Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

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Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Removed user on December 13th, 2007, 8:32 am 

Here is a link to an interesting alternative to the standard Bering land bridge hypothesis of the migration of Paleolithic hunters into the New World. Do any of you anthropologists know if this has been confirmed or refuted yet?

http://www.livescience.com/history/0602 ... icans.html
http://www.livescience.com/history/0602 ... ghway.html
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Postby Forest_Dump on December 13th, 2007, 11:09 am 

Do I know anything about this one? Yes. A lot. In fact, this is an area where I have done quite a bit of directed research, including actually looking at a lot of Solutrean artifacts, and expect to be doing more in the years to come including working on some key sites. Before I begin, I will note that Stanford has done some good work and I have a lot of respect for him but on this one, I think he has jumped the shark.

Okay, first, the idea of a trans-Atlantic peopling of the New World has been around for a long time and included 19th century ideas about the lost continent of Atlantis, the lost tribes of Israel, etc. Some of this came out of very racist ideas at the time that the extant native North Americans could not have been responcible for some of the archaeological remains of North America but were the product of an extinct, superior race that was exterminated by the savages (IMHO calling into question whether they were actually superior, but that is a different story). Many of these ideas were fully refuted in the 19th century but have stuck around in such topics as Phoenician copper mines, deep penetrations by Vikings into the interior of North America, etc. I don't associate Stanford and others of holding some of these ideas but I fully expect them to appear in some "alternative theories" about a conspiracy to hide the racial history of North America. I saw enough from Kennewick to expect that.

Okay, some of the claims. First, the seperation in time between Solutrean and the oldest bifaces in North America is in the order of thousands of years. Some suggest 7-8,000 years minimum but it could turn out to be less. Conservatively, allowing for the possibility that we don't have the oldest from North America or the most recent from Europe, I can't see the gap closing to less than 4,000 years and that is pushing the oldest North American bifaces to 13,000 and Solutrean to 17,000. In North America, these are out west, not in the east. Potentially older stone tool technologies have been offered but usually these do not include bifacially flaked artifacts. The exception might be Meadowcroft Rockshelter in sw Pennsylvania but the dating and association of this material with the dates has always been controversial. James Adovasio has always been willing to forcefully argue for a very old age to some of the deposits, in print and in person, and has written volumes on it but the controversy continues.

It has been postulated many times that the technology existed in the upper Pleistocene to make craft that could have withstood an ocean crossing. The problem is that there is no evidence to support this. Traditionally, the technology for any kind fo boat construction has been associated with ground stone tools, which do not appear until later. While I would agree that this association is tenuous, at best, arguing to the contrary requires trying to prove a negative. There is simply no evidence either for or against the existence of boat building technology this early. As with the first appearance of anything (and this has been well discussed in a wide variety of literature ranging from the first appearance of hominids and/or stone tools in various regions, to topics from the intelligent design debate), the burden of proof is generally on those who propose the idea so here, by extension, the burden of proof is on those who would argue for the presence of boat-building technology earlier than generally accepted. Of course, that is never considered to be fair.

So, the weight of the argument is based on the claim that some of the older bifaces and other technologies in North America, look a lot like Solutrean stone tools. Part of this is the common reference to blade technologies on these earliest postulated technological horizons. Blade tecchnologies, in fact, were the predominant technology all across Eurasia to northeastern China and Siberia and have been associated many of the older horizons, particularly in the northwest where they are more well-dated and accepted. In fact, looking at the archaeological record of North America in its entirety, we see blade technoloy appearing and disappearing repeatedly with even contact period Aztecs and Mayans using it (in fact, blade technology was in use late in the 20th century among contemporary Mayans making arrowheads for tourists). In short, it appears that blade technology was the product of multiple, independant inventions. Personally, on the basis of some of my own research (some of which is currently in the final stages of editing and printing this morning), this is not at all surprising. However, although I would not be at all surprised at finding blade technology in early horizons in eastern North America (without taking that to imply a Solutrean connection), this association still has not happened.

