History Teaches Us: Human Migration in North America

About a week ago, a study on North American anthropology was published. It got quite a bit of backlash, claiming that early versions of humans made their way to the continent more than 115,000 years before the general consensus. The study has yet to be confirmed by other scientists but previous such discoveries show that we can be wrong as often as we’re right.

So, in this article, we will talk about the theory that prehistoric humans lived in North America some 130,000 years ago. We’ll present the facts, the skepticism, and talk about some other similar discoveries we’ve made in recent times.

A Discovery 130,000 Years in the Making

These great migrations seemed dictated by laws of nature […]. Considerable seasonal mass relocations were probably necessary to the peoples as much as transhumance is to sheep.” – Irène Némirovsky

A group of scientists led by Dr. Thomas A. Deméré, a paleontologist for the San Diego Natural History Museum, might have just overturned most of the evidence we have on the first North American settlements. Instead of the estimated 15,000 years, some human ancestors, possibly Neanderthals or Denisovans, might have made their way to the continent 130,000 years ago.

The evidence comes in the form of a mastodon skeleton appearing to have been butchered. Along with the broken bones, the scientists found five large and clearly rounded stones. Subsequently, the team used similar stones to break fresh elephant bones in Tanzania, and the results seemed identical to what they found.

Seeing as the experts found the bones and rocks in a layer of sediment, it’s highly unlikely that they were meddled with after the creature’s death. Moreover, chips in the rocks found at the site suggested that they had been used as tools. A predator is also highly unlikely to have been able to break a mastodon’s bones like the ones found in the sediment layer.

The Implication

The story of humanity is essentially the story of human movement.” – Patrick Kingsley

If the claims are true, that means that a species completely unrelated to modern humans moved to the Americas between 35,000 and 65,000 years earlier than they were ever supposed to leave Africa.

Previous findings showed that humans left Siberia some 25,000 years ago. They took the Bering Land Bridge, which used to connect Asia and North America, but had to stop because of glaciers.

About 10,000 years later, when the glaciers receded, they started their trek anew.

However, the bones are much older than that. This means that the alleged humanoids which butchered the mastodon belonged to a totally different, most likely previously unidentified group of pre-humans.

And it’s not completely impossible, either. The glaciers kept appearing and reappearing, depending on the climate. It’s actually thanks to this that bisons made their way to America some 135,000 years ago.

Skeptics Abound

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” – Oscar Wilde

Of course, as it’s always the case when it comes to science, the findings cannot be confirmed until the study is recreated. And it’s in nobody’s financial interest to fund a study which has already been performed. The fact that this one had plenty of detractors from the get-go doesn’t help its case either.

While the explanation of how the mastodon was killed makes sense, it isn’t the only explanation. That’s the main issue with the study. While the dating is correct and the theory is sound, it’s just that – a theory. Even the most fervent critics of the study admitted that it does make sense.

However, the mastodon could have very well fallen into a river, been carried and killed by the torrent, and deposited next to a bunch of strange, seemingly tool-ified rocks.

One of the most fervent critics of Dr. Deméré’s recent work is Texas A&M’s Dr. Michael R. Waters. According to the Anthropology and Geography professor, “extraordinary claims require unequivocal evidence.” And that is the perfect attitude when it comes to matters of science.

Connecting the Dots

Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.” – Margaret Mead

There are some branches of science, however, where a big part of what you have to do is to connect the dots. Anthropology, forensics, and even astrophysics until a few decades ago, along with most other sciences, require you first to come up with a theory before first testing it. In some cases, however, confirmation is impossible with the data at hand.

So, those theories remain just theories. It is up to future scientists, or even scientists in the current generation, given they have enough funding, to continue attempting to prove the theory when they find better techniques or more data.

Plenty of theories, some better than others, have been overlooked over the years for this reason. Who knows how much we haven’t learned because we couldn’t afford to confirm a study or to follow up on a theory? It is our responsibility to pursue answers and spread knowledge. And we can’t do that without, every once in awhile, simply connecting the dots.

Recent Overturns

How do you find America?”
Turn left at Greenland.” – Ringo Starr

It’s true, the discrepancy between what is the consensus and Dr. Deméré’s findings is huge. And his theory might be real, or it might not be. But simply because we previously believed something else isn’t reason enough to doubt the paper.

This past month alone, we’ve made plenty of discoveries that overturned some of our oldest beliefs. These discoveries happen all the time, they just don’t get enough attention.

The masses don’t care about the fact that Scythians recently turned out to also be horse breeders, not only great warriors. They don’t care that we just found out that the Homo naledi’s brain was way closer to our own than we previously believed, nor that the Australopithecus sediba was ousted as closer to hominids than humans.

We just found out that Ötzi the Iceman froze to death instead of dying from his arrow wounds. A St. Andrews academic figured out how to read a once-dead language, the ancient Incan talking knots. An old Roman temple dedicated to the ancient Mithraic religion was discovered in Anatolia, Turkey, and a body found in a Norwegian well confirmed that the highly-debated Viking Sagas were at least partly true.

Few of these discoveries, as important as they are, reached the mainstream media. These fascinating pieces of knowledge only reach a very limited audience, and then they quickly die out. Perhaps, if the media paid more attention to the goings-on of the scientific world, we would finally get enough attention and funding to pursue perception-changing theories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about the humans which might have lived in North America some 130,000 years ago. And I certainly hope you’ve learned something from it. For more similar blog posts, come back to our website at any time.

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