THE DENISOVANS 130,000 YEARS AGO
Researchers digging at the Cerutti Mastodon site, an archaeological site from the early late Pleistocene epoch near San Diego, California, found animal remains and stone tools that show the first humans were living in North America much earlier than previously thought.
A concentration of fossil bone and rock at the Cerutti Mastodon site: the unusual positions of the femur heads, one up and one down, broken in the same manner next to each other are unusual; mastodon molars are located in the lower right hand corner next to a large rock comprised of andesite which is in contact with a broken vertebra; upper left is a rib angled upwards resting on a granitic pegmatite rock fragment. Image credit: San Diego Natural History Museum. A concentration of fossil bone and rock at the Cerutti Mastodon site: the unusual positions of the femur heads, one up and one down, broken in the same manner next to each other are unusual; mastodon molars are located in the lower right hand corner next to a large rock comprised of andesite which is in contact with a broken vertebra; upper left is a rib angled upwards resting on a granitic pegmatite rock fragment. Image credit: San Diego Natural History Museum.
The Cerutti Mastodon site was discovered by San Diego Natural History Museum researchers in November 1992 during routine paleontological mitigation work.
This site preserves 131,000-year-old hammerstones, stone anvils, and fragmentary remains — bones, tusks and molars — of a mastodon (Mammut americanum) that show evidence of modification by early humans.
An analysis of these finds ‘substantially revises the timing of arrival of Homo into the Americas,’ according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature.
“This discovery is rewriting our understanding of when humans reached the New World,” said Dr. Judy Gradwohl, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Until recently, the oldest records of human activity in North America generally accepted by archaeologists were about 15,000 years old.
But the fossils from the Cerutti Mastodon site — named in recognition of San Diego Natural History Museum paleontologist Richard Cerutti, who discovered the site and led the excavation — were found embedded in fine-grained sediments that had been deposited much earlier, during a period long before humans were thought to have arrived on the continent.
“When we first discovered the site, there was strong physical evidence that placed humans alongside extinct Ice Age megafauna,” said lead co-author Dr. Tom Deméré, curator of paleontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
“Since the original discovery, dating technology has advanced to enable us to confirm with further certainty that early humans were here much earlier than commonly accepted.”
Since its initial discovery, the Cerutti Mastodon site has been the subject of research by top scientists to date the fossils accurately and evaluate microscopic damage on bones and rocks that authors now consider indicative of human activity.
In 2014, U.S. Geological Survey geologist Dr. James Paces used state-of-the-art radiometric dating methods to determine that the mastodon bones were 130,700 years old, with a conservative error of plus or minus 9,400 years.
“The distributions of natural uranium and its decay products both within and among these bone specimens show remarkably reliable behavior, allowing us to derive an age that is well within the wheelhouse of the dating system,” Dr. Paces said.
The finding poses a lot more questions than answers.
“Who were the hominins at work at this site? We don’t know. No hominin fossil remains were found. Our own species, Homo sapiens, has been around for about 200,000 years and arrived in China sometime before 100,000 years ago,” the researchers said.
“Modern humans shared the planet with other hominin species that are now extinct (such as Neanderthals) until about 40,000 years ago. If a human-like species was living in North America 130,000 years ago, it could be that modern humans didn’t get here first.”
“How did these early hominins get here? We don’t know. Hominins could have crossed the Bering Land Bridge linking modern-day Siberia with Alaska prior to 130,000 years ago before it was submerged by rising sea levels,” they said.
“For some time prior to 130,000 years ago, the Earth was in a glacial period during which water was locked up on land in great ice sheets. As a consequence, sea levels dropped dramatically, exposing land that lies underwater today.”
“If hominins had not already crossed the land bridge prior to 130,000 years, they may have used some form of watercraft to cross the newly formed Bering Strait as glacial ice receded and sea levels rose.”
“We now know that hominins had invented some type of watercraft before 100,000 years ago in Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean Sea area. Hominins using watercraft could have followed the coast of Asia north and crossed the short distance to Alaska and then followed the west coast of North America south to present-day California.”
“Although we are not certain if the earliest hominins arrived in North America on foot or by watercraft, recognition of the antiquity of the Cerutti Mastodon site will stimulate research in much older deposits that may someday reveal clues to help solve this mystery.”