As to the bifaces, actually the similarities are even weaker. First, at least some of the Solutrean bifaces appear to have been the product of pressure-flaking large blade flakes. In contrast, North American bifaces appear to have been predominantly the product of what is known as serial biface reduction. While there may be some departures, reduction from large blade flakes has not been identified. Now, I increasingly suspect that this distinctin may be the product of analytical bias because I am getting the opinion that the French either do not have serial biface reduction in their past or do not know how to recognise it if they do. It is certainly not well represented in their literature which is focused on blade production. Over the past year or so, I have found that biface reduction flakes have been recovered from a few sites in northeast China but have not been recognised as such and, consequently, the key sites have been ignored. (I was actually directly consulted on this, because it was thought I was an expert on biface reduction, and so have seen some materials from sites that have not been published as yet or, for that matter, sites that have not had more than small, exploratory excavations. I may actually get to work on some of these although, to be honest, I equally may have the chance to excavate on one or more new sites dating ca. 1 million with Acheulean bifaces and possibly H. erectus. Tough choices.)

Among the factors that has made these identifications so challenging is the fact that stone tool production is a subtractive process - you make finished tools by breaking parts off unfinished tools. So the final product is smaller, etc., than what you started with. This means that to understand the production process, you have to collect and analyse all the broken off parts (i.e., flakes). Unfortunately very few past archaeologists (and far too many still today) did not collect these but only kept/keep the nicer, complete specimens for study and display. This was also done for speed of excavation and to minimise storage space. So, unfortunately there are very few unbiased assemblages to study (and these are not in convenient, North American museums and universities like parts of some of the early 20th century collections are). So studying the reduction process is difficult, to say the least.

The final products of stone tool production, not the production sequence, however, are what the similarities are based on. As I mentioned, I have looked at some Solutrean artifacts (hundreds, in fact) and agree that they may resemble North American bifaces. But not just the oldest ones. In fact, I would argue that the Solutrean bifaces look more like late prehistoric bifaces such as from the Early Woodland and Mississippian horizons. Far more so than the early ones do. So, again, I suspect what we are dealing with is independant inventions at most.

Okay, I am noticing the time and I have other things to do this morning. I will get back with the so-called problems with the Bering Strait crossing. Suffice for now to say that the problems are inflated, there is plenty of evidence for this crossing, including observations from modern native North Americans (blood type, sinodont tooth pattern, oldest bones, etc.). And I am aware that I "should" do more to pull some of my research on this stuff together and publish over the next 10+ years. I have a lot and expect to come across much more, particularly if I do get the time to look at the Chinese stuff, or get to work there, plus various projects already on the go (including the Solutrean stuff). But believe it or not, this isn't really what I am most interested in doing. I have too many other things on my plate that I like more right now.
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Postby Removed user on December 13th, 2007, 11:56 am 

Another report at the site also talked of a much older (50,000 BP) “firepit” in South Carolina, (southeastern US, for our international readers). Of course, it’s easy to discount this one as a natural phenomenon. I myself have seen lightning-struck stumps smolder to a bed of ashes that resemble for all intents and purposes an old campfire. What is a little harder to explain is the presence of several types of burned woods in the "pit." One possible explanation, presented in the report, is akin to how many "bone beds" also form -- flooding.

http://www.livescience.com/history/topp ... 41118.html

As far as boats go, I still wonder how the first Australian peoples got to the continent. Thus, humans possibly could have had boat-building technology as early as 40,000 years ago. Of course, there’s a long stretch between “could have” and “did.”
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Postby Removed user on December 13th, 2007, 12:06 pm 

...to understand the production process, you have to collect and analyse all the broken off parts (i.e., flakes). Unfortunately very few past archaeologists (and far too many still today) did not collect these but only kept/keep the nicer, complete specimens for study and display.


This reminds me of paleontologists who keep large vertebrate bones for display while washing away all of the really important microfossil data that might have placed said bones into the context of an entire ecosystem. This is the main "bone" I have to pick with the "fossil hunters."
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Postby psionic11 on December 13th, 2007, 12:22 pm 

Great post, Forest. Unfortunate earlier archaelogists didn't exercise enough sleuthing skills to consider examining or collecting the chipped off pieces of rock used to make spearheads. A good deal of data lost there.

Quick question -- do polynesians share the sinodont tooth pattern with Bering Strait/North American specimens? (Do extreme South American natives have any significant biologicial differences from the northerners?)

