An image of an archaeological site showing mammoth bones in North America. Depositphotos.

New Evidence Places Humans in North America At Least 37,000 Years Ago

A site in New Mexico where mammoth bones have been found is now believed to offer the most compelling pieces of evidence for early humans in North America around 37,000 years ago.


According to an archaeological site in New Mexico, humans settled in North America much earlier than previously believed.

It is rare for a body of evidence to be collected in one location, but the researchers found a wealth of it. Bone flake knives with worn edges, fossils with blunt-force fractures, and signs of controlled fire appear in the collection. It is one of North America’s oldest known human settlement sites, dating back 36,250 to 38,900 years based on carbon dating analysis of the collagen extracted from mammoth bones.

“What we’ve got is amazing,” revealed lead author Timothy Rowe, a paleontologist and a professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. “It’s not a charismatic site with a beautiful skeleton laid out on its side. It’s all busted up. But that’s what the story is.”

Mammoths and humans are not usually the subjects of Rowe’s research. Basically, the bones were found in his backyard, as revealed by UT News. In 2013, Rowe’s neighbor spotted a tusk weathering on the hillslope of his property in New Mexico.

Upon investigating, Rowe discovered a mammoth skull that had been bashed in and other bones that appeared to have been deliberately broken. The site appeared to be used for butchering.

Early human sites are, however, surrounded by uncertainty. The distinction between what was shaped by nature and what was shaped by humans can be notoriously difficult.

As a result of this uncertainty, anthropologists have debated when humans first settled in North America.

The Clovis culture left behind stone-wrought tools dating to 16,000 years ago.

The evidence becomes subjective at older sites without stone tools, according to retired Texas State University Professor Mike Collins, who ran research at Gault, a site near Austin where many Clovis and pre-Clovis artifacts have been found.

A lab analysis of samples from the mammoth site revealed several supporting evidence, despite the absence of clearly associated stone tools.

An X-ray CT scan carried out by the University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility revealed bone flakes with microscopic fracture networks similar to those found in newly knapped cow bones and punctures that drained grease from vertebral bones and ribs.

“There really are only a couple efficient ways to skin a cat, so to speak,” Rowe said. “The butchering patterns are quite characteristic.”

Furthermore, chemical analyses of sediments around the bones revealed that the fire particles were not caused by wildfires or lightning strikes but rather by sustained burning. Pulverized bone and the burned remains of small animals were also present at the site (even though it is over 200 feet from the nearest river), along with birds, rodents, and lizards.

The Clovis and a pre-Clovis society with a different genetic lineage in North America have been proposed by some scientists based on genetic evidence from Indigenous populations in South and Central America and artifacts from other archaeological sites.

This theory may be supported by the New Mexico site, which has a relatively adolescent age and bone tools instead of elaborate stone tools. In addition to adding to a growing body of evidence for pre-Clovis societies in North America, Collins said the study provides a toolkit that can help other researchers uncover evidence that may have been overlooked otherwise.

“Tim has done excellent and thorough work representing frontier research,” Collins said. “It’s forging a path that others can learn from and follow.”

Experts firmly believe that from Northeast Asia, the Clovis people arrived in North America via Chukotka and the Bering Strait, which was then frozen.

The only Clovis culture skeleton found so far is that of a 1-year-old boy. According to DNA tests, he had Asian ancestry.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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