HUMANS IN SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES
40,000+ YEARS AGO?
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Archaeologist Albert C. Goodyear may have found some of the oldest artifacts in North America. If authentic, it would establish that humans arrived in the New World tens of thousands of years earlier than previously believed. In a chert quarry on the banks of the Savannah River, Goodyear and his associates from the University of South Carolina have unearthed apparent human-chipped stone flakes and charred plants, possibly from an ancient hearth. Radiocarbon dates for these artifacts are at least 50,000 years ago to an Ice Age. This is much earlier than any previous evidence of humans in North America. Goodyear's site, called Topper, is a layer cake of ancient remains, including scrapers and blades from a level estimated to be 16,000 to 20,000 years old. Researchers generally believe that a “Clovis people” were the first to reach North America, crossing from Siberia to Alaska on a land bridge about 14,000 years ago. Nevertheless, discoveries unearthed at sites such as Meadowcroft in Pennsylvania, Monte Verde in Chile, and now Topper suggest that humans arrived much earlier. The findings are still viewed by many with skepticism. Some view Goodyear’s calls artifacts as just ordinary rocks. Goodyear, too, once doubted pre-Clovis theories, but Topper changed his attitudes. These early humans in North America may have been coastal fisher-gatherers; says Goodyear. "The lower South was never glaciated. It may have been a pretty nice place for humans to come and hang out for a while." In Goodyear's view, it's time for archaeologists to push past the "Clovis-first" model. Pre-Clovis is still controversial, "but the tide is turning;' he says. "We need to dig deeper." –
This discovery could push back the date of a community of humans believed to have lived in central Indiana in early Pre-Classic times (see Indiana), and might be related to an even earlier site suspected in Kansas (see Kansas).
Shea, Neil. 2005. The First Americans? Discovery Could Rewrite History of Human migration. Natl.
Geographic Mag., May. p. xxxii