Oldest Bone Projectile Point in the Americas Found Stuck in a Mastodon’s Rib!
Analysis of a 13,900-year-old bone projectile point has led to two major discoveries. First and most importantly, it is the oldest known artifact of its kind in the Americas! This archaeological treasure was uncovered at the Manis Mastodon site in Washington, USA during an excavation in the late 1970s, and it has now been put under the scanner, quite literally.
The bone fragments from the tip of the weapon reveals that it was crafted from the bone of a mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant. The Manis bone projectile point, as it has been termed, was found lodged inside a mastodon rib. This relates to the second significant discovery about the artifact – this bone projectile point is not only the oldest artifact of its kind in the Americas, but it also provides the oldest direct evidence of mastodon hunting in the Americas.
The Manis mastodon rib with embedded bone projectile point. (A) Three views of the rib fragment with embedded point. (B) Close-up views of the embedded point. Note root staining on the bone and embedded bone point. (Waters et al. 2023 / Science Advances )
Rib Tickling: A Weapon Stuck in an Uncomfortable Place
“We isolated the bone fragments, printed them out, and assembled them,” says Michael Waters, director of the university’s Center for the Study of First Americans and professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University. “This clearly showed this was the tip of a bone projectile point. This is the oldest bone projectile point in the Americas and represents the oldest direct evidence of mastodon hunting in the Americas,” he added.
His team had employed a CT scan and 3D software, isolating all the bone fragments in the process, enlarging the image of each bone fragment by 6 times. They were then pieced together to show what the specimen would have looked like before entering the rib. Their study has been published in the newest edition of the journal Sciences Advances , and is available as open access.
- History Rewritten! Early Humans were in North America 130,000 Years Ago
- Ancient Ancestors Walking All Over Clovis First Academics
“What is important about Manis is that it’s the first and only bone tool that dates older than Clovis. At the other pre-Clovis site, only stone tools are found,” Waters explained. “This shows that the First Americans made and used bone weapons and likely other types of bone tools.”
Reconstruction of the distal end of the Manis projectile point. (Waters et al. 2023 / Science Advances )
The preservation of the Manis specimen was an accident – the hunter missed, leading to the projectile getting stuck in a mastodon’s rib. It was crafted from the leg bone of another mastodon, shaped deliberately into a projectile point. The spear was thrown at the mastodon, penetrated the hide and tissue, eventually coming into contact with the rib.
The hunter clearly wanted to hit the spear between the ribs and bust the lungs, but missed and hit the rib instead. The rib and its dating had been part of a 2011 study by Waters and his colleagues that was published in Science.
A mastodon with an arrow pointing to the trajectory of the spear. ( Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University )
Disproving the Clovis First Hypothesis
At 13,900 years old, the Manis point is at least 900 years older than the Clovis projectile points, stone tools which had also been studied by Waters. The Clovis spear points have been found in Texas and other parts of the country, dating from 13,050 to 12,750 years ago, according to a press release by Texas A&M University.
The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleoamerican culture, from roughly 11,500 to 10,800 years BP. It is characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools. The theory known as "Clovis First" had been the predominant hypothesis among archaeologists in the second half of the 20th century.
Clovis points in the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist collection. (Billwhittaker/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
According to that theory, the people associated with the Clovis culture were the first inhabitants of the Americas, who’d crossed over from the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska during the last Ice Age. The primary support for this claim was that no solid evidence of pre-Clovis human habitation had been found…yet. The theory has been challenged and disproved several times in the last couple of decades, with the emergence of new and exciting evidence . The archaeologists behind the new study have provided another example, writing:
“The Manis point, made of mastodon bone, shows that people hunted megafauna with osseous weaponry in the Pacific Northwest some 900 years before the emergence of Clovis technology. The use of osseous weaponry like the Manis point and the different stone projectile points of this age found at sites across the rest of North America may signal that the earliest people to enter and explore the Americas brought with them a diversity of technologies and tools that they adapted to the local environments they found and inhabited.”
- 16,700-Year-Old Tools Found in Texas Change Known History of North America
- Cataclysm, Mass Extinctions, and the Consequent Myths
So how they did those early inhabitants of the lands that would become known as the Americas arrive? Waters, who has extensively studied this time period and culture, postulates that it was probably by boat, perhaps a coastal route along the North Pacific, before moving south, reports Arkeo News .
These people would eventually get past the ice sheets covering Canada and touch base in the Pacific Northwest, evidenced by the cluster of sites found there - Idaho has the 16,000-years-old Cooper’s Ferry site, Oregon has the 14,100-year-old site of Paisley Caves, and to add to this, the 13,900-year-old Manis site.
All of these cultures and sites predate Clovis, suggesting that the first people to arrive in the Americas were the ones responsible for the culture in the northwestern USA between 16,000 and 14,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age.
Top image: Prehistoric hunters. ( anibal / Adobe Stock) Insert: The oldest known bone projectile point in the Americas. ( Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University )
By Sahir Pandey
Kayra, O. 2023. Research Team Identifies Oldest Bone Spear Point In The Americas . Available at: https://arkeonews.net/research-team-identifies-oldest-bone-spear-point-in-the-americas/.
Lazo, P.L. 2023. U.S. scientists identify oldest bone spear point in the Americas . Available at: https://www.plenglish.com/news/2023/02/03/u-s-scientists-identify-oldest-bone-spear-point-in-the-americas/.
T. A. M. U. 2023. Research Team Identifies Oldest Bone Spear Point in the Americas . Available at: https://www.futurity.org/bone-projectile-spear-point-mastodon-americas-2869072-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bone-projectile-spear-point-mastodon-americas-2869072-2.
Waters, M.R., et al . 2023. Late Pleistocene osseous projectile point from the Manis site, Washington—Mastodon hunting in the Pacific Northwest 13,900 years ago . Sciences Advances, 9(5). Available at: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.ade9068 .