A team of researchers from Université de Montréal’s Department of Anthropology have recently determined that ancient humans might have arrived and subsequently settled in North America earlier than previously thought. Animal bones with cut marks discovered in Canada and later analyzed by the researchers points to the theory that ancient humans first arrived in North America approximately 24,000 years ago from Russia, through the Bering, ending up in Alaska.
Prior to the researchers’ latest findings, scientists believed ancient humans first built their settlements in North America roughly 14,000 years ago.
Ancient Animal Bones and Their Story
The site where the ancient bones were discovered was first excavated in 1977. Over the course of ten years, Jacques Cinq-Mars discovered multiple animal remains in the Bluefish Caves, northern Yukon, Canada with cut marks. Upon subjecting the remains to a dating technique called radiocarbon dating, the scientists hypothesized humans first settled in North America as far back as 30,000 years ago.
The cut marks were most likely made by stone tools which were used to skin the animals, concluded the researchers. However, because no other archaeological site gave out similar findings before, the theory that humans arrived much earlier to North America than previously thought was subjected to intense debates over the years.
In order to put the matter to bed, the researchers led by Professor Ariane Burke analyzed the 36,000-year-old bones for two years. The remnants included mammoth, caribou, horse, and bison bones, and almost all of them had cut marks on them. The analysis revealed undeniable traces of human activity (hunting) in 15 samples.
Radiocarbon dating was used again, confirming the initial results which showed that the animal bones were 23,000 to 24,000 years old. The oldest sample was a horse mandible with cut marks on it. Researchers believe the marks were most likely left by a stone tool used to remove the horse’s tongue. Furthermore, the latest findings confirm the “Beringian standstill hypothesis” which refers to genetic isolation. Nevertheless, how humans managed to cross from Russia to their new home filled with glaciers is still to be understood. Some believe there was an ice-free route the humans took to reach North America, known as the Bering Land Bridge. However, others believe the passage was lacking crucial resources needed to survive the trip and believe the first inhabitants must have found an alternative route along the Pacific coast.
Image Source: Flickr