Skip to comments.Ancient site hints at first US settlers
Posted on 01/02/2004 8:02:29 AM PST by Pikamax
Ancient site hints at first US settlers
15:03 02 January 04
NewScientist.com news service
Stone-age people lived in the lands north of the Arctic Circle before the last Ice Age - much earlier than had been thought, suggests new findings.
The discovery of the site in eastern Siberia also hints that people might have moved from the Old World into the Americas at a much earlier date than believed.
The site along the Yanu River, carbon-dated as 30,000 years old, is twice the age of the oldest previously known Arctic settlement, report Vladimir Pitulko of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and colleagues.
The area is about 2000 kilometres from the Bering Strait. This is important as archaeologists have long suspected that some of the earliest Americans may have crossed the Bering land bridge from northeastern Asia. However, scientists had little evidence of Arctic settlements in Asia older than 14,000 years - the age of the earliest Alaskan sites. The age of the Yanu River site shows that people learned to live in the Arctic much earlier, and might have reached Alaska earlier than has been recognized.
"Pitulko's find is exciting because it shows that people were living in an ecosystem that stretched continuously between Asia and North America. If they had wandered a little further eastward...bingo - they could have been the first Americans," Daniel Mann of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks told New Scientist.
Russian geologist Mikhail Dashtzeren found a rhino-horn foreshaft of a spear along the river in 1993. A foreshaft is the detachable piece between the main part of a spear and its point. Dashtzeren guided archaeologists to the site in 2001. Pitulko's team found 383 stone artefacts in the area, as well as many bones from ice-age Siberian animals including mammoths, reindeer, woolly rhino and bison.
The ancient site would have been an open meadow in the river's flood plain when occupied. It is unclear if people lived in the area all year, or only came north in summer to hunt. The abundance of reindeer bones indicates they were the most common food.
The flaked stone tools resemble those from more southerly sites at the time. However, the rhino-horn foreshaft, and two similar ones of mammoth ivory, resemble tools used by the Clovis people who spread over North America about 12,000 years ago and are believed to be the continent's first human settlers.
But archaeologists are wary about linking the two. "It's a fabulous site," David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told New Scientist. The dates look solid, and "it's tells us that people were in the far north a whole lot earlier than we ever thought."
But he cautions the new settlement and those of the Clovis are separated by 16,000 years and thousands of kilometres.
Journal reference: Science (vol 303, p 52)
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NewScientist.com also has articles about how bad global warming is (Global warming 'kills 160,000 a year').
OK, let's get this straight. A 'site' cannot be carbon-dated. A 'stone' cannot be carbon-dated. Only 'carbon' can be carbon dated. Forgive my irritability but every time someone discovers an earliest whatever, some jock wants to make the new record by 'discovering' an earlier one.
It's easy. Some where near the site (dig if you gotta) find some charcoal and date it. If it ain't a record, keep digging. Eventually you'll make it to NewScientist.com and who knows, if you can bad mouth dubya enough the Nobel people will give you cash money.
The climate sorts out certain types for extinction. At the same time the climate allows other types to thrive that wouldn't last a day in normal regions: survivors have a certain practicality in behavior, balanced by a freely floating belief system.
AND only when there is a regional correlation with dendrochonology. If there is no synchronized, overlapping tree-ring record for the area going back an appropriate amount of time, then any carbon dating is merely a guesstimate and may be wildly off.
I can't remember where I read it but recently I read a comparison between carbon dating and dendrochonology, using bristle cone pines and carbon dating lost big time. It seems it was off by 10 or 15% possibly more.
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