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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Oldest stone tools in the Americas claimed in Chile

Archaeologist Tom Dillehay didnt want to return to Monte Verde. 
Decades ago, his discoveries at the famous site in southern Chile 
showed that humans occupied South America by 14,500 years ago, 
thousands of years earlier than thought, stirring a long and 
exhausting controversy. Now, Dillehay, of Vanderbilt University 
in Nashville, has been lured back - and he is preparing for renewed 
debate. He reports in PLOS ONE today that people at Monte Verde built 
fires, cooked plants and meat, and used tools 18,500 years ago, which 
would push back the peopling of the Americas by another 4000 years. 

... Genetic studies suggest that the ancestors of Paleoindians first 
left Siberia no earlier than 23,000 years ago (Science, 21 August, 
p. 841), so Dillehay's new dates suggest they wasted little time in 
reaching the southern tip of the Americas. And the find raises 
questions about the North American record, where no one has found 
widely accepted evidence of occupation before 14,300 years ago. "Where 
the hell were the people in North America at that hour?" wonders 
archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, 
Texas. 
... 
...But in 2013, fearing another team's survey might damage the site, he 
returned, hoping to spend a few weeks collecting new evidence of ancient 
plants and climate by digging 50 small test trenches across a 
20,000-square-meter area. But the dig turned up 39 stone artifacts, 
including flakes, a "chopper," and cores, embedded near plants or animal 
bones that had been burned in small fires at 12 areas. This suggests a 
"spotty, ephemeral presence," he says. 

His team radiocarbon dated the plants and animal bone to between 14,500 
and 18,500 years ago, and perhaps as early as 19,000 years ago. http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2015/11/oldest-stone-tools-americas-claimed-chile
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