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First humans in North America lived around the Chesapeake Bay?

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Intriguing article in the Washington Post by Brian Vastag:

When the crew of the Virginia scallop trawler Cinmar hauled a mastodon tusk onto the deck in 1970, another oddity dropped out of the net: A dark, tapered stone blade, nearly eight inches long and still sharp.

Forty years later, this rediscovered prehistoric slasher has reopened debate on a radical theory about who the first Americans were and when they got here.

Archaeologists have long held that North America remained unpopulated until about 15,000 years ago, when Siberian people walked or boated into Alaska and down the West Coast.

But the mastodon relic turned out to be 22,000 years old, suggesting the blade was just as ancient.

Whoever fashioned that blade was not supposed to be here.

Its makers likely paddled from Europe and arrived in America thousands of years ahead of the western migration, argues Smithsonian Institution anthropologist Dennis Stanford, making them the first Americans.

“I think it’s feasible,” said Tom Dillehay, a prominent archaeologist at Vanderbilt University. “The evidence is building up and it certainly warrants discussion.”

At the height of the last Ice Age, Stanford says, mysterious stone-age European people known as the Solutreans paddled along an ice cap jutting into the North Atlantic. They lived like Inuits, harvesting seals and seabirds.

The Solutreans eventually spread across North America, Stanford argues, hauling their distinctive blades with them.

When Stanford proposed this “Solutrean hypothesis” in 1999, colleagues roundly rejected it. One prominent archaeologist suggested Stanford was throwing his career away.

But now, 13 years later, Stanford and Exeter University archaeologist Bruce Bradley lay out a detailed case – bolstered by the curious blade and other stone tools recently found in the mid-Atlantic – in a new book, Across Atlantic Ice .

“I drank the Solutrean Kool-aid,” said Steve Black, an archaeologist at Texas State University in San Marcos. “I had been very dubious. It’s something a lot of [archaeologists] have dismissed out of hand. But I came away from the book feeling like it’s an extremely credible idea that needs to be taken seriously.”

Other experts remain unconvinced. “Anyone advancing a radically different hypothesis must be willing to take his licks from skeptics,” said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Stone tools recovered from five mid-Atlantic sites are at the core of Stanford’s case. Two of the sites lie on Chesapeake Bay islands, suggesting the Solutreans settled Delmarva early on. Blades, anvils and other tools found by Smithsonian research associate Darrin Lowery were stuck in soil at least 20,000 years old.

Displaying some of the tools in his office at the National Museum of Natural History, Stanford handles a milky chert blade and says, “This stuff is beginning to give us a real nice picture of occupation of the Eastern Shore around 20,000 years ago.”

Further, the Eastern Shore blades strongly resemble those found at dozens of stone-age Solutrean sites in Spain and France, Stanford says. “We can match each one of 18 styles up to the sites in Europe.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 February 2012 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Books, Science

3 Responses

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  1. Interesting discovery. Maybe the peoples that crossed the land bridge in Asia and threw Alaska where not the first peoples in the America’s. Could it be that Europeans arrived some seven thousand years earlier? Kind of throws a monkey wrench into the current information that we have. So maybe like many native americans this list also includes Europeans.


    Cory Bolin

    6 March 2012 at 8:03 pm

  2. Some form of the Solutrean hypothesis now looks almost inescapable. It would have been virtually impossible for Asians to reach the American heartland before the Bolling interstadial of ca. 14,500 years ago. Yet the Delmarva finds, plus Cactus Hill and Meadowcroft (and some others), are thousands of years older than that. In fact, it is highly likely that Europeans reached the Americas as long ago as 35,000 BP (see Roots of Cataclysm, Algora Publ. NY 2009). But do not expect the old guard (Clovis Police) to go away. Their entire careers have been built on the passe assumptions.


    Richard Welch

    21 March 2012 at 9:46 pm

  3. In an individual, the fight between ideology and evidence is almost always a victory for ideology. We see it a lot in politics, but it’s evident in science as well—the tectonic plate theory was finally accepted (and now seems obvious) long after the originator’s death of old age, and when antiseptic methods came in it was necessary to wait one generation for the older surgeons, who refused to wash their hands and follow antiseptic procedures, to die off: they would not accept evidence because it conflicted with their beliefs. Indeed, I just blogged yesterday of a similar incident.



    22 March 2012 at 5:24 am

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