|15 January 2007
Tools found in Minnesota may be 14,000 years old
Archaeologists have discovered stone tools atop a hill in Minnesota that may be 13,000 to 14,000 years old. From the rough stone tools, archaeologists are speculating that "we're looking at certainly the relatively earliest occupants of the North American continent," biologist and archaeologist Matt Mattson said. Britta Bloomberg, Minnesota's deputy historic preservation officer, said it may be among the oldest known archaeological sites in North and South America. A half-dozen archaeologists, soil scientists and others who have examined the site all said the artifacts are genuine, she said.
The stone tools were found while archaeologists were investigating the path of a road where the city is planning to expand for a community center, housing and businesses. Archaeologists found 50 or more objects while digging through an area of about 50 square yards. The artifacts ranged from large hammer stones to small hand-held scrapers. The objects were found underneath a band of rock and gravel that appeared to have been deposited by melting glaciers and then covered by windblown sediment, Mather said. Other researchers have found that that part of Minnesota apparently was something of an "oasis" around 13,000 years ago, an area free of ice cover with shifting glaciers on most sides but with an access route to the southeast.
David Mather, state archaeologist for the National Register of Historic Places, said the site appears to be "much older" than the Clovis era of finely made spear points that defines the paleo-Indian period. The find is "startling enough that appropriate response from every archaeologist and glacial geologist is skepticism." But, he added, a half-dozen archaeologists, soil scientists and others who have examined the site all say the artifacts are genuine.
Human remains, wood or textiles, if there were any, would have dissolved long ago in the acidic soil. The oldest human remains found in Minnesota belonged to the Browns Valley Man, who lived about 9,000 years ago. His remains were discovered in 1933 in a gravel pit near the town of Browns Valley in western Minnesota.
Much more research needs to be done to allow firm conclusions, Wells and her colleagues acknowledged. "It's bound to be controversial," said Matt Mattson, another archaeologist on the project. Not only do the age of the items and the soil in which they were found need to be confirmed, it must also be determined whether the objects are really human-made artifacts or merely rocks that were chipped in interesting ways by glaciers during the Ice Age. And it's not yet certain if the items were left at the site by humans, or carried there by glaciers or flowing water. "It's an extraordinary claim and it requires some extraordinary evidence," Pat Everson, head of archaeology for the Minnesota Historical Society, said. "But it's certainly worth pursuing."
Source: Wcco.com (12 January 2007), Associated Press (13 January 2007)
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