Early Human Footprints

30 Nov 2011

One of the most controversial archaeological sites in North America is in the Mojave desert of California, in the low hills of the Calico Mountains. It displays evidence for the presence of tool making humans from at the latest, 200,000 years ago (see http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/unsettled-age-for-american-early... abd www.calicodig.org/text/16 ). A few years ago they were arguing that Clovis were the first people in the Americas and now .... well, the controversy revolves around the authenticity of lithic artifacts and the age of the deposit in which they were found. It seems that some 11,000 chert tools and flakes from making them have been found in a quarry. Trenches and pits have been dug out to establish some clarity but what is clear, geologically, the site is very old. The pits are some ten m deep and the tools themselves are found in an alluvium deposit that has been cemented to virtually rock like hardness by calcium carbonate formed by either water percolating downwards or from the ancient higher water table. Various pictures of the stone tool assemblage are provided on the web site and they appearto be, it is claimed, Acheulian tools associated with Homo erectus in Europe and Asia (see also www.meetup.com/Friends-of-Calico-Early-Man-site/

A little less dramatic is a site in Indiana that has rock carvings of animals that became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene (onset of Younger Dryas). 

Meanwhile, excavations in Serbia are raising questions about the consensus view of early human entry into Europe (see http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/september-2011/article/excavations-... ... at a river gorge cut out of what is a plateau feature are some caves and one of these has yielded bones - of early humans. A fossil specimen bone, identified as Homo erectus, has been dated to around 113,000 years ago - at a time when Neanderthals are thought to have ruled the roost.

At http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/11/when-humans-first-plied-th... adds a few more words to the story of the discovery of tuna fish bones in a cave on Timor - and interpreted as evidence of people having sea going boats and catching deep water fish. Half of the fish bones belong to fast swimming species which include sharks and tuna. Archaeologist James O'Connell of the University of Utah argues that the Timor evidence supports other inferences that people were using boats 50,000 years ago. An anthropologist chips in by saying the small size of the fish indicates they were juveniles and may have been caught close to shore. Another archaeologist says Timor has very steep off shore topography and deep sea fish may have come relatively close to shore - so that boats would not need to stray far from land