Humans in North America 30,000 years ago

Stenen werktuigen uit de Chiquihuitegrot: a. kern, b-e. schilfers; f-j. klingen; k-o. punten. © Ardelean et al, doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2509-0

Stone tools excavated from a cave in central Mexico reveal that humans may have reached the Americas more than 15,000 years earlier than previously thought. DNA analysis of the sediment  around the tools dates human occupation of the site to 25,000-30,000 years ago. This challenges the commonly held theory that the Clovis people were the first human inhabitants of the Americas around 15,000 years ago.

The recent excavations took place at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude site in the Astillero Mountains in northern Mexico. The tools corroborate previous findings which push back human inhabitation in the area possibly as early as 33,000–31,000 years ago. The excavations uncovered a total of 1,930 tools, including spear tips, scrapers and fine blades which were probably used to cut meat.

Location of the Chiquihuite Cave in Mexico

According to Dr. Ciprian Ardelean, an archaeologist at the University of Zacatecas, “These early visitors didn’t occupy the cave continuously, we think people spent part of the year there using it as a winter or summer shelter, or as a base to hunt during migration. We don’t know who they were, where they came from or where they went. They are a complete enigma” he added.

“We falsely assume that the indigenous populations in the Americas today are direct descendants from the earliest Americans, but now we do not think that is the case. By the time the famous Clovis population entered America, the very early Americans had disappeared thousands of years before.” 

The research findings were published in the journal Nature


Text     Alun Harvey


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