Finding of mastodon bones may rewrite story of humans in Americas

Researchers also discovered five massive stones at the site, which they believe humans may have used as hammers or anvils.

The best-known and controversial archaeological claims for early human entry into the Americas are from the Calico Hills in California (originally thought to be 80,000-50,000 years old or even older), Pedra Furada in Brazil (40,000-20,000 years old) and Old Crow in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

In this April 28, 1993 photo provided by the San Diego Natural History Museum, a bulldozer refills the Cerutti Mastodon site, after the excavation and salvage of fossils. It's not believed that the humans killed the animal, however. They weren't hand-crafted tools, Demere said. The knowledge of such technology would therefore be known to the pre-historic American settlers and would explain why they only focused on the large useful bones. Vance Holliday of the University of Arizona in Tucson said the paper shows the bones could have been broken the way the authors assert, but they haven't demonstrated that's the only way. "The suggestion is that this site is strictly for breaking bone", said Deméré, "to produce blank material, raw material to make bone tools or to extract marrow".

According to Holen, however, the team has "made a very good case that this is an archaeological site", and is "quite prepared for the firestorm that's coming".

"This site really nails it because the evidence is really clear".

"This is a whole new ball game", said Steve Holen, the paper's lead author who co-directs the Center for American Paleolithic Research. There's no evidence nearby of other tools with sharp edges. The dominant theory for decades was that the first people came to North America over the Bering Land Bridge between Russian Federation and Alaska when water levels were much lower during the Ice Age, about 13,000 years ago.

"The evidence from the Cerutti Mastodon site has been rigorously researched and presented, and might be more hard to refute, even though the proposed hominin narrative derived from these data has some gaping holes that need filling", Erella Hovers, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes in a commentary on the study. "I don't think this is the last word". "I was skeptical myself", he says.

Holen said that finding human remains from the period at the Cerutti site but also anywhere else in the U.S.is unlikely. Or is there a long, but as of yet, scarcely recognized presence of humans in this hemisphere? "There's still some information missing". Other proposed hypotheses, such as trampling, weather, and modification of eating habits, do not match the observations, as no carnivores at the time were able to break those bones without help.

The researchers are confident that under careful examination, other scientists will come to the same conclusions.

"When we first discovered the site, there was strong physical evidence that placed humans alongside extinct Ice Age megafauna", said lead co-author Dr. Tom Deméré, curator of paleontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the museum's mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico; and to inspire in all people respect for the environment.

  • Joe Gonzales