=======

Hmm, talk about straying. In attempting to answer my own questions above, I've branched off into sinodonty, sundadonty, the Kennewick man, the Aleus and Kamchatka peoples, genetic drift, law of large numbers, founder effect, and roundabout to speciation. Funny how I keep gravitating towards these areas.
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Postby Forest_Dump on December 13th, 2007, 12:34 pm 

Again, a lot of linked themes here. The old Australian dates are in reference to the Mungo Lake cranium. Actually, a revisit to this site clarified the date in that the noggin was found on top of a stratum that was dated at around 40,000 B.P. It has since been interpreted as being deposited there by wind deflation of a sand dune. So the cranium is younger than the 40,000 date but how much is anyone's guess. Eric Trinkaus, who is interested in this one because the old date seems to be an anomaly with reference to the various "replacement models" (i.e., those that support the DNA data and the "bottleneck" idea) that he prefers. His suggestion is that the Mungo "coconut" could be as young as 20,000 which is in line with other dating revisions that have been going on.

Still, we do have the crossing to Australia during the Pleistocene and that did require crossing open water. However, for this crossing, the channel of interest was very narrow (you could see across to the other side) and relatively warm. In other words, you could do this crossing on a make-shift raft or even a drifiting log and perhaps even signal back. Quite a bit different than crossing the north Atlantic either by boat or walking on the ice.

The North Carolina site, I assume, is Topper (I didn't chase the link this time). There have been a lot of problems with this one including the dating and context and even questions as to whether the artifacts recovered were "real" or produced by other processes such as frost shatter and mega-fauna trampling. (There was recently a paper in the journal "American Antiquity" where captive elephants made the same kinds of artifacts just by walking on rocks.)

Believe it or not, I try to be very open to some of these ideas. A) I just don't find either the evidence or arguments to be very compelling and they seem to require a lot of compounding stretches that go: "if we can accept that...", or "if it was possible that.. then maybe we can speculate that...", etc. Just too much of a stretch still. B) Even if we could accept that some of these reputed sites are that early and from trans-Atlantic or Pacific crossings, we are still left with a kind of "so what?" position. These could have been just examples of a "Gilligan's Island" beached party that hung around for some years, perhaps even thousands of years, before "going under". As it sits now, these early colonists could as easily have been the ancestors of "Big Foot". There is nothing in the archaeological record to suggest that these early sites ever had any connection to either Fluted Point (e.g., Clovis) or Goshen (out west, early and localised, non-fluted or non-Clovis points) complexes.
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Postby Forest_Dump on December 13th, 2007, 1:53 pm 

Well, I have managed to fritter away most of the morning so I will have to be brief. In short, while there are problems with the idea of the Beringia crossing, these are not insurmountable. First, given that the consensus seems to be that one of the "replacement" models for the origins of amHs works best with the fossil and DNA evidence, we need to be cautious about looking at the timing of the peopling events since there is little reason, at this time, to put the emergence of amHs much before 50,000 and it could be later. Not really a problem unless you like some of the really old dates such as before 20,000 in North America (I don't).

Next, somehow you need to account for some of the similarities between native North Americans and the Pleistocene and modern populations of northeast Asia. Blood type distribution and the sinodont tooth pattern are two of the similarities pointed to but I will grant these could be coincidences (of course, I don't think so). The oldest North American skeletal remains are also consistent with a Beringia crossing if we allow that some of the differences could have come about later in time. Again, I don't see the problem.

The two main issues are getting people to Beringia and from Beringia into the continental US. From what I remember about the dating of the glacial maximum across eastern Asia, this could have happened before 27,000 or after 23,000 with the time in between more difficult because the ice ran right down to the ocean in between. Neither is really a problem and we are getting increased evidence that amHs was present up to the ice fronts during these times so either works. Beringia itself was, based on environmental reconstructions, a lovely place to live that would have been somewhat cool and wet with temperate winters. The biomass has been calculated to have been as good as or better than African savannas of today. This was because of the warm ocean currents that still flow north to there and the evidence is strong that western Alaska, Beringia and eastern Siberia were not glaciated (i.e., this was a refugium). And there is abundant evidence that other critters, including elephants, ungulates, bears, wolves, camels, horses, etc., made this crossing numerous times during the Pleistocene. We really have no problems putting people in western Alaska and we don't need to pose either a purposeful migration or a technology that isn't already demonstrated to have existed elsewhere. In fact, the migration rate has been estimated to be less than a mile per generation. In fact the only real problem is getting people from Alaska south and that is where we don't have any solid evidence.
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Postby Removed user on December 13th, 2007, 4:46 pm 

In fact the only real problem is getting people from Alaska south and that is where we don't have any solid evidence.


