Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Early Humans Lived with Giant Beasts

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Early Humans Lived with Giant Beasts

Article excerpt

A new University of Florida study provides evidence that humans reached the Western Hemisphere during the last ice age and lived alongside giant, now-extinct mammals.

The study, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, addresses the century-long debate among scientists about whether human and mammal remains found at Vero Beach, Florida, in the early 1900s date to the same period. By analyzing rare earth elements to measure the concentration of naturally occurring metals absorbed during fossilization, researchers show modern humans in North America coexisted with large, now-extinct mammals about 13,000 years ago, including mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths.

"The Vero site is still the only site where there was an abundance of actual human bones, not just artifacts, associated with the animals," said coauthor Barbara Purdy, UF anthropology professor emeritus.

After discovery of the fossils in South Florida between 1913 and 1916, some prominent scientists convinced researchers the human skeletons were not as old as the animal fossils, an assertion that remained unproven because no dating methods existed.

"An old fossil is going to have very different concentrations of rare earth elements than bones from a more recent human burial," said lead author Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator. …

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