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Latest discovery pushes America's history back by 1,000 years

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

American history has just been pushed back 1,000 years after a recent excavation operation conducted in Florida by scientists.

According to Indian Express, a team of anthropologists, led by Jessi J Halligan and Michael R Waters, embarked upon the project in 2012. It involved excavating a part of the bedrock underlying the Aucilla river in Florida and digging out bone and stone artefacts which, according to them, was deposited 14,500 years ago. They published the results in the journal, Science Advances, on 13 May, 2016.

Until now, archaeologists and anthropologists were of the opinion that Clovis people were the first inhabitants of North America. Clovis is a town in New Mexico.

According to the Indian Express, evidence of the Clovis culture dates back to approximately 13,000 years ago and had been discovered in the 1920s and '30s, but recent findings from the excavations made in Florida make a strong case for a pre-Clovis human habitation in America.

Evidence that changes history

Archaeologists James Dunbar and palaeontologist David Webb had, in the 1980s, discovered human artefacts on the site that goes by the name Page-Ladson in Florida, coming across a tusk of a mastodon (extinct species distantly related to elephants), which had been scarred by sharp stone knives. The archaeologists estimated the tusk to belong to a period approximately 14,400 years ago. However, in the face of insufficient evidence, the finding was challenged and the site "relegated to an ambiguous status".

Halligan and Waters returned to the Page-Ladson site in 2012, with the aim of unearthing evidence strong enough to prove that human life in America definitely existed 14,000 years back. They dug out layers of sediments, each layer older than the previous one. By the time they reached the layer dated 14,500 years back, they uncovered materials which could only have been associated with humans. These included five sharpened rocks which were transported from outside the region and a double sided stone knife. On corroborating this evidence with the tusk discovered by Dunbar and Webb, they reached the conclusion that human life existed in Florida much before the Clovis culture.

Further evidence includes previously discovered butchered megafaunal (giant animals) bones. Evidence of domesticated dog remains were also found earlier. However, this has still not been confirmed, reported the Indian Express.

Conclusion made by the anthropologists

As reported by Halligan, Waters and their team of anthropologists, "At Page-Ladson, hunter-gatherers, possibly accompanied by dogs, butchered or scavenged a mastodon carcass at the sinkhole's edge next to a small pond at ~14,550 cal yr B.P. These people had successfully adapted to their environment; they knew where to find freshwater, game, plants, raw materials for making tools, and other critical resources for survival," quoted the Indian Express.

The anthropologists believe that with this new finding, they can confidently say that human habitation existed in America about 15,000 years ago. Evidence of this theory, though sparse, surely does exist.

First published: 17 May 2016, 1:07 IST