Humans in Southern California 130,000 years ago? – #365papers – 2017 – 120

#365papers for April 30, 2017

Holen, Demere, Fisher, Fullagar, Paces, Jefferson, Beeton, Cerutti, Rountrey, Vescera and Holen, 2017, A 130,000-year-old archaeological site in southern California, USA: Nature, v. 544, p. 479-483.

What’s it about?

Herein is described an archaeological site from southern California dates at 130,000 years old. The age is based on a radiometric technique called Thorium/Uranium. The influence of humans is based upon apparent working and tooling of bones and of stones in the site.

Why does it matter?

This is a big deal if it is true.

Here’s the thing: The general consensus has been that humans arrived in North America toward the end of the most recent glacial event. Most authors cite a first arrival of, say, 12,000 years ago. There’s some evidence that humans were in North America a little earlier, maybe 20,000 years ago. Stretching back to 30,000 years ago might be ok for some observations.

But 130,000 years ago for humans to be in North America is a surprise and flies in the face of the vast majority of archaeological observations.

But is it real?

The majority of the scientists I’ve heard from are skeptical, as am I. The dating method used might not be the best, but the authors did try several other kinds, with no success. OK, so the age might be right.

But what about the presence of humans? No human remains have been found, only evidence of potential human activity. I’m not convinced that there aren’t other potential explanations. However, I admit I am also no expert on the matter.

I’ll wait for the refutations to come out.

Why did I read this?

It’s been a hot topic since the paper was published on the 27th, with all my colleagues discussing in over social media. I felt obligated to give it a solid read.

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About Penny

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

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