24,000-Year-Old Butchered Bones Found in Canada Change Known History of North America

24,000-Year-Old Butchered Bones Found in Canada Change Known History of North America

Archaeologists have found a set of butchered bones dating back 24,000 years in Bluefish Caves, Yukon, Canada, which are the oldest signs of human habitation ever discovered in North America. Until recently, it was believed that the culture that represented the continent’s first inhabitants was the Clovis culture. However, the discovery of the butchered bones challenges that theory, providing evidence that human occupation preceded the arrival of the Clovis people by as much as 10,000 years.

For decades, it has been believed that the first Americans crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia about 14,000 years ago and quickly colonized North America. Artifacts from these ancient settlers, who have been named the Clovis culture after one of the archaeological sites in Clovis, New Mexico, have been found from Canada to the edges of North America.

A hallmark of the toolkit associated with the Clovis culture is the distinctively shaped, fluted stone spear point, known as the Clovis point. These Clovis points were from the Rummells-Maske Cache Site, Iowa

A hallmark of the toolkit associated with the Clovis culture is the distinctively shaped, fluted stone spear point, known as the Clovis point. These Clovis points were from the Rummells-Maske Cache Site, Iowa (public domain).

However, the recent discovery of bones in Canada that show distinctive cut marks supports the perspective that there were other inhabitants of America that preceded the Clovis.

The finding was made in the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, which consists of three small caves that are now considered to hold the oldest archaeological evidence in North America.  Researchers have found the bones of mammoths, horses, bison, caribou, wolves, foxes, antelope, bear, lion, birds and fish, many of which exhibit butchering marks made by stone tools.

Cut marks in the jaw bone of a now-extinct Yukon horse serve as evidence that humans occupied the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, Canada, up to 24,000 years ago. Photo by Bourgeon et al

Cut marks in the jaw bone of a now-extinct Yukon horse serve as evidence that humans occupied the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, Canada, up to 24,000 years ago. Photo by Bourgeon et al.

The site was first excavated by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars between 1977–87, and initial dating suggested an age of 25,000 before present.  This was dismissed at the time as it did not fit with the well-established Clovis-First theory. However, a new study published in the journal PLOS One supports the initial dating, demonstrating that humans occupied the site as early as 24,000 years ago.

As part of the study, the research team analysed 36,000 mammal bones found in the caves. Carnivore tooth marks were observed on 38 to 56% of the bone material. A total of fifteen bone samples with cultural modifications confidently attributable to human activities were identified, while twenty more samples with “probable” cultural modifications were also found. “The traces identified on these bones are clearly not the result of climato-edaphic factors or carnivore activity,” the researchers report. “The presence of multiple, straight and parallel marks with internal microstriations observed on both specimens eliminates carnivores as potential agents.”

Bone sample from Bluefish cave showing cut marks made by humans.

Bone sample from Bluefish cave showing cut marks made by humans.

The findings support the hypothesis that prior to populating the Americas, the ancestors of Native Americans spent considerable time isolated in a Beringian refuge during the Last Glacial Maximum [LGM], the last period in the Earth's climate history during the last glacial period when ice sheets were at their greatest extension. As the researchers of the study concluded:

“In addition to proving that Bluefish Caves is the oldest known archaeological site in North America, the results offer archaeological support for the “Beringian standstill hypothesis”, which proposes that a genetically isolated human population persisted in Beringia during the LGM and dispersed from there to North and South America during the post-LGM period.”

Top image: Main: Kluane National Park, Yukon (CC by SA 3.0) Inset: Cut marks in the jaw bone of a now-extinct Yukon horse serve as evidence that humans occupied the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, Canada, up to 24,000 years ago. Photo by Bourgeon et al.

By April Holloway


It would seem that Clyde Winters has me blocked so that I can not see his comments (; or reply to them. He doesn't like that I challenge his silly ideas (The Americas were settled by African sailors over 100,000 years ago etc) and contradict his wishful thinking with facts. What he doesn't seem to realize is that when you follow a thread you get the comment in an email. It's not too hard to cut and paste it for the purposes of rebuttal. So...here we go!

Siberians only entered Americas 15kya
There were Native Americans already in North and South America , millennia
before Mongoloid Indians came into the Americas from Siberia. The article you
cite notes that “ They found the ancestors of all present-day Native
Americans entered the Americas from Siberia into what is now Alaska no
earlier than 23,000 years ago. The group did split into the Athabascans and
Amerindians, and after no more than an 8,000-year isolation period in
Beringia — the land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska — they
began to populate the Americas mostly to the south. Earlier studies had
hypothesized about a longer isolation period. “

The authors of this article make it clear that Native Americans from
Siberia began entering North America 15kya. By this time Native Americans
had settled Brazil 100kya. Other Native Americans were at the Old Crow Basin
(c.38,000 BC) in Canada; Orogrande Cave (c.36,000 BC) in the United States;
and Pedra Furada (c.45,000 BC) in Brazil. Monte Verde has Radiocarbon date
43,000=19,000 BC. The Tlapacoya ,Mexico site dates to 24,000 BC.