Glaciation aside, some of the problem with evidence may stem from the climate of the Pacific Northwest itself. While my sister in New Mexico can literally step off her front porch and stumble over thousand-year-old wooden artifacts, the climate here in western Oregon is such that fungi quickly consume most anything organic if it is left abandoned for more than a few years. There is a caveat to this -- a reservoir that I like to dive in has some stumps in 50+ feet of water that are simply enormous. While one rarely sees any signs of the big old-growth stumps that were logged in the past century on land, some of these are still preserved in the anaerobic depths of a few of the steep-valley reservoirs.
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Postby Forest_Dump on December 14th, 2007, 11:09 am 

Sorry Psionic I missed your post yesterday. Back to the Polynesians, eh? Well the colonisation of the Polynesian Islands happened relatively late relative to a lot of these processes. There were some very complex societies in Asia and North America by the time the islands were being occupied for the first time. From what I understand, the sinodont tooth pattern in Asia is found mostly among those we would today refer to as ethnic Mongolians, not who we would call ethnic Chinese from further south. While I don't know the full origins of the Polynesians, I very much doubt there was any connection with Mongolians and I would suspect that Polynesians were a separate population going well back into the Pleistocene.
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Postby Removed user on December 14th, 2007, 4:48 pm 

Forest_Dump wrote:While I don't know the full origins of the Polynesians, I very much doubt there was any connection with Mongolians and I would suspect that Polynesians were a separate population going well back into the Pleistocene.


I've read studies suggesting various origins for the Polynesian peoples. Melton et al. (1995, 1998) looked into a Taiwanese origin. Richards et al. (1998) thought an East Indonesian origin more likely.

I found this study quite convincing as it explains both:

"We postulate that Southeast Asia provided a genetic source for two independent migrations, one toward Taiwan and the other toward Polynesia."

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/15/8225.pdf

Lit Cited:

Melton T, Clifford S, Martinson J, Batzer M, Stoneking M. 1998. Genetic evidence for the proto-Austronesian homeland in Asia: mtDNA and nuclear DNA variation in Taiwanese aboriginal tribes. Am J Hum Genet 63:1807–1823

Melton T, Peterson R, Redd AJ, Saha N, Sofro AS, Martinson J, Stoneking M. 1995. Polynesian genetic affinities with Southeast Asian populations as identified by mtDNA analysis. Am J Hum Genet 57:403–414

Richards M, Oppenheimer S, Sykes B. 1998. mtDNA suggests Polynesian origins in eastern Indonesia. Am J Hum Genet. 63:1234–1236
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Forest_Dump on August 19th, 2009, 7:24 pm 

Well, I obviously had to dig deep to find a relevant thread (and I knew there was one).

The debate here has involved the assumption that hominid dispersals relatively early required the early use of boats and the prime example is often Australia since the waters are too deep to have afforded a land bridge of any kind during glacial periods. In checking some of this stuff, I found out about the Mata Menge site that produced stone tools and H. erectus dating around 800,000. This is on the Flores island (home of those "hobbits") and also separated from the mainland by a deep water straight. The interesting thing is that there were bones of a Stegodon trigonocephalus, an extinct elephant, in association. In this case, therefore, there must have been some kind of temporary land bridge such as sand or something because I am not sure I could explain how they got there.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Total Science on December 5th, 2009, 12:29 am 

"Some efforts have already been made in a number of fields to investigate the knowledge of tribal peoples and incorporate it into modern scientific explanations. Thor Heyerdahl was one of the first people to show, by repeating the event, that ancient peoples could well have traveled by sea to various parts of the globe. I think partially as a result of his voyages a small group of anthropologists have now allowed that Indians, instead of marching four abreast over the mythical Bering land bridge, might have come by boat on a bay and inlet basis from the Asian continent to North America. Recognizing that Indians may have been capable of building boats seems a minor step forward until we remember that for almost two centuries scientific doctrine required that Indians come by land because they were incapable of building rafts. Polynesian voyages of considerable distances have now been duplicated, giving credence to the idea that Hawaiian tales of sea voyages were not superstitious ways of discussing ocean currents. Critical in this respect is the fact that Hawaiians would not be believed until a white man had duplicated the feat." -- Vine Deloria Jr., historian, 1997
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby psionic11 on December 7th, 2009, 12:15 am 

Wow. "Mythical Bering land bridge." Hmm. Goes against everything I've studied so far.

