Mastodon shenanigans

28 Dec 2017

At ... we have a somewhat long story about a State re-widening project in California that unearthed a lot of fossil animals - but the prize of the group was a mastodon, whose bones had been shattered. Other animals found included a lot of rodents and birds as well as lizards and other small creatures. However, the focus from the beginning was on the mastodon - and why its bones were broken and splintered. The discovery of some pebbles that look as if they may have been worked diverted attention from the melee as a whole and it developed in a battle to have the mastodon recognised as the victim of human hunters. The problem was that the bones were so old they were past their C14 aging range (namely, older than 40,000 years ago). It eventually emerged they were 130,000 years of age - dating from the last interglacial episode. Naturally, this upset the Clovis First brigade (ass the find goes back to the 1980s). In fact, it is the apoplectic response of mainstream that is most interesting about this story. It fully illustrates the power and mindset of a consensus theory. In this case, the Clovis First paradigm - but it can be applied to any number of scientific consensus theories with a politicised edge (such as Out of Africa, CAGW, cosmology, and so on). We are told that archaeologists of the period rarely got involved  in pre-Clovis excavations as they could be career ending if they came across anything controversial.

Years later a retired curator of archaeology from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science decided that sifting through the boxes of bones in San Diego museum would be a fine way to spend his waning years. He invariably had nothing to lose - as far as career was concerned (and everything to gain if human involvement was proved). One may wonder if humans were actually involved in dismantling the bones of said mastodon as one of the tusks was buried straight down in sediment, top  first. Then we have all those smaller animals in the pot pouri. Did humans eat rats and lizards on such a scale? This is all part of the argument against the idea of humans in the Americas over a 100,000 years ago. The other big questions are logistics - how did they get there? Catastrophism is never seen as a possible explanation or changes in the earth's geoid. The spirit of the article is okay as it sides with the idea that humans could have been in the Americas much earlier than mainstream allows - but the proof is in the pudding. Even the likes of archaeologists who have themselves excavated pre-Clovis sites are dubious of the claim that humans were responsible for butchering the mastodon. It all revolves around the discovery of five pebbles which have chips on them. These could have been caused by water movement - and the sediment itself could have been water related (although this is denied in the article). However, the journal Nature agreed to publish the article on the claim - and kudos to them for doing so (in April 2017). Predictably it drew a lot of responses from other scientists and archaeologists who disagreed with the results - seeming to say it should not have been published as it contradicted the consensus. Perhaps the climate science frame of mind is catching - or the idea of denying contrary views has become part and parcel of modern science. It's amazing how much influence Clovis First (or Nearly First) still has on archaeology in N America.