THE FIRST humans to set foot on the North American continent could have arrived 30,000 years ago, according to new evidence.
That’s 20,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Researchers at Iowa State University in the US claim to have made the history changing discovery in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico.
They were originally there to study the origins of farming in that area.
Andrew Somerville, an assistant professor of anthropology in world languages and cultures at ISU, found evidence of early human occupation at the Coxcatlan Cave archaeological site.
The team radio-carbon dated bones found in the cave in the 1960s and realised they were much older than previously thought.
The bones, which could be the remains of an ancient human feast, were dated between 33,448 to 28,279 years-old.
If the bones are from a human feast, this is at odds with a widely accepted theory that humans came to North America around 13,000 years ago across the Bering Land Bridge.
Somerville now thinks they arrived by boat.
He said: “We weren’t trying to weigh in on this debate or even find really old samples.
“We were just trying to situate our agricultural study with a firmer timeline.”
The researchers then took a closer look at possible stone tools found in the cave.
They’re now examining the animal bones further to find evidence of stone tool cut marks so they can prove they were left there by humans.
Somerville said: “Determining whether the stone artifacts were products of human manufacture or if they were just naturally chipped stones would be one way to get to the bottom of this.
“If we can find strong evidence that humans did in fact make and use these tools, that’s another way we can move forward.”
The researchers concluded: “Pushing the arrival of humans in North America back to over 30,000 years ago would mean that humans were already in North America prior to the period of the Last Glacial Maximum, when the Ice Age was at its absolute worst.
“Large parts of North America would have been inhospitable to human populations.
“The glaciers would have completely blocked any passage over land coming from Alaska and Canada, which means people probably would have had to come to the Americas by boats down the Pacific coast.”
This study has been published in the journal Latin American Antiquity.
A timeline of life on Earth
Here’s a brief history of life on our planet
- 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
- 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
- 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
- 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
- 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
- 530million years ago – first fish appear
- 470million years ago – first land plants appear
- 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
- 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
- 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
- 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
- 200million years ago – mammals appear
- 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
- 130million years ago – first flowering plants
- 100million years ago – earliest bees
- 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
- 30million years ago – first cats evolve
- 20million years ago – great apes evolve
- 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
- 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
- 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
- 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
- 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction
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What are your thoughts on the study? Let us know in the comments…
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