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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

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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

Comments

I don't know why I couldn't access your comment so, I'll repost it here and answer it as best I can:

Migrating Africans
You raise a very interesting point. Australian Aborigines. Years ago I went
to a display about human "origins" at OMSI and asked the attendant about
where these folks came from as they appeared more BLACK than black Africans
and were far from any other black race humans. I believe he said they had
been there some 45-50 thousand years. A very long time by our measure. You
come across as feeling that you are all seeing and all knowing so where do
they come from and how did they get there? I'm guessing that you'll also
disagree with the ancient date as well.

No, I don't disagree with those dates at all and further more I wouldn't be surprised to find that Aborigines arrived in Australia even earlier than that. They are the product of the first out of Africa event and probably began their journey between 80 and 120 thousand years ago via the southern route across the Red Sea between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. From there they most likely migrated along the coasts to India (modern human tools have been found under the Toba ash fall ca 78,000 bce) and on to SE Asia, New Guinea and Ultimately...Australia. The Australian dates are very solid and consistent so, I see no reason to doubt them.
What concerns me is your "more black than black Africans" statement. Africans, like Australians come in a variety of shades of brown just as do all other humans. There is no such thing as being "more black" or for that matter more white, brown etc. For some stupid reason westerners are hung up on color as the defining characteristic of "race". This is simply not so. Let's take "whites" as an example. Walk down an American street and take a look. You will almost surely see people and categorize them as "blacks", "whites", "Asians" etc but, what happens when you come across an Arab? How about a person of Indian heritage? Are they black, white or Asian? If they have dark skin, most people will say "Ahhh...they're black!" Those who know their geography will say "Nope, they're Asians." BOTH would however, be wrong. Both Arabs and Indians are in fact genetically members of the Caucasian race! They are "whites" in good standing! "Race" has nothing to do with skin color, the shape of your nose and eyes or even the texture of your hair.
This is why Clyde and I butt heads all the time. He makes the erroneous assumption that because Australians LOOK LIKE Africans they must be the same! Nothing could be further from the truth!
While it is true that all humans are African in origin, not all humans are Africans. Just because some Native Americans had dark skin and wide noses does not make them Africans either. These groups are all genetically distinct but convergent evolution makes them look similar without being closely related at all.

The events you are describing occurred during the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era. There were as yet no humans (or Primates for that matter). I fail to see what bearing this has on the discussion at hand.

I believe this is an incorrect statement. In ancient times before S and N America were joined there was an equatorial current as well as the more Northern Tethys Sea at which time there were non existent or much smaller Ice caps, no glaciation and much more globally tropical conditions prevailed. Sea levels had to be higher as well as that land masses were not as tall either since a great deal of plate movement had not happened yet.

Roberto Peron's picture

I just finished blogging about this very subject on my site.  Sea levels in prehsitoric times were lower than they are today so any evidence of searfaring is likely under water and accumulated sediments. BTW chimps HAVE been observed using logs to float across water on.  No they don’t build boats BUT they obviously have the concept of using a log to float upon the waters to get to where they are going.

WHY is the narrative that "early" man didn't know how to build boats? Why must we always restrict ourselves to man "walking" all over the earth. If Noah could build a big boat (or Gilgamesh), surely boats had been around even before then.

I am inclined to think Darwin has hoodwinked most people into believing that since apes don't build boats, early man didn't either. Phhht.

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