Finds in an underwater sinkhole in Florida add to the prehistory of the Americans with human populations shown to be living here 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Humans in present day U.S. 1,000 years before previously thought
In the 80’s, former Navy Seal, Buddy Page, discovered the sinkhole while diving the Aucilla River. It took very little time for archaeologists to take an interest in the site and when they discovered a mastodon tusk clearly cut by the hands of humans that dated to 14,500 years past for some reason the find was dismissed. It was largely believed that humans never lived in the Americas until 13,500 years ago and that understanding was used to rubbish the claims made in the 80s, seemingly, out of hand.
However, a new find from the sinkhole that includes stone tools, which was recently detailed in the journal Science Advances has changed the date on the arrival of humans in the Americas.
Said humans arrived from Asia via a land bridge that made a walkable path to modern day Alaska. Migration beyond that was limited given the ice sheets that covered the entirety of the region and effectively hemmed in the “first Americans.”
The Clovis people, as these new arrivals were known, waited out the ice and when the thaw came, which opened a corridor to the middle of the continent, they were quickly on their way.
In the mind of archeologists, any suggestion of pre-Clovis existence on the continent was dismissed out of hand in the 1980s.
Speaking to that time, “you were a complete quack if you thought there were pre-Clovis sites in the Americas. You were clearly presenting flawed data in some way, shape, or form,” Jessi Halligan recently said co-principal investigator and first author, upon the publication of the team’s findings last Friday.
The Page-Ladson site, as the underwater sinkhole is more specifically named, and the recent find vindicates the archaeologists that suggested pre-Clovis life in the 1980s.
First Americans – The find forces a rethink
This new find was by no means an easy task to pull off with few archeologist having the dive chops required to properly examine the site.
The most recent find uncovered stone tools with one knife among them dating to 14,550 years ago.
This find “adds another important data point to our story of the first Americans,” says co-principal investigator of the report, Michael Waters.
In addition to reexamining the mastodon tusk with human-made markings, finding the stone tools, the investigators also had some fun playing with mastodon dung which helped them date the sediment layers where the tools were found.
“When mastodons and other large bodied herbivores were abundant, so was their dung,” study co-author Daniel Fisher, director of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of Michigan, said on Friday at the press event that was held in conjunction with the publication of the paper.
The researchers focused on finding spores of the fungus that grew on the dung.
“The concentration of these spores within sediment layers drops dramatically about 2,000 years after the time of the Page-Ladson mastodon, suggesting that this is when the dung of large herbivores finally became too rare for the dung fungus to persist,” Dr. Fisher says.
This sh*t study suggests that mastodons and other megafauna went extinct about 2,000 years after the arrival of humans. While there is no definitive evidence that humans hunted them to extinction, they certainly played a part. Other theories put climate change as primarily responsible for the extinction of the mastodon and others.
“We have many of the bones of the mastodon but we don’t have an unambiguous spear point found embedded in the rib area of the mastodon or anything like that,” Halligan says.