Ancient Americans were early arrivals

TEXAS A&M (US) — The first inhabitants in North America arrived about 15,500 years ago, as much as 2,500 years earlier than previously thought.

Near the surface at the Debra L. Friedkin site located about 40 miles northwest of Austin in central Texas is the record of the Late Prehistoric and Archaic occupants of the region and buried deeper are layers with Folsom and Clovis occupations going back 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.

“The kicker was the discovery of nearly 16,000 artifacts below the Clovis horizon that dated to 15,500 years ago,” says Michael Waters, professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University.

The findings are reported in the journal Science.

“Most of these are chipping debris from the making and resharpening of tools, but over 50 are tools.  There are bifacial artifacts that tell us they were making projectile points and knives at the site. There are expediently made tools and blades that were used for cutting and scraping.”

The site appears undisturbed, artifacts are in place, and more than 60 luminescence dates show that early people arrived at the site during the new timeframe, Waters says. Luminescence dating uses the last time sediment was exposed to sunlight to determine its age

“What is special about the Debra L. Friedkin site is that it has the largest number of artifacts dating to the pre-Clovis time period, that these artifacts show an array of different technologies, and that these artifacts date to a very early time,” Waters says.

“This discovery challenges us to re-think the early colonization of the Americas.  There’s no doubt these tools and weapons are human-made and they date to about 15,500 years ago, making them the oldest artifacts found both in Texas and North America.

“These studies will help us figure out where these people came from, how they adapted to the new environments they encountered, and understand the origins of later groups like Clovis.”

Researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Minnesota, Texas State University, and Baylor University, contributed to the study, funded by the North Star Archaeological Research Program and the Chair in First American Studies.

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