My speculation is simply that in addition to the land bridge, that sea levels were sufficiently lowered in cool periods enough to allow migration of Polynesian humans to cross over from Asia to South America, or at the very least to Tahiti or the Easter Islands.

Twenty-two feet is a significant lowering of waters, mainly for exposing sandbars and volcanic islands...
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Forest_Dump on December 7th, 2009, 8:06 am 

Well, Vine Deloria was a well known native activist and his "history" was never very solid. In fact he was a kind of native creationist and didn't think much of science.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Total Science on December 10th, 2009, 9:09 pm 

psionic11 wrote:Wow. "Mythical Bering land bridge." Hmm. Goes against everything I've studied so far.

So if something goes against what you were taught it has to be wrong?

"You know we receive an education in the schools from books. All those books that people became educated from twenty-five years ago, are wrong now, and those that are good now, will be wrong again twenty-five years from now. So if they are wrong then, they are also wrong now, and the one who is educated from the wrong books is not educated, he is misled. All books that are written are wrong, the one who is not educated cannot write a book and the one who is educated, is really not educated but he is misled and the one who is misled cannot write a book that is correct." -- Edward Leedskalnin, stone mason, 1936

"Everything I'm gonna present to you was not in my textbooks when I went to school. And most of it was not even in my college textbooks. I'm a geophysicist and (all my earth science books) when I was a student I had to give the wrong answer to get an A. We used to ridicule continental drift. It was something we laughed at." -- Robert D. Ballard, oceanographer, May 2008
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Total Science on December 10th, 2009, 9:10 pm 

Forest_Dump wrote:Well, Vine Deloria was a well known native activist and his "history" was never very solid. In fact he was a kind of native creationist and didn't think much of science.

Why do you think scientists wouldn't believe Indians could sail across the Pacific until a white man was able to repeat it?
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Paralith on December 10th, 2009, 9:35 pm 

Total Science - none of those sources provide reliable evidence that the Bering Land Bridge never existed. If you are going to say anything further on the topic let it be that, and not side-tracked posts about other user's off hand comments. Current archeaological evidence suggests that the people who ultimately spread across the America's and left a significant trace got there originally via the land bridge, though they may have boated down the west coast once they were across. If you believe this is not true provide us with reliable evidence to the contrary.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Forest_Dump on December 10th, 2009, 10:09 pm 

I have been thinking about this one and I wonder what your point is supposed to be TS. I will add to your side, if I can. In eastern North America, there is this Maritime Archaic tradition. There is extremely good data that these people were fishing out on the open ocean early in the Holocene, maybe 8 9000 years ago. In fact, I would say there is evidence of boats in the Old World in the Late Pleistocene/Upper Paleolithic. I would be willing to bet whoever the first occupants were, they knew about boats.

Now, would it be possible that the first people to occupy North America came by boat? Sure. How many people coming by boat would it take to account for the occupation of North America? I don't think the variation, etc., could be accounted for in one couple (an Adam and Eve thing). Would anyone have a problem with suggesting it took at least a couple hundred people? (Most would say more but allow my point, please.) Now that is either one very big boat or a lot of little ones. You would think someone would have said something about the technology needed to build a big boat like a construction area, ship yard, etc. The little ones seem more plausible. So we must be talking about at least ten boats with 10-30-? people in each. And they kind of stuck together or spread out. If the latter then how many didn't make it? And the biggy, this takes a lot of effort and will to have set up and do. So why would they have done that? If it was an accident, what was with all those people in boats? We do know that the Pacific Ocean was colonised by boat and deliberately but that was only a few thousand years ago and we have lots of evidence. I don't see whether this could have really happened without some kind of evidence being out there somewhere. The theory is not really necessary or helpful in any way.

