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The photograph shows an in-situ bipoint biface found within the exposed and eroding paleosol on July 23th, 2017. 	Source: Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate

Migration to the Americas Potentially Occurred 7,000 Years Earlier Than Thought

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One of archaeology's most hotly debated topics, the arrival of humans in the Americas, has received an added impetus. New evidence emerged from Parsons Island, Maryland that has been proposed to revise the previously established timeline by a whopping 7,000 years! 286 artifacts have been uncovered from Chesapeake Bay, with the oldest embedded in charcoal along the southwestern edge, from a time when much of the continent was under ice. However, not everyone agrees with the dating technique used to determine the date of earliest human habitation there.

Another Pre-Clovis Argument To Explore

The saga of the first Americans has captivated both the public and scientists alike, often accompanied by heated disputes. Joining them now is geologist Darrin Lowery, an independent researcher once affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, who along with his team has made 93 trips to Parsons Island, reports The Washington Post.

Aerial view of Parsons Island encompassing about 71 acres; a loss of ~28 acres over a 27-year period. (Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate)

Aerial view of Parsons Island encompassing about 71 acres; a loss of ~28 acres over a 27-year period. (Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate)

Studying Parsons Island in an Era of Global Boiling

Parsons Island itself presents numerous obstacles to study, primarily due to its rapid erosion caused by land subsidence and rising sea levels. The area where the artifacts were discovered now lies beneath the turbulent waters of the bay, highlighting the urgency of investigating and documenting these sites before they vanish entirely.

Sebastien Lacombe, an archaeologist at Binghamton University, who visited the island in 2017 said:

“The visit reinforced my will to invest my time into this time period, because it’s a very fragile record,”. “It’s at risk of disappearing, and we’re at risk of [allowing] these sites and artifacts to lose their meaning forever.”

If Lowery's interpretation holds true, Parsons Island could rewrite the narrative of American prehistory, raising new questions about the ancient past. How did these early inhabitants arrive? How many waves of migration preceded them? And crucially, are they the ancestors of today's Native Americans?

Adding complexity to the situation is Darrin Lowery's status as an independent researcher, despite his past affiliation with the Smithsonian. Rather than opting for the conventional route of publication in a peer-reviewed journal, Lowery chose to present his findings on Parsons Island through a 260-page online manuscript, reports The Daily Mail.

He contends that the peer-review process in archaeology often fosters a mentality of defending the prevailing paradigm, potentially dismissing evidence that challenges it. His decision to bypass traditional publishing channels reflects frustration with what he perceives as a cumbersome and sometimes biased system.

The photograph shows the eroded bank profile containing a deeply buried paleosol along the southwest side of Parsons Island as seen on May 20th, 2013.  (Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate)

The photograph shows the eroded bank profile containing a deeply buried paleosol along the southwest side of Parsons Island as seen on May 20th, 2013.  (Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate)

Lowery’s Journey: A Childhood of Archaeological Wonder and the Great Migration

Lowery's journey into the world of archaeology began in childhood, as he explored the Chesapeake shoreline near his home on Tilghman Island, just southwest of Parsons Island. He tells the story of how, in 1977, at the age of nine, he stumbled upon a distinctive fluted stone projectile point, reminiscent of those associated with the Clovis culture, which was then widely believed to represent the earliest Americans. This chance discovery sparked his lifelong passion for uncovering the secrets hidden along the bay's shores.

As he grew older, Lowery continued his explorations, gradually piecing together the puzzle of ancient human presence in the region. His understanding deepened as he observed the effects of seasonal patterns, sediment dynamics, and natural forces like wind and waves on the uncovering of ancient artifacts. Each day spent walking the shoreline yielded new insights, reinforcing his conviction that there was much more to be discovered beneath the surface of the bay's waters.Top of Form

A Turning Tide?

For human settlement of the Americas, Bottom of Form

the prevailing theory of "The Great Migration" posits that early humans migrated from Asia to North America by crossing a land bridge over the Bering Strait, approximately 15,000 years ago. This journey is thought to have led them southward into what is now the United States.

Support for this theory comes from various lines of evidence, including genetic studies of Native American populations and archaeological findings. One significant archaeological marker is the presence of stone projectile points, known as Clovis points, which have been found at sites throughout North America. These distinctive artifacts are believed to have been used by early inhabitants to hunt megafauna such as mammoths and mastodons.

The discovery of Clovis points has long been interpreted as evidence of the earliest human presence in the Americas and has played a central role in shaping our understanding of ancient migration patterns. However, recent discoveries challenge this narrative, including these reported findings by Darrin Lowery in Maryland, and footprints found in White Sands New Mexico, dated to between 23,000 and 21,000 years ago.

Top image: The photograph shows an in-situ bipoint biface found within the exposed and eroding paleosol on July 23th, 2017. Source: Darrin Lowrey/ Research Gate

By Sahir Pandey

References

Johnson, C.Y. 2024.  Ancient Chesapeake site challenges timeline of humans in the Americas. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2024/05/19/first-americans-chesapeake-parsons-island/.

Liberatore, S. 2024.  Ancient tools found in Maryland show the first humans came to America 7,000 YEARS earlier than previously thought, scientist claims. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-13443805/Ancient-tools-Maryland-shows-humans-came-America.html.

Newcomb, T. 2024.  A Scientist Says He Has Evidence That Ice-Age Humans Lived in Maryland 22,000 Years Ago. Available at: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/archaeology/a60846638/ice-age-humans-maryland/.

 
Sahir's picture

Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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