(for larger size click image then click again)
Stone tools from the Cerutti Mastodon site: (a-d) anvil; (a) upper surface; boxes indicate images magnified in b-d; dashed rectangle, magnified in b, small dashed square, magnified in c and solid square, magnified in d; (b) cortex removal and impact marks (arrows); (c) striations (arrows) on the highest upper cortical surface ridge; (d) striations (diagonal arrows) and impact marks with step terminations characteristic of hammer blows (vertical arrows). (e–i) hammerstone; (e) impact marks; the box indicates the magnified images in g and h; (f) upper smoothed surface; (g) deep cracks and impact scars (arrows); (h) impact scars from g, showing results of three discrete hammerstone blows on an anvil (arrows); the large flake scar (central arrow) has a clear point of impact with radiating fissures; the small scar (right arrow) has a negative impact cone and associated scars and fissures preserved beneath a layer of caliche; (i) striations (arrows) and abrasive polish on upper cortical surface (near black North arrow in f). Scale bars - 5 cm (a), 2 cm (b, g, h), 1 mm (c, i), 2 mm (d), 10 cm (e, f). Image credit: Holen et al, doi: 10.1038/nature22065. Stone tools from the Cerutti Mastodon site: (a-d) anvil; (a) upper surface; boxes indicate images magnified in b-d; dashed rectangle, magnified in b, small dashed square, magnified in c and solid square, magnified in d; (b) cortex removal and impact marks (arrows); (c) striations (arrows) on the highest upper cortical surface ridge; (d) striations (diagonal arrows) and impact marks with step terminations characteristic of hammer blows (vertical arrows). (e–i) hammerstone; (e) impact marks; the box indicates the magnified images in g and h; (f) upper smoothed surface; (g) deep cracks and impact scars (arrows); (h) impact scars from g, showing results of three discrete hammerstone blows on an anvil (arrows); the large flake scar (central arrow) has a clear point of impact with radiating fissures; the small scar (right arrow) has a negative impact cone and associated scars and fissures preserved beneath a layer of caliche; (i) striations (arrows) and abrasive polish on upper cortical surface (near black North arrow in f). Scale bars – 5 cm (a), 2 cm (b, g, h), 1 mm (c, i), 2 mm (d), 10 cm (e, f). Image credit: Holen et al, doi: 10.1038/nature22065.
The authors also conducted experiments with the bones of large modern mammals, including elephants, to determine what it takes to break the bones with large hammerstones and to analyze the distinctive breakage patterns that result.
“It’s this sort of work that has established how fractures like this can be made,” said co-author Daniel Fisher, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology.
“And based on decades of experience seeing sites with evidence of human activity, and also a great deal of work on modern material trying to replicate the patterns of fractures that we see, I really know of no other way that the material of the Cerutti Mastodon site could have been produced than through human activity.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind this is an archaeological site,” added lead co-author Dr. Steve Holen, director of research at the Center for American Paleolithic Research.
“The bones and several teeth show clear signs of having been deliberately broken by humans with manual dexterity and experiential knowledge. This breakage pattern has also been observed at mammoth fossil sites in Kansas and Nebraska, where alternative explanations such as geological forces or gnawing by carnivores have been ruled out.”
The scientists also created 3D digital models of bone and stone specimens from the Cerutti Mastodon site.
“The models were immensely helpful in interpreting and illustrating these objects,” said co-author Dr. Adam Rountrey, collection manager at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology.
“We were able to put together virtual refits that allow exploration of how the multiple fragments from one hammerstone fit back together.”
“The 3D models helped us understand what we were looking at and to communicate the information much more effectively.”
STEVEN R. HOLEN, ET AL. 2017. A 130,000-year-old archaeological site in southern California, USA. Nature 544: 479-483; doi: 10.1038/nature22065
AND NOW THIS:
The prevailing consensus regarding "peopling of the world" usually circulates around the theory that the predecessors of modern humans originated in Africa. After that origin the early hominids hung around Africa for a few million years developing into more advanced types, eventually reaching such a point that they and their like began migrating out of Africa --- or possibly chased out --- into the rest of the world. That migration was done in small steps as one group pushed those ahead of them farther out or went around or over them. Amongst those very early migrations were two of the most successful groups, both groups evolving from early progenitors after having left Africa. One group, the Neanderthals, mainly migrated into present day Europe. Their little known counterparts, the Denisovans, primarily headed north-eastward ending up in Central Asia and a little more northward in Siberia with their most success going southeastward toward the Malay Peninsula and various landforms and islands southward therein.
Following in the footsteps of the Neanderthals and Denisovans a few thousand years later, were modern humans, or homo sapiens, who most likely emerged between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago in Africa and began fanning out into Central Asia around 50,000 years ago arriving in Europe about 40,000 years ago. As their numbers continued to grow, with their advanced weapons and better equipment in their toolkit, except for some minor inbreeding, as time has proven, they pretty much displaced or eliminated all members of the two earlier groups.
Although the above out of Africa migration scenario has it's critics and is constantly held up for review and modification, in a broad sense, overall it continues to stand the test of time --- largely because it is substantiated through fossil records, DNA tracking, etc. However, either critics or being up for review, the above scenario has proven to be accurate and strong enough time-after-time to eliminate down to zero any chance that even one member of the group who were responsible for the dissection of the mastodon as found at the Cerutti site in San Diego, California, was a homo sapien. As is easily determined homo sapiens, that is, modern humans, did not even emerge in Africa until 60,000 to 80,000 years ago, the mastodon dissection site is dated at 130,000 years ago, 60,000 years before homo sapiens even existed.