On the other hand, we do know that Beringia existed. There are theoretical lines of reasoning, indirect arguments (e.g., calculations on how much water was locked up in glacial ice, etc.) of course, but there is also lots of bones, etc., that have been dredged up. I do not know what problem Deloria had with Beringia (just have never heard the exact argument). If Beringia existed (and of course I don't really think it is an if but...) then is it unreasonable to say it was there for a long period of time? Long enough to walk across it? How about if Beringia was there for thousands of years and people were already up around there doing a bit of hunting and gathering. And the funny thing is, we have archaeological evidence that there were people up around that area (i.e., northeastern China and up into Russia) around 25-30,000 years ago and more. There is no reason why having the ancestors of First Nations people around that area, at some/any relevant time, doesn't look good.

The science/archaeology seems to be pretty solidly pointing one way. Why is that bad? What makes the alternative better? That I would really like to know.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Total Science on December 10th, 2009, 11:36 pm 

Paralith wrote:Total Science - none of those sources provide reliable evidence that the Bering Land Bridge never existed.

Is there any possible evidence I could show you that would change your mind?

What evidence have you provided that such a Land Bridge actually existed?

Current archeaological evidence suggests that the people who ultimately spread across the America's and left a significant trace got there originally via the land bridge, though they may have boated down the west coast once they were across. If you believe this is not true provide us with reliable evidence to the contrary.

What sources have you provided that suggest that to be the case?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 104010.htm

ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2004) — Radiocarbon tests of carbonized plant remains where artifacts were unearthed last May along the Savannah River in Allendale County by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old, meaning that humans inhabited North American long before the last ice age.

The findings are significant because they suggest that humans inhabited North America well before the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago, a potentially explosive revelation in American archaeology.
Goodyear, who has garnered international attention for his discoveries of tools that pre-date what is believed to be humans' arrival in North America, announced the test results, which were done by the University of California at Irvine Laboratory, Wednesday (Nov .17).

"The dates could actually be older," Goodyear says. "Fifty-thousand should be a minimum age since there may be little detectable activity left."


Irwin-Williams, C., et al., Comments on the Associations of Archaeological Materials and Extinct Fauna in the Valsequillo Region Puebla Mexico, American Antiquity, Volume 34, Number 1, Pages 82-83, Jan 1969

Szabo, B.J., Malde, H.E., and Irwin-Williams, C., Dilemma Posed By Uranium-Series Dates On Archaeologically Significant Bones From Valsequillo Puebla Mexico, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 6, Pages 237-244, Jul 1969

Steen-McIntyre, V., et al., Geologic Evidence for Age Deposits at Hueyatlaco Archaeological Site Valsequillo Mexico, Quaternary Research, Number 16, Pages 1-17, 1981

VanLandingham, S.L., Corroboration of Sangamonian Age of Artifacts From the Valsequillo Region Puebla Mexico By Means of Diatom Biostratigraphy, Micropaleontology, Volume 50, Number 4, Pages 313-342, 2004

VanLandingham, S.L., Diatom Evidence For Autocthonous Artifact Deposition In the Valsequillo Region Puebla Mexico During Sangamonian (sensu lato = 80,0000 to ca. 220,000 yr BP and Illinoian (220,000 to 430,000 yr BP)), Journal of Paleolimnology, Volume 36, Number 1, Pages 101-116, Jul 2006

Huddart, D., et al., Analysis of Preservation of Pleistocene Human and Animal Footprints: An Example From Toluquilla Valsequillo Basin (Central Mexico), Ichnos, Volume 15, Numbers 3-4, Pages 232-245, Jul 2008
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Paralith on December 11th, 2009, 12:27 am 

You should note the exact wording of my statement; I worded it that way specifically. The people who ultimately colonized the Americas and whose descendants now make up the indigenous people of the Americas got here via the land bridge, and they certainly left the largest and most significant archaeological footprint. That there are certain sites and artifacts which date to different times does suggest the possibility that isolated groups found their way to the Americas at other times and other ways, but whoever they were, it seems clear that they either did not last long or were outcompeted by or incorporated into the later more significant colonization event. But the Bering land bridge is not a myth and it's significance to the people of the Americas is extremely substantial. I've attached a paper that is largely a genetic analysis illustrating the demographic history of the people of the Americas, showing that genetically all the major Amerindian groups share a recent common ancestry that show evidence of a bottleneck and subsequent expansion at times consistent with the other bodies of evidence, but it contains references to the geological and archaeological evidence as well. It also clearly mentions the archaeological data from the references you provided above, and does not try to discount them.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby psionic11 on December 11th, 2009, 1:02 am 

Interesting links there.
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Re: Did Paleolithic humans boat to the New World?

