The question of when ancient humans first set foot in the Americas remains open to anthropologists. The current long-standing theory suggests that this happened around 13,000 years ago. A new study involving radiocarbon dating of bones has revealed that settlements may have already existed 20,000 years earlier.
Everything you should know about the new evidence about the first humans in the Americas
1. Scientists made a new discovery while studying the origins of agriculture in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico. The researchers wanted to establish when humans first settled in Coxcatlan Cave.
2. To find the answer, researchers sent samples from the bones of a rabbit and a deer that were found in the cave in the 1960s for radiocarbon dating. It is curious that the researchers spent over a year in search of these bones. The artifacts from the research projects in the 60s were distributed to museums around the Americas. Once they located them, they were allowed to take only miniature samples from the bones.
3. The results were unexpected. Dating has shown that the bones were between 33,448 and 28,279 years old.
4. This new evidence casts doubt on the theory that the first settlers arrived in North America via the Bering Bridge 13,000 years ago.
5. Finding out the age of the bones, however, is not sufficient evidence to re-write the history of human migration. Scientists now have further plans for research that should shed light on the chronology of the region.
6. The direction of the work will be focused on two things. The first one will be a study of the bottom layer of the cave in search of human links. A good example would be ancient stone tools.
7. Researchers have already found objects that could possibly have been used as stone tools but those have not yet been confirmed.
8. Also, anthropologists should search for evidence of cut marks on the bones. For some reason, this aspect has not been studied yet and if they find marks that suggest the animals were processed by stone tools, it would confirm the theory.
9. If it ever is confirmed that the first humans in North America arrived more than 30,000 years ago, it would not only re-write history but also raise countless new questions. For instance, it would mean that humans were already there before the worst period of the last Ice Age.
10. Life in most of the territory of North America would have been impossible. Also, the glaciers would have blocked all the possible passages from North America which would mean that the first humans did not arrive on foot. As scientists described it, perhaps they used boats down the Pacific coast. How incredible would that be if it were true?
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• McRae, M. (n.d.). Shock Discovery Suggests Humans Were in The Americas 20,000 Years Earlier Than Thought. ScienceAlert.
• Phys.org. (2021, June 2). New evidence may change timeline for when people first arrived in North America.
• Somerville, A. D., Casar, I., & Arroyo-Cabrales, J. (2021, May 19). New AMS Radiocarbon Ages from the Preceramic Levels of Coxcatlan Cave, Puebla, Mexico: A Pleistocene Occupation of the Tehuacan Valley?: Latin American Antiquity. Cambridge Core.