Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Early Hunters

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Early Hunters

Article excerpt

The tip of a bone point fragment found embedded in a mastodon rib from an archaeological site in Washington state shows that hunters were present in North America at least 800 years before Clovis, confirming that the first inhabitants arrived earlier to North America than previously thought, says a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University archaeologist.

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Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M university and colleagues from Colorado, Washington, and Denmark believe the finding at the Manis site in Washington demonstrates that humans were in the area around 13,800 years ago, or 800 years earlier than was believed. Their work is published in Science magazine.

In the late 1970s, an adult male mastodon was excavated from a pond at the Manis site. The distribution of the bones and the discovery that some of the bones were broken suggested that the elephant had been killed and butchered by human hunters, Waters explains. However, no stone tools or weapons were found at the site. The key artifact from the site was what appeared to be a bone point sticking out of one of the ribs, but the artifact and the age of the site were disputed.

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Waters contacted team member and original excavator, Carl Gustafson, about performing new tests on the rib with the bone point. New radiocarbon dates confirmed that the site was 13,800 years old. High resolution CT (computed tomography) scanning and three-dimensional modeling confirmed that the embedded bone was a spear point, and DNA and bone protein analysis showed that the bone point was made of mastodon bone. …

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