| 7 March 2012
America discovered by Stone Age Europeans
New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe, 10,000 years before the Siberian ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.
Several dozen European-style stone tools, between 19,000 and 26,000 years old, have been discovered at six locations along the east coast of the USA. Three of the sites are in Maryland, one is in Pennsylvania, and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by fishermen on the seabed 100 km off the coast of Virginia, on what in prehistoric times would have been dry land.
The similarity between other later east coast USA and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. All the European-style tools from the USA, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia had ceased making such artefacts - but the newly-discovered and recently-dated east coast Stone Age tools are contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.
What's more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia in 1971 revealed that it was made of flint originating in France. Additionally, while some genetic markers for Stone Age western Europeans simply don't exist in north-east Asia, they do in tiny quantities among some north American Indian groups. Tests on DNA from 8000-year-old skeletons from Florida revealed a high level of a key probable European-originating genetic marker. There are also a tiny number of isolated Native American groups whose languages appear not to be related in any way to Asian-originating American Indian peoples.
Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter (UK), the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, propose that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling along the edge of the frozen northern Atlantic. They are presenting their detailed evidence in a new book, 'Across Atlantic Ice', published this month.
Stanford and Bradley have long argued that Stone Age humans were capable of making the 2400 kilometre journey across the Atlantic ice. Archaeologists are starting to investigate half a dozen new sites, and these locations are expected to produce more evidence.
The greatest amount of evidence is likely to come from under the ocean - most of the areas where the Solutreans would have landed are now up to 160 kilometres out to sea. The one underwater site that has been identified is to be examined in greater detail this summer.
Edited from The Independent (28 February 2012), The Washington Post (29 February 2012)
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