New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought

New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought
Cooper's Ferry Site 2013 Area A looking east. Credit: Loren Davis

Stone tools and other artifacts unearthed from an archeological dig at the Cooper's Ferry site in western Idaho suggest that people lived in the area 16,000 years ago, more than a thousand years earlier than scientists previously thought.

The artifacts would be considered among the earliest evidence of people in North America.

The findings, published today in Science, add weight to the hypothesis that initial to the Americas followed a Pacific coastal route rather than through the opening of an inland ice-free corridor, said Loren Davis, a professor of anthropology at Oregon State University and the study's lead author.

"The Cooper's Ferry site is located along the Salmon River, which is a tributary of the larger Columbia River basin. Early peoples moving south along the Pacific coast would have encountered the Columbia River as the first place below the glaciers where they could easily walk and paddle in to North America," Davis said. "Essentially, the Columbia River corridor was the first off-ramp of a Pacific coast migration route.

"The timing and position of the Cooper's Ferry site is consistent with and most easily explained as the result of an early Pacific coastal migration."

Cooper's Ferry, located at the confluence of Rock Creek and the lower Salmon River, is known by the Nez Perce Tribe as an ancient village site named Nipéhe. Today the site is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought
Cooper's Ferry project camp 2014. Credit: Loren Davis

Davis first began studying Cooper's Ferry as an archaeologist for the BLM in the 1990s. After joining the Oregon State faculty, he partnered with the BLM to establish a summer archaeological field school there, bringing undergraduate and graduate students from Oregon State and elsewhere for eight weeks each summer from 2009 to 2018 to help with the research.

The site includes two dig areas; the published findings are about artifacts found in area A. In the lower part of that area, researchers uncovered several hundred artifacts, including ; charcoal; fire-cracked rock; and bone fragments likely from medium- to large-bodied animals, Davis said. They also found evidence of a fire hearth, a food processing station and other pits created as part of domestic activities at the site.

Over the last two summers, the team of students and researchers reached the lower layers of the site, which, as expected, contained some of the oldest artifacts uncovered, Davis said. He worked with a team of researchers at Oxford University, who were able to successfully radiocarbon date a number of the animal .

The results showed many artifacts from the lowest layers are associated with dates in the range of 15,000 to 16,000 years old.

New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought
Cooper's Ferry site measuring artifacts in place 2015. Credit: Loren Davis

"Prior to getting these radiocarbon ages, the oldest things we'd found dated mostly in the 13,000-year range, and the earliest evidence of people in the Americas had been dated to just before 14,000 years old in a handful of other sites," Davis said. "When I first saw that the lower archaeological layer contained radiocarbon ages older than 14,000 years, I was stunned but skeptical and needed to see those numbers repeated over and over just to be sure they're right. So we ran more radiocarbon dates, and the lower layer consistently dated between 14,000-16,000 years old."

The dates from the oldest artifacts challenge the long-held "Clovis First" theory of early migration to the Americas, which suggested that people crossed from Siberia into North America and traveled down through an opening in the ice sheet near the present-day Dakotas. The ice-free corridor is hypothesized to have opened as early as 14,800 years ago, well after the date of the oldest artifacts found at Cooper's Ferry, Davis said.

"Now we have good evidence that people were in Idaho before that corridor opened," he said. "This evidence leads us to conclude that early peoples moved south of continental ice sheets along the Pacific coast."

Davis's team also found tooth fragments from an extinct form of horse known to have lived in North America at the end of the last glacial period. These tooth fragments, along with the radiocarbon dating, show that Cooper's Ferry is the oldest radiocarbon-dated site in North America that includes artifacts associated with the bones of extinct animals, Davis said.

New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought
F134 in progress 2. Credit: Loren Davis

The oldest artifacts uncovered at Cooper's Ferry also are very similar in form to older artifacts found in northeastern Asia, and particularly, Japan, Davis said. He is now collaborating with Japanese researchers to do further comparisons of artifacts from Japan, Russia and Cooper's Ferry. He is also awaiting carbon-dating information from artifacts from a second dig location at the Cooper's Ferry site.

"We have 10 years' worth of excavated artifacts and samples to analyze," Davis said. "We anticipate we'll make other exciting discoveries as we continue to study the artifacts and samples from our excavations."


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More information: L.G. Davis el al., "Late Upper Paleolithic occupation at Cooper's Ferry, Idaho, USA,~16,000 years ago," Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aax9830
Journal information: Science

Citation: New artifacts suggest people arrived in North America earlier than previously thought (2019, August 29) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-artifacts-people-north-america-earlier.html
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Aug 29, 2019
But remember, they were not blue-eyed Solutreans!

Aug 29, 2019
But remember, they were not blue-eyed Solutreans!

The DNA signatures of Western American Indians sort of proves that...

