Fossil finds with fractures and signs of controlled fire reveal.
The slaughter of mammoths and one of the oldest known sites marked by the footprint of ancient humans in North America .
A site in New Mexico offers some of the most compelling evidence that humans settled in North America much earlier than conventionally thought.
At the site of a mammoth slaughter , researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found fossils with blunt force fractures, bone flake knives with worn edges, and signs of controlled fire.
And thanks to carbon dating analysis on collagen extracted from mammoth bones , the site also has an established age of 36,250 to 38,900 years, making it one of the oldest known sites marked by the imprint of ancient humans in North America.
“What we have is incredible,” lead author Timothy Rowe, a paleontologist and professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement. “It’s not a charismatic site with a beautiful skeleton on the side. It’s all busted up. But that’s the story.” The findings were published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution .
Uncertainty about human origin
The deposit was located in 2013, but there was uncertainty about its human origin. It can be notoriously difficult to determine what was shaped by nature compared to human hands.
This uncertainty has led to a debate in the anthropological community about when humans first arrived in North America. The Clovis culture, dating back 16,000 years, left behind elaborate carved stone tools. But at older sites where stone tools are absent, the evidence becomes more subjective.
Although New Mexico’s gigantic butchered mammoth site lacks any clearly associated stone tools, Rowe and his co-authors uncovered a variety of supporting evidence by subjecting samples from the site to scientific analysis in the laboratory.
Among other findings, CT scans taken by the University of Texas High-Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography Facility revealed bone flakes with networks of microscopic fractures similar to those of freshly cut cow bones and well-placed puncture wounds that they would have helped drain fat from ribs and vertebral bones.
“There are really only a couple of efficient ways to skin a cat, so to speak,” Rowe said. “The killing patterns are quite characteristic.”
Two founding populations
Furthermore, chemical analysis of the sediment surrounding the bones showed that the fire particles came from a sustained, controlled burn, not from lightning or a wildfire. The material also contained pulverized bones and burned remains of small animals, mostly fish (although the site is more than 200 feet above the nearest river), but also birds, rodents, and lizards.
Based on genetic evidence from indigenous populations in South and Central America and artifacts from other archaeological sites, some scientists have proposed that North America had at least two founding populations: Clovis and a pre-Clovis society with a different genetic lineage.
The researchers suggest that the New Mexico site, with its age and bone tools rather than elaborate stone technology, may support this theory.
(With information from Europe Press)