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Humans Arrived in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

Humans arrived in the Americas 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, boffins claim. (Image courtesy: Google)

According to the recent study, humans may have stepped into North America about 10,000 years earlier than believed previously.

Earliest settlement date of North America till now was estimated at 14,000 years before present (BP) and is now estimated at 24,000 BP. It was around at the height of the last ice age or Last Glacial Maximum.

Researchers from the University of Montreal (UdeM) in Canada have made their discovery by use of artifacts from the Bluefish Caves which were located over the banks of the Bluefish river in northern Yukon near the Alaska border.

Researchers found animal bones in the Bluefish Caves of Canada which revealed cut-marks. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Researchers found animal bones in the Bluefish Caves of Canada which revealed cut-marks. (Image courtesy: Google)

Radiocarbon Dating of Samples:

Site was excavated by the archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977 and 1987. Based on the radiocarbon dating of the animal bones, researchers made the bold hypothesis that human settlement in the region dated as far back as 30,000 BP.

In case of absence of other sites of similar age, Cinq-Mars hypothesis which has remained highly controversial in the scientific community, there were no evidence that the presence of horse, mammoth, bison and caribou bones in the Bluefish caves was due to humans activity.

For setting up the record straight, Lauriane Bourgeon from UdeM has examined about 36,000 bone fragments being culled from the site and preserved at the Canadian museum of History in Gatineau.

It was an enormous undertaking which took her two years to complete.

Comprehensive analysis of certain pieces at UdeM’s Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory has showed undeniable traces of the human activity in 15 bones. About 20 other fragments has also showed probable traces of same type of activity.

Ariane Burke who is a professor at UdeM says, “Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals. These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans.” Bourgeon has submitted the bones for further radiocarbon dating.

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Oldest fragment, a horse mandible is showing the marks of the stone tool which are apparently used for removing the tongue.

It was radio-carbon dated at 19,650 years which is equivalent to between 23,000 and 24,000 cal BP (calibrated years before present).

Burke says, “Our discovery confirms previous analyses and demonstrates that this is the earliest known site of human settlement in Canada. It shows that Eastern Beringia was inhabited during the last ice age.”

Beringia is a vast region which is stretching from the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories to the Lena River in Russia.

According to Burke, studies in population genetics have shown that a group of few thousand individuals has lived in isolation from the rest of the world in Beringia 15,000 to 24,000 years ago.

She adds, “Our discovery confirms the ‘Beringian standstill (or genetic isolation) hypothesis’. Genetic isolation would have corresponded to geographical isolation.

During the Last Glacial Maximum, Beringia was isolated from the rest of North America by glaciers and steppes too inhospitable for human occupation to the West.”

Study was published online in the Journal PLOS ONE.

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