Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative story says

Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative story says

The conclusion is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego.

Experts agreed that the earliest records of human ancestors in North America is about 15,000 years old, but the discovery of the Cerutti site "shows that human ancestors were in the New World ten times that length of time", said paleontologist Lawrence Vescera.

The best-known and controversial archaeological claims for early human entry into the Americas are from the Calico Hills in California (originally thought to be 80,000-50,000 years old or even older), Pedra Furada in Brazil (40,000-20,000 years old) and Old Crow in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

Researchers found a skeleton where the bones appeared to have been broken with stone tools - which were found alongside - and a tusk was stuck upright in the ground.

The researchers behind the latest study were unable to carry out radiocarbon dating on the remains, so they used a technique called uranium-thorium dating on several bone fragments, coming up with a date of 130,000 years.

Beeton was one of 11 authors who contributed to the manuscript that is scheduled to be published in Nature.

If this is true, then the Cerutti Mastodon site is the oldest archaeological site in North America, altering theories of when the Homo arrived at the continent.

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Homo sapiens, the only surviving human species (not counting some mixture with Neanderthals and Denisovans accounting for a small fraction of DNA of their descendants), arose 200,000 years ago and arrived in Asia around 50,000 years ago. The users evidently found them and brought them to the site. More recently, Daniel Fisher, a respected paleontologist at the University of MI in Ann Arbor, took a close look at the fractures and found patterns he says are consistent with blows from a rounded stone, which leave a characteristic notch at the point of impact.

Team member Steven Holen from the Center for American Paleolithic Research in South Dakota explained that the clues paint a clear picture of what possibly happened.

Scientists can not yet identify the people who worked on the mastodon bones.

"When we first discovered the site, there was strong physical evidence that placed humans alongside extinct Ice Age megafauna", said Tom Deméré, curator of paleontology and director of PaleoServices at the San Diego Natural History Museum, as well as an author on the paper.

He said they believe the location was a place where humans took bones and made tools.

"The implications are massive in terms of human migrations, because for a start we don't really know which human was actually in North America 130,000 years ago", Fullagar said.

The researchers, however, said they expect the scientific community to be skeptical of the findings.

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"If the results stand up to further scrutiny, this does indeed change everything we thought we knew", said Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

"When you put the total package together, there's certainly more evidence to reject [the study] than accept it", said Dillehay.

But "many of us will want to see supporting evidence of this ancient occupation from other sites, before we abandon the conventional model of a first arrival by modern humans within the last 15,000 years", he wrote in an email.

The site was first discovered in the 1990s when a large road was being built, and has only now been dated to 130,000 years old.

Re-enactments of the scene using stones and elephant bones showed that what occurred was very real.

Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, told The Associated Press he doesn't reject the paper's claims outright, but he finds the evidence "not yet solid".

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