|12 November 2013
Spear points raise questions about human arrival in North America
The late Pleistocene dispersal of Homo sapiens across the Americas is one of the greatest chapters in the history of our species, but major questions remain unanswered.
A new paper co-written by members of a team of researchers associated with the Center for the Study of the First Americans (CSFA) notes that two contentious issues are the timing of colonisation of the Bering Land Bridge, and the origin of the Clovis culture. Known for its fluted spear points, Clovis represents the earliest unequivocal complex of archaeological sites in temperate North America.
The 2005 discovery of fluted spear points in northwest Alaska strongly suggests that early humans carrying Clovis technology lived on the central Bering Land Bridge about 12,000 years ago.
One hypothesis holds that spear point fluting technology emerged on the land bridge and was carried southward. Fluted points have long been known from Alaska, yet never been found in a datable context. A new site at Serpentine Hot Springs contains fluted points dating to no earlier than 12,400 BP, suggesting Alaska's fluted-point complex is too young to be ancestral to Clovis, instead representing either a south-to-north dispersal or transmission of fluting technology.
Texas A&M University professor of anthropology Ted Goebel says, "The evidence from Serpentine supports the second theory - that either Palaeo-indian people or technologies were moving in a reverse migration pattern, from south to north, or more specifically, from the high plains of central Canada in a northerly direction into Alaska".
"Not all of Beringia's early residents may have come from Siberia, as we have traditionally thought," notes Dr Goebel. "Some may have come from America instead, although millennia after the initial migration across the land bridge from Asia. If the fluted points do not represent a human migration, they at least indicate the surprisingly early spread of an American technology into Arctic Alaska."
"Humans carried tools made of the volcanic glass called obsidian to the site from nearly 300 miles [500 kilometres] inland in central Alaska," Dr Goebel continues. Nonetheless, fluted points have yet to be found in Russia.
By 12,000 years ago, the land bridge was becoming swamped by rising seas.
Edited from BioNews Texas (1 November 2013)
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