Humans settled in the US 14,550 years ago

Scientists may have had it all wrong all the way as far as humans settling in the US is concerned as a new study has found evidence of human presence much earlier than previously believed.

According to researchers at Florida State University, Texas A&M University, and University of Michigan they have found evidence of several stone tools and a mastodon tusk with cut marks from a tool which indicate that humans were living in the US 14,550 years ago.

The stone tools and tusk were found from a site called the Page-Ladson site, on the Aucilla River about 45 minutes from Tallahassee. Prior to the latest study, the site was brought to attention through a previous study by James Dunbar and David Webb who had retrieved several stone tools and the mastodon tusk dating with cut marks from a tool in a layer more than 14,000 years old. The findings didn’t receive much attention at the time because it was believed that the site was too old to be real and findings were questionable because it was under water.

This didn’t stop authors of the latest study – Florida State University Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jessi Halligan, Michael Waters from Texas A&M University and Daniel Fisher from University of Michigan and colleagues – from wanting to know more. Between 2012 and 2014, divers, including Dunbar, excavated stone tools and bones of extinct animals.

Their findings included a biface, which is a knife with sharp edges on both sides used for cutting and butchering animals, among other tools. Fisher took a look at the mastodon tusk that Dunbar had retrieved during the earlier excavations and found it displayed obvious signs of cutting created to remove the tusk from the skull. The tusk may have been removed to gain access to edible tissue at its base, Fisher said.

Another reason for removal of the tusk from the skull is to use the ivory to make weapons, researchers added. Using the latest radiocarbon dating techniques the team involved with the latest study found that all the artifacts dated about 14,550 years ago.

Prior to this discovery, scientists believed a group of people called Clovis – considered among the first inhabitants of the Americas – settled the area about 13,200 years ago.

“This is a big deal,” said Halligan. “There were people here. So how did they live? This has opened up a whole new line of inquiry for us as scientists as we try to understand the settlement of the Americas.”