Skip to comments.A site in Oregon could shake America's view of history, says Sanjida O'Connell
Posted on 10/19/2002 10:11:55 AM PDT by vannrox
Archaeologists split hairs over first arrivals
A site in Oregon could shake America's view of history, says Sanjida O'Connell
Thursday October 17, 2002
Woodburn is a small agricultural town in the US state of Oregon. Next to the high school is Mammoth Park. It sounds cheesy, but Mammoth Park is a paleoarchaeological site whose findings could shake America's view of her history.
In suitably prosaic fashion, the site was discovered in 1987, when local authorities tried to install a sewer line. At depths of 5m, workers found huge bones, but said nothing and took them home. Now, Mammoth Park has tighter security, and links to three universities and four institutes.
Researchers have uncovered a wealth of findings that illustrates how America might have looked thousands of years ago, but most remarkable was the discovery in July 2000 of a human hair. DNA analysis could provoke a constitutional storm. The hair, 40cm long, is said to be the oldest piece of organic human remains: it has been carbon dated twice, but the results have not been published and the research remains controversial.
Archaeologist Dr Alison Stenger, director of research at the Institute for Archaeological Studies, Portland, believes the hair could be about 12,000 years old. The consensus is that America was first colonised 13,000 years ago, when people walked across a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.
They then walked through a corridor that opened up between ice sheets in western Canada. So the date of the hair, if it proves accurate, fits the date of the first arrivals.
However, Stephen Dunleavy, who has produced a documentary on the colonisation of America, says: "It's almost biblical - a parting of the ways - and almost certainly wrong."
The theory was challenged in the late 1970s, when the remains of a communitywere found by archaeologists in Monte Verde, Chile, which could predate the consensus figure. The authenticity of this site is still disputed.
"It depends who you speak to," says Lori Baker, an assistant professor in molecular anthropology at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. "Some say the site dates from 12,500 years ago, but unofficial dates stretch back as far as 30,000 years ago."
The idea that people reached America earlier is gaining ground. If this supposition is true, how did they get there? One theory is that people island-hopped. Islands off the coast of America were ice-free long before a corridor cleared within the continent.
These people could have used some form of watercraft to travel down the coast - a much faster mode of transport. But evidence is patchy: 10% of the earth's water was locked up in glaciers: once they melted, the coastline flooded. There is, however, evidence of human activity 10,000 years ago on Prince of Wales Island, which means that by this stage, people must have had boats.
We are beginning to understand what their environment was like from fauna and flora unearthed at Mammoth Park. Researchers found mammoths, black bears, the Sitka black-tailed deer, a mule-like deer, horses, wolves, bison, mastodon and giant sloths, including a sloth foetus.
The team has even uncovered a new species, the teratorn, a giant ice age bird with a wingspan of more than four metres. Its presence, combined with duck skeletons and eggshells, indicates that the region was marshy, swampy, open and filled with a buzzing, booming collection of iridescent insects.
The people were technologically advanced, with a full tool kit of stone hand axes and butchering implements. They had developed a stone age Kalashnikov - a device that enabled them to throw a spear-like implement 200m - twice as far as the best javelin throwers.
The "atlatal", a powerful throwing stick, launched a type of dart that was more flexible than a spear and had a main shaft 1.5m long. The foreshaft, ending in a spear point, was lashed on with animal sinew and pitch. But who were these first peoples? Scientists assumed they were descendants of native Americans who now claim ownership of ancient human remains.
When the DNA analysis came back, Stenger was in for a shock. The hair did not belong to a native American. Baker, who carried out the analysis, says: "It's possible that the so-called paleoindians are not the ancestors of native Americans. Either they didn't leave any ancestors, or they were replaced by other peoples."
The implication is that some one, or some peoples, colonised the states first. All we can tell about the owner of the hair is that he or she had had a haircut.
· Wild New World: Edge of the Ice is on BBC2, 9pm next Thursday
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
Took them home for what?
Fidosaurus, what else?
Marlo Brandon is going to be pissed.
Now that would be a neat trick! Presumably they meant "ancestors", rather than "descendants". Anyway, the DNA analysis is the important news.
DNA Report on Kennewick Man in this list:
...the results have not been published...
Why the secrecy???
I wanna know WHO the hair belonged to.
I'm with you! I read the entire article, and they refused to say who the hair belongs to. Now, if this hiding of the information follows form, then the hair belongs to, what we would now term as, a white person. (Perhaps Asian).
It would be almost comical if it were not so frustrating. Here is an article, devoted to the topic of how the way we have looked at colonization of the North American continent is going to change drastically; yet, they will not give us the key piece of information about how it has changed. P.C. rules.
Quite possible. Even the Bible alludes to the fact that man walked the Earth long before Adam.
This is a cached article, and pertains directly to the article vanrox posted.
Maybe we can do our own sleuthing and figure out who the hair belongs to!
There's a 50% chance that it belonged to an Elvisaurus. and a 50$ chance it belonged to an ancient Saudi Arabian terrorist who was crushed inside a cave many moons ago.
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