A 37,000-year-old butchery site in New Mexico has uncovered the bones of an adult mammoth and its calf, suggesting that humans inhabited North America 17,000 years earlier than previously believed.
A team of scientists led by the University of Texas at Austin extracted collagen from the bones, allowing them to be carbon dated between 36,250 and 38,900 years old.
The bones were found in a three-foot-tall pile, 95 percent of which were adults, and showed blunt force cut marks and fractures.
The discovery adds to growing evidence that societies existed before humans crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 20,000 years ago. The bridge called Beringia is Siberia and Alaska during the last Ice Age and allowed people to come Asia to North America.
The study’s lead author, Timothy Rowe, told DailyMail.com that ancient humans likely came from Asia, but whether they traveled to the Americas by land or by sea remains an open question. A separate study in 2021 found that some of the first Americans crossed the Bering Sea in rowboats, stopping along a chain of islands that were above the surface during the last Ice Age.
Previous research has turned up remains of ancient humans and other artifacts dating back 20,000 years, suggesting that the area was inhabited by humans before Clovis—those who crossed the land bridge. However, mammoth bones are the earliest evidence found to date.
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Scientists discovered a three-foot-tall pile of mammoth bones from an adult female and her calf. However, 95 percent of the bones were from adults
Rowe said statement: ‘It is not a charismatic site with a beautiful skeleton on its side. It’s all gone. But this is the story.”
The discovery was also made in Rowe’s backyard. A neighbor noticed a tooth sticking out of the ground, and he quickly called a team to help with the excavation.
After most of the dirt was cleared away, an open-air slaughterhouse was discovered, covering various areas separated by stone and clay walls.
Mammoth bones, both adults and calves, were found in a pile placed on top of the head and teeth of the adults.
The bones were found in an open-air butchery that surrounded separate areas enclosed by walls.
The mammoth bones had blunt force cut marks and fractures
Most of the remains in the assemblage belonged to an adult, including 44 broken skull fragments and an intact upper right second molar and 12 isolated dental plaques, 25 broken into 52 pieces, 3 vertebrae and 15 vertebrae, 32 hammer bones, 9′ butterfly fragment’, 20 unidentified bone fragments and 267 bags of small ‘bone fragments’.
The picture shows an illustration of what a mature mammoth looks like
“The adult human face (teeth, premaxillae, and partial jaws) is the single largest, heaviest element in existence, and sits atop a pile of bones,” the study, published in the journal, says. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
“The nostrils are cut from the skull, the maxillary alveoli are broken and empty.
“The calf is represented by a partial left maxilla and intact teeth, three isolated tooth plates, a left tibial diaphysis, and 10 rib fragments.”
The study also notes that the “deepest skull fracture” caused the separation of the facial bones from the skull in the adults.
Before the mammoth bones were found, it was a 20,000-year-old burial in Montana, the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America.
The discovery adds to growing evidence that societies existed before humans crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 20,000 years ago. Pictured is a map showing how a land bridge once connected two continents
The study also notes that the “deepest skull fracture” caused the separation of the facial bones from the skull in the adults. The image shows the facial bones of the animal with blunt force fractures
In 1968, construction workers discovered ancient tools and the remains of a small child at the site.
It’s the oldest genome ever recovered from the New World, and artifacts found with the body suggest the boy was part of the Clovis culture that crossed the Bering Strait land bridge.
About 125 artifacts, including Clovis fluted spearheads and antler tools, were found in the skeleton, called Anzick, and coated with red ocher, a type of mineral.
Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who led the study, said in a statement: “Clovis boy’s family is the direct ancestor of about 80% of all Native Americans today.
“Although the Clovis culture is gone, its people live on today.”
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