Scientists Late to Recognize Human and Giant Mammal Coexistence


Giant mammals roamed North America during the Ice Age, but were humans among them? A site in Vero Beach on Florida's East coast contains mammoth, mastodon, giant ground sