| 8 August 2006
New light on prehistoric Bosque County man
In the late 1960s, archaeologists Albert Redder and Frank Watt began carefully uncovering an ancient burial site that slowly gave Bosque County (Texas, USA) a glimpse into its distant past. Decades later, the relics they found are upending long-cherished notions about North America’s earliest inhabitants.
Among other things, the prehistoric Bosque County man found buried — a figure estimated to be up to 10,000 years old and endowed with European features — is kicking dust on the old theory that early-day Americans with Mongoloid features strolled over the Bering Strait from Asia, and from nowhere else.
The prehistoric Bosque County man and the dig site — dubbed the Horn Shelter after late landowner Herman Horn — are featured on a National Geographic television show and a new exhibit at the Bosque Memorial Museum here. Both debut this fall.
Although Watt and Redder finally uncovered the remains of an adult male and a juvenile along with numerous mass goods in 1970, excavation of the area continued well into the 1990s, courtesy of many helping hands, including the Central Texas Archaeological Society. Watt worked till his death in the 1980s. Redder, now 84, continued on well afterward.
Museum director George Larson says a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences in Washington, D.C., will be used to help create a nearly $250,000 exhibit at the local museum that mimics the Horn Shelter, complete with rock walls and replicas of the burial goods. The wealth of material found at the site — a bone needle, claws and teeth from badgers, coyotes and hawks, and several deliberately placed turtle shells — offers some insight into what the prehistoric man buried there may have represented to his community.
Current tests on the juvenile skeleton aren’t conclusive, but scientists believe the remains are those of a 10-year-old girl. Radiocarbon dating indicates the bones found at the Horn Shelter are anywhere between 9,500 and 10,000 years old, local museum curator LaVerne Dutton said. A physical anthropologist, Owsley is conducting long-term research into bones and artifacts from the site.
"The shape of the back of the head is a big indicator" that the man was not related to the Indians that most Texans are familiar with, Dutton said. That and certain facial elements have led Owsley and Dutton to believe the Horn Shelter residents may be related to the Ainu, an ancient people who lived in northernmost Japan. However, they stress, the exact origin of the Horn Shelter pair has yet to be determined.
Traditional belief holds that early Americans came to the continent only by crossing a land bridge between North America and Asia, Dutton says, but "now we believe folks came into the Americas in multiple ways, from multiple directions." One strong indication of this change in thought comes from what archaeologists are finding at other burial sites — tools of both Siberian and European origin. "There are 13 sites in the U.S. with paleoskeletal remains, and only three sites with burial remains," Larson said. "It’s almost as if we opened King Tut's tomb."
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (8 August 2006)
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