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Department of
Anthropology.


“Several scientists, me included, are producing evidence of a much
older Native American occupation of the continent,” he said, adding
that, as has happened in the past, “the scientific establishment has
underestimated the time depth of the Native American occupation of the
Americas.”


A practitioner of experimental archaeology, Holen studies the patterns
of breakage in mammoth bones, extrapolating and recreating the kind of
instrument and force required to create such fractures and
hypothesizing possible implements that could be made from the
shattered remains.


“The only way these could be broken in the past as we see it is by
humans using hammerstones.”


Although stone tools have not yet been found with the bones, “You
don’t have to have stone tools – you have to have evidence of human
technology.”


The uses of fractured bones may have varied, including that of the
mammoth from Nebraska recently radiocarbon-dated at 33,000 before
present (BP).


Sharp points may have been affixed to bone shafts or the bone may have
been shaped into a tool to straighten shafts. Bone flakes could have
been used as disposable choppers or temporary knives or other tools or
utensils as needed by the continent’s inhabitants.


Holen describes the forceful impact that produces flakes from a
resulting spiral fracture. A radiating line of fracture extends from
the point of impact and makes it possible to determine the weight of
the instrument that struck the blow, a scenario he was able to
replicate in Africa on elephant bone, comparable in hardness to the
bones of its mammoth relative.


Against all odds, one of only about 20 long-lived elephants in a
nature preserve in Tanzania happened to die right beside the road, and
the park service allowed Holen to take a single bone for testing. He
fashioned a 9.5-pound instrument with a 2-inch-diameter striking head
– the same size as a similar mammoth bone impact mark – and it took a
younger fellow expeditionist 10 tries to fracture it.


The force required to create such impacts and the characteristics of
the bones and their breakage appear to rule out such factors as damage
from natural disturbance, gnawing by carnivores, or trampling by other
large animals, Holen said, but he knows his findings may not be
universally accepted, at least immediately, particularly in terms of
the dates of human habitation they suggest.


“Scientists from several major universities, especially in western
states like Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and Alaska still ‘know’ that
Native Americans have not been in North America before approximately
14,000 years ago, or just prior to Clovis culture.


“But no one has demonstrated there is a natural way the bones could be
broken in these patterns. No one has yet disproved my findings.”


The 33,000-year date of the mastodon bone is “very preliminary,” he
said. “We haven’t excavated yet, but it looks good at this point.”
Similar fractured bones of great age have been found on the Old Crow
River in the Yukon, in Europe and Siberia, and at Clovis sites.


Pushing the clock back further still, Holen said he is working on a
site that is “probably much older” than the 33,000-year-old evidence
he now has, but he declined to specify at this time how old the site
could prove to be, or its general location.


“When I am asked the question, ‘When did people first arrive in the
Americas?’ My answer now is that we do not know. I think that the term
‘from time immemorial’ may be the most accurate statement for Native
American time depth in the Americas, just as many traditional Native
people say.”
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