Basically everyone outside of Africa has some Neanderthal DNA. Modern Europeans contain on average around 1.2 per cent Neanderthal DNA, a modern Asian about 1.4 per cent, Native Americans 0.2 per cent, with Africans having almost none. The Native American and Indians that inhabit North and South America minor amounts of Neanderthal DNA came about because they are descendants of people who, in migrating out of Africa, passed through Neanderthal inhabited regions, i.e., the Middle East. The migration to the Americas happened long after they acquired that Neanderthal admixture. It should be noted small amounts of Neanderthal DNA does show up in Africa, however, most likely due to back-migration of people from Eurasia, however hominid ancestors of humans such as australopithecines and Neanderthals have never been found in the New World.
Modern humans, except for one group, show very little Denisovan DNA. That exception, as shown on the graphic above, is found in a large swath of the globe sweeping down from central-eastern China into the southern hemisphere in an area given the name Oceania. Native Australians, New Guineans and Filipinos, and to a lesser extent Polynesians and west Indonesian islanders, carry up to 8 per cent of the genome --- although it should be pointed out, again as shown on the graphic, that some nearby East Indonesian populations have practically no Denisovan DNA, either because of not being there during the Denisovan migration or being beyond the far western edge of it. The line dips below the Hawaiian Islands leaving it excluded for much the same reason. The argument of the day, at least by some, is that Denisovan DNA was not just carried to Oceania by modern humans, but instead, they themselves were actually living there when modern humans showed up.
Notice on the graphic the area circled in red indicating high Denisovan frequency, sweeps across the southern Pacific into South America with two areas of heavy concentration marked. As it just so happens some, but not all Native American populations, contain a strong presence of Australo-Melanesian ancestry, especially among enough South American populations to be noticeable. On the same graphic, albeit outside the high frequency area, there are only two places in all of North and Central America that have sufficiently high levels of Denisovan to be marked. One is the Mayan on the Yucatan peninsula, the other along the northern Sonoran coast of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, an area that just happens to be less than 500 miles south of San Diego. Not shown on the map and almost as close are the Pericúes of Baja California, an extinct ethnographic group that lived on the tip of Baja and considered distinct from other North American indigenous groups.(see)
The following, as found in The Curandero and the Magic of the Mojave Desert Creosote Ring, is highly related to the San Diego located Cerutti Mastodon Site and the Denisovans as being the first humans in North America:
"The curandero, with forbearers springing from the pre-history of Mesoamerica, had as well, a centuries old unwavering blood-line on both the Spanish and Native American side, leading straight back into the past to ancestors who worked directly for the Franciscan Father, Junipero Serra, during the period Serra was establishing and building the Alta California mission system. Most of his ancestor's efforts circulated around the first of the missions, Mission Basilica San Diego Alcala, and in doing so, as peons, they were not much more than lower level worker bees, doing a lot of the early grunt work digging, cutting, gathering, transporting, moving, and making materials needed in the actual construction and building of the mission.
"In the process of that grunt work one of his ancestors, a low ranking member of a work team, was sent out with a group to scout for useful materials and such needed for completion of the mission. In an attempt to cross or find a way around a low-lying marsh or swamp-like area formed around the outlet of the present-day named Sweetwater River where it empties into the San Diego Bay, the work crew came across a remarkable discovery."
"As the scenario played out, the crew stumbled upon human skeletal remains composed of at least two people, including two skulls, one close to being fully intact, the other with enough pieces it could be reassembled into one. The military officer in charge was seemingly astute enough to recognize the skulls as being quite ancient and inherently different enough from the typical human skulls, and especially so Indian skulls he was familiar with, to bring the difference to the attention of mission authorities and did so by presenting said authorities with the intact skull. Rather than being commended, the leader of the crew, apparently a learned man of letters, after a heated argument with mission hierarchy, was said to have been put to death and the rest of the men beaten, being told what they saw and spoke of was blaspheme or worse.
"In due time the skull found by the officer was sent overland to Mexico City, but, according to how the curandero told the story, somewhere in the middle of the vast wasteland that stretches eastward out across the desert between the Yuma crossing at the Colorado River but before reaching the Mission San José de Tumacácori located several miles north of Nogales, those responsible for the skull's safe keeping was attacked by a group of unidentified marauders. Investigators or trackers sent by the church in the aftermath of the attack were unable to find any traces or signs of the raiders or the skull, the skull and all associated trappings having vanished into the sands of the Arizona desert."
That is, until 178 years later when the following happened as found at the source so cited:
"In a remote section of the desert southwest, bordering along the upper reaches of the northern mountains, an artifact of deep concern and value to certain segments of the long established indigenous population had been stumbled upon by a ragtag group of grave-robbers and, in turn, stolen from a heretofore unknown to outsiders sacred site. The artifact, although nondescript under almost any layperson's observation, was said to be a potential mind-changer in Native American lore if it surfaced among the general public."(source)
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
MAYAN RUINS AND THE SPRING EQUINOX
VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST
MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
THE INCIDENT AT SUPAI
A SHAMANIC JOURNEY OUTSIDE THE TRADITION
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WE DO NOT HAVE SHAMANS
The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures
ON THE RAZOR'S
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