Postby Forest_Dump on September 17th, 2014, 12:39 pm 

I just read an article on Kennewick man that relates to this topic in the latest (Sept 2014) issue of the Smithsonian. It seems there is an edited volume coming out on the scientific studies on the Kennewick skeleton including papers authored by a total of 48 scholars. The Smithsonian article discusses some of the legal background and fallout of the case but also presents some of the conclusions of the study. Unfortunately I find some of these to be questionable, particularly as they relate to this topic, so I thought I would present some of my concerns here.

The legal issue presented at the beginning of the paper seemed at first to me to be a little unrelated to the scientific matters but as I read further there seemed to be some spin at play. A long-standing issue has been whether Kennewick, dated to about 9000-8900 years ago (note this is post Clovis and after archaeological evidence is indisputable that the ancestors of Natives were here) was ancestral to any modern First Nations group. The conclusions presented in this paper is that Kennewick does not physically resemble modern FN people so much as some Asian peoples like Polynesians and the "mysterious" Ainu of Japan (I put "mysterious" in parentheses because I am not sure why they should be considered mysterious. After all, they are still around!) Furthermore, the paper seems to go out of its way to infer that Kennewick was some kind of seafaring person out of place in the interior of Washington state. I think this is more than a bit of a stretch.

First, as noted, the Kennewick skeleton is not that unusually old except for the completeness of the remains. I have (and in fact am) excavated sites that old or older so we actually know there were lots of people around. The pictures of the spear point embedded in Kennewick is grainy and unclear but certainly resembles similar projectile points from the Early Archaic that have been snapped through the notches, an inference supported by what appears to be a standard impact fracture at the tip.

The conclusion that Kennewick does not physically resemble modern First Nations people is also not really all that surprising but has been around for quite some time now. Studies I have read have all indicated that the few human remains from that time do not resemble modern First Nations people all that much but that the distinctive modern features of First Nations peoples appeared later, perhaps best likened to a kind of genetic drift. Kennewick and similarly or older dated human remains from North and South America as well as Asia appear to be members of a common physical type throughout Eurasia (including the Caucasus region - hence early descriptions as Caucasoid which was equated, wrongly, with Caucasian by white supremacists). The Ainu certainly most closely resemble this physical type and Polynesians could be taken to represent a less diverged "cousin" population.

Some of the other "spin" fits into this theme as well. The article mentions that the food eaten (from biochemical studies) was marine mammals and fish. The marine orientation merely suggests his seasonal round included the coast while of course the fish would include spawning salmon on Columbia River. Similarly the article suggests drinking glacial fed meltwater and implies the only (modern) source would have been Alaska. Really? It couldn't have come from glaciers still in the nearby Rockies? What about the remnant glaciers that would have been still around 9000 years ago, particularly in the high mountains right there?

So why the efforts to spin this so much? I think it is obvious the attempt is to de-emphasize the relationship to modern peoples for obvious political purposes. There has been obvious pressure from some vocal First Nations people to use archaeological remains to aid modern political agendas as well as a kind of retribution for past horrendous practises by anthropologists and archaeologists. Some First Nations people also adopt political and religious stances that are every bit as extremist, anti-science and even racist as anything we could encounter in the American south or the Middle East. So personally I find some of the things done to appease (some) First Nations religious beliefs, such as many of the reburials and repatriations under NAGPRA to be as problematic as the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban. But does this justify scientists adopting an equally problematic spin in the name of their approach? Without question Kennewick has a lot to tell us but then so do other more recent human remains. We need to find some kind of balance between the destruction of human remains and other archaeological evidence vs. wanton digging of potentially sensitive sites as has happened in the past by colonialists. I look forward to reading the book on Kennewick but I will also be very careful about looking for spin that might be more political than scientific in origin.
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