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History of Humans in the Americas
History of Humans in the Americas

History of Humans in the Americas

In “The First Americans May Have Arrived 130,000 Years Ago” (Discovermagazine.com, April 26, 2017), Gemma Tarlach writes:

Is the conventional chronology of human migration little more than a house of cards? Maybe. And there’s a strong wind (or at least a tantalizing breeze) blowing in from southern California, where researchers say they have evidence that the First Americans may have arrived on the continent almost ten times earlier than we thought. And here’s another kicker: the first humans in the Americas may not have been Homo sapiens.

The results, published today in Nature, came out of several different lines of inquiry, all leading to the same stunning conclusion: A partial mastodon skeleton unearthed near San Diego appears to have been processed by some kind of hominin about 130,000 years ago.

To put this in context, right now the generally accepted arrival date for humans in the Americas — from Siberia, via the land bridge Beringia — is a mere 15,000 years ago. There have been a handful of sites from Brazil and Chile to the Great Plains of the U.S. suggesting human activity up to 40,000 years ago, but academic opinion on the legitimacy of those sites is deeply divided.

This is the kind of brainshock that, once you shake off the initial surprise, questions go stampeding through your head like a bunch of spooked mastodons. So let’s take it one step at a time.

Until the team’s results are replicated and additional information added in support of their argument, though, I can’t stop thinking about a 2016 study that showed at least one smashy-bashy group of capuchin monkeys in Brazil busts up rocks to create shapes remarkably similar to human-made stone tools. Those monkeys, by the way, live rather close to two of the highly controversial sites where some researchers assert humans were present 20,000 years ago, based entirely on what they claim are stone tools made by our species. Hmm.

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