Aug 29, 2019
When the study came out that showed that Botocudo of the Amazon had Andaman Islander DNA it sort of blew up the whole Clovis first theory IMO along with cranial morphology studies of early Americans. The explanation was that Asia in ancient times was populated by mostly Australo-Melanesians and sailed along the Pacific coast. Which would explain their appearance but it doesn't explain the dna. Austronesian dna in native Americans is only found south America and largely absent in North America. If some ancient Papuan people traveled the Pacific coastal route then surely some would have stopped in Canada/Washington/North California. This suggests to me that some people crossed the ocean in full

Aug 29, 2019
But remember, they were not blue-eyed Solutreans!

The DNA signatures of Western American Indians sort of proves that...


I have a vague memory of the Solutrean hypothesis. It wasn't totally bonkers, but I think the last I heard was that it was dismissed, and that the similarity in tools was just convergent technology. Could be wrong.

Aug 29, 2019
Why do these archaeologists stick to their theory, that humans trekked across a barren, frozen landscape, rather than canoed along the coast where there were abundant sea life to sustain them.

Aug 29, 2019
all the controversy for the last couple of centuries, over "origins"?
was an example of people basing their opinions on their religious-based, racist beliefs

before a sufficient quantity of multi-sourced data was available
before there were modern procedures & technology with which to verify or reject evidence

as for the cousins of the Austronesian's?
try to explained the Ainu

yes, ancestral Pacific peoples followed the currents & winds that went North along the coasts of Asia & North America

otherwise, the Tahitian avcestors would have wound up on Terra del Fuego

ehy did the Papuan's cousins make their way into the Amazon?

cause the abcestors of the Aztecs were snapping at their heels

don't know about you but i wouldn't want them for neighbors
bad as the fuckin' reivers!

Aug 29, 2019
all the controversy for the last couple of centuries, over "origins"?
was an example of people basing their opinions on their religious-based, racist beliefs

before a sufficient quantity of multi-sourced data was available
before there were modern procedures & technology with which to verify or reject evidence

as for the cousins of the Austronesian's?
try to explained the Ainu

yes, ancestral Pacific peoples followed the currents & winds that went North along the coasts of Asia & North America

otherwise, the Tahitian avcestors would have wound up on Terra del Fuego

ehy did the Papuan's cousins make their way into the Amazon?

cause the abcestors of the Aztecs were snapping at their heels

don't know about you but i wouldn't want them for neighbors
bad as the fuckin' reivers!


What on earth are you talking about? Go take your pills and stay off the internet, please.

Aug 29, 2019
as usual auntieoral you have failed to read the articles you are commenting upon

ice age, ocean lower
ice melts, ocean higher

pretty much concealing most of the actual evidence for rowboating along the coasts

it has taken some very sophisticated deductive reasoning & still developing technology to find & proof what scarce evidence has been found to date


Aug 29, 2019
why chem my boy...
please set a good example for me, for all of us

in other words?
you first!

simple enough, even for you?

Aug 29, 2019

What on earth are you talking about? Go take your pills and stay off the internet, please.

Come on, don't be so heartless. This is the only time, the staff at the mental institution gets a break from crazy.

Aug 29, 2019
hey auntie
that was actually funny

well, accidents happen!

Aug 30, 2019
What on earth are you talking about? Go take your pills and stay off the internet, please.


I mean other than the typos and the odd stream of consciousness style of writing they are pretty much just laying out some causes and their effects. Makes sense to me and quite sane compared to some of the others here.

Aug 30, 2019
But remember, they were not blue-eyed Solutreans!

The DNA signatures of Western American Indians sort of proves that...
Proves only that the Amerindians extirpated previous genotypes, Beringian, Clovis, Pre-Clovis, ... Solutreans.

Aug 30, 2019
in my opinion?
too many people
worry too much
about all the wrong things
as too what genetics means to their lives

they are expressing a common fear that DNA is an absolute determination of one's life

when i expressed my displeasure of the reivers?
it is from knowledge of their tribal customs which evolved onto the British-American rape culture known as the "Peculiar Institution"

quite frankly people should worry less about "race" & use the modern DNA tests to determine consanguinity

if you share defective genes with the love of your life?
active or recessive?
DO NOT reproduce!

friendship or love? why not
sex using condoms & foam & morning after pill? possibly safe

yeah white boy, you are horny for that colored gal down the street
but if both your families have lived in the same county for more than a couple of generations?
there are very good odds that your grand-pappy & his pappy & grand-pappy have been raping the her families women

DNA test prove she's your sister & aunt

Sep 03, 2019
why chem my boy...
please set a good example for me, for all of us

in other words?
you first!

simple enough, even for you?


I'm just messing with you buddy, you know I always love reading your comments :) Seriously though, you bring a whole new high level of intelligent creativity that I enjoy reading on here.

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