( these dates are not authenticated nor are all of the artifacts actual artifacts. Additionally, most of these dates are derived via indirect means by dating charcoal found near by but not proven to be associated)

Pedra Furada have produced a total of 55 radiocarbon determinations of which
46 are currently accepted (TABLE 1; Paranti 1993a; pers. comm.); 32 of these
are in the Pedra Furada phase. The Pedra Furada phase is further divided into
three sub-phases. The sub-phases and their ages are: PF1, from 48,000 to
35,000 b.p.; PF2, from 32,160 to 25,000 b.p.; and PF3, from 21,400 to 14,300

Stanford and Bradley maintain that sites dating between 25, 000-13000 years
ago, namely the offshore Cinmar site, Meadowcroft Rock Shelter in
Pennsylvania, Oyster Cove on the Chesapeake Bay,Cactus Hill in Virginia, and
the Miles Point site have tool kits not found in Siberia. They claim that
tools at these site resemble Solutrean tools, not Eurasian tool kits.

(Once again, these dated and sites are not authenticated.)

(The so called Solutrean connection is a bunch of horse hockey based upon the idiotic idea that because two cultures make similar tools using similar methods they must be related.
Clyde is an expert at taking things out of context and cherry picking information. From the same article:
"Using coalescence analyses, not just using one piece of DNA, but the entire genome, we find that the earliest someone could have come to the Americas was 23,000 years ago," said Michael Crawford, head of KU's Laboratory of Biological Anthropology and a professor of anthropology. "This study also pretty well does in the whole idea that gene flow from Europe contributed to the original migration of present-day Native Americans."
Sorry Solutrians)

These dates for Native Americans below Alaska before 15kya make it clear that
ancestors of all present-day Native Americans did not enter the Americas
from Siberia, as claimed by the authors of the article cited by Willy.

(The quote above pretty much proves Clyde doesn't know squat. It clearly states 23,000 years ago and that they all came from a single Parent population. No where in the article does it say Proto Native Americans did not arrive via more than one path.)

While rearranging sites was commonplace during the "Antiquarian" period of Archaeology in the 18th and 19th centuries it is almost unheard of today unless a site is in danger of destruction like the Temple at Abu Simbel near High Aswan Dam. As to Tiwanaku, It has been dated numerous times and by numerous methods and the simple truth is the earliest settlement is consistently dated to around 1500 bce. The Tiwanaku civilization flourished from 300 bce to 300 ce or thereabouts. Dates like those given by Posnansky are simply out of the realm of possibility and are derived through dubious methods.

Okay, you're right and I misspelled the name; should have been Tiahuanaco. On the other hand, I'm not trying to imply a "vast conspiracy" and am only stating what I learned from my research as well as 3-4 very lengthy conversations I had with someone who was actually there (twice) back in the late 70's and who, on one trip, spent the better part of two weeks digging (no pun intended) into the mysteries surrounding the site. There are more than a few sites covering Tiahuanaco, as well as Posnansky online, so you may find some interesting reading. You might also consider researching the famous Gate of the Sun there. Just for argument's sake, this is certainly NOT the only ancient archaeological site which has been a matter of controversy as I'm sure you know. Although I'm not a real conspiracy theorist, I am wise enough to know there have been more than a few sites which have been "changed" to fit the norms/accepted ideas.

There were no " Clovis Humans". Clovis is a style of lithics , a tool Kit of spear points and micro blades . The people who Butchered the mammoth bones in Bluefish Cave were Native Americans who evolved in America different styles of Lithic traditions, into the beautiful Clovis points of 12,600-13,300 yrs ago. Inventing and using a different style of tool Kit doesn't automatically change your genetics or genome. Those people were the same, and were the ancestors of the Native Americans.

It's possible the Bluefish Cave humans migrated from NE Asia 25-30k years ago and died off before they could populate further than the Yukon. Then, approximately 10k years later, the Clovis humans entered No. America and populated it.

Oldest Homo Sapiens evidence is 180,000 years ago in SE Africa. Following our ancestors pathway to NE Asia then into North America is fascinating.


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Myths & Legends

Human Origins

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene.
Most people are now familiar with the traditional "Out of Africa" model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research

Ancient Technology

The four-handled tureen adorned with dragons, birds and spikes
Chinese archaeologists have discovered ritual tureen and “soup bowls” next to a badly decomposed body in a Zhou dynasty-era tomb. Among the remains there were also uncovered two wine vessels, which experts suggest were probably used as part of the funerary rituals.

Ancient Places

Illustration of the "Emmons mask", a Mississippian culture carved cedarwood human face shaped object once covered in copper and painted with galena and used as part of a headdress
The City of Moundsville is located along the Ohio River in Marshall County, West Virginia. From the time of European settlement in the 1770s, Moundsville was regarded by antiquarians as one of the most significant ancient sites in North America. For it was here that the Adena mound builders and their descendants constructed the largest ceremonial center in the Upper Ohio Valley

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article