Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mammoth bones and ‘ghost’ footprints add to heated debate about early humans in North America

Mammoth bones and old “ghost” footprints are the latest evidence in the scientific debate about when early humans arrived in the Americas.

Fossil bones, in particular, may show that people lived in North America tens of thousands of years before the generally accepted date of the arrival of the first Native Americans, around 10,000 BCE.

Researchers say radiocarbon dates of chemicals in the mammoth bones of the mother and cub suggest that the animal lived in New Mexico about 37,000 years ago. The researchers said the pattern of the fractures suggests they were killed by humans, so they may have been there at the same time. But some other scientists have questioned the findings, saying that the cracks could be due to nature.

Meanwhile, the latest “ghost” footprints were discovered a few weeks ago in the desert in Utah above the range of an Air Force missile. Scientists believe they are about 12,000 years old, but this is only the second time such traces have been found, and they support last year’s discovery. Ghost footprints in New Mexico are believed to be at least 21,000 years old – although this result is also disputed.

Fingerprints unearthed at a pin-flag archaeological site at the Utah Test and Training Range on July 18, 2022.R. Niall Bradshaw / US Air Force

Mammoth bones at a site called Hartley in northern New Mexico on rocks above a tributary of the Rio Grande are believed to be the most conclusive evidence of humans arriving in the Americas 50,000 years ago, between what is now the “Land of Bridges”. Its going on. Known as Siberia and Alaska.

The researchers said they believe in their dating and show that the cracks in them were caused by repeated collisions with sharp objects during deliberate slaughter. They also say that there is evidence that fire was selectively used to cook many bones.

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“I think this is a solid radiocarbon date,” said paleontologist Timothy Rowe, a professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. “The skeptics will put everything under the microscope, but I think we’ve checked every box.”

Ru is lead author of a study on mammoth bones published last month in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Fractures and small fragments from the slaughter process are also characteristic and can be seen in slaughterhouses from the same era in Europe and Asia, he said: “If this site had been in northern Siberia, no one would have blinked.”

Showing upper rib fracture due to blunt force impact; stabbing in the middle rib, possibly due to instruments; The lower ribs show signs of bite. Timothy Rowe / University of Texas at Austin

The idea that mammoths were slaughtered by early humans is supported by other recent discoveries, including human footprints in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park and stone tools made 33,000 years ago in a cave in northern Mexico. Are included.

But these ideas and evidences have been refuted by other scholars. The history of white sand footprints has been questioned, and some experts believe that the objects from Mexico were not tools, but natural sharp stones.

He argued that fractures in mammoth bones could only be caused by humans. Or, they may be caused by a landslide or other natural phenomenon.

says anthropologist Andre Kostopoulos, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton who published a detailed online investigation of the latest research. “But they are not necessarily diagnostics of human existence.”

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“We don’t have clear evidence yet, because there are other possible explanations that have to be ruled out first, and they don’t,” he said.

The lack of specific stone tools at the Hartley site is also a problem. Researchers say that the people who slaughtered the mammoths probably did not use sophisticated stone tools, but only primitive tools that were indistinguishable from bone or natural stone.

A mixture of ribs, fractured skull bones, molars, bone fragments and gravel belonging to a mammoth have been excavated in New Mexico.  It is preserved under the skull and teeth of an adult mammoth.
A mixture of ribs, fractured skull bones, molars, bone fragments and gravel belonging to a mammoth have been excavated in New Mexico. It is preserved under the skull and teeth of an adult mammoth.Timothy Rowe / University of Texas at Austin

But other scientists say there is no evidence for this, and even Neanderthals are now expected to have better tools.

Archaeologist Ben Potter, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said there is evidence from Africa, Europe and the Far East that Homo sapiens used complex stone tools around 47,000 years ago, so their absence at the Hartley site was significant. Is.

He said in an email that he was unconvinced by recent research on mammoth bones and the idea that they suggest that people arrived in the Americas much earlier. “Everything is possible. However, we only need evidence to support the claim.” “I don’t think they have enough evidence yet, and certainly aren’t in this place.”

However, some other scientists are more convinced, suggesting that others may be reluctant to face the possibility that some humans reached the Americas 50,000 years ago.

“This research seems very comprehensive,” said Spencer Lucas, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. “At what point does the archaeological community wake up and smell the coffee? There’s a lot of evidence,” he said.

“I’m not saying this is the ultimate proof… but you have footprints of white sand, and [Mexico] Location – There’s all kinds of accumulating evidence pointing to human occupation of the New World 20,000 years ago, and I don’t understand why this idea is still a matter of debate.”

Amendment (August 4, 2022, 6:34 PM ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified Ben Potter at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is currently a professor there, not before.

Nation World News Desk
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