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30 October 2005
Archaeologists discuss man's origins in the USA

A University of Texas archaeologist opened the highly anticipated "Clovis in the Southeast" conference at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center by rejecting the premise on which many experts once based their theories on man's North American origins.
     At the meeting, Michael Collins called the idea that the first inhabitants traveled by way of a land bridge from Asia "primal racism." Instead, Collins said, they arrived by water, because "the rich marine environments" along the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts are "very attractive regions for human exploitation."
     Conference staffer Thomas McDonald said that roughly 400 people had pre-registered for the four-day conference on Clovis - the culture traditionally thought to have been the first in North America. In recent years, many experts have begun to consider other explanations, such as migration from Europe, and not Asia. That idea was advanced by Dennis Stanford, head of the archaeology division of the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.
     Other speakers talked about the wide array of paleo-Indian artifacts throughout the southeastern region. University of South Carolina archaeologist Al Goodyear discussed his research at the Topper site in Allendale County, calling the spot "the Goldilocks location to be doing archaeology." In 1998, Goodyear announced that he had discovered artifacts thousands of years older than Clovis materials at Topper. Afternoon speakers discussed the discoveries of Clovis tools from sites throughout the Tennessee River Valley.
     One of the most striking theories was the one about a comet storm that may be responsible for what have happened to an early North American culture. Richard Firestone, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist, said that he thinks "impact regions" on mammoth tusks found in Gainey, Michigan, were caused by magnetic particles rich in elements like titanium and uranium. This composition,  said, resembles rocks that were discovered on the moon and have also been found in lunar meteorites that fell to Earth about 10,000 years ago.
     Firestone added that, based on his discovery of similar material at Clovis sites, he estimates that comets struck the solar system during the Clovis period, which was roughly 13,000 years ago. These comets would have hit the Earth at 1,000 kilometers an hour, he said, obliterating many life forms and causing mutations in others.

Sources: Associated Press, The State (27 October 2005), Ledger-Enquirer (29 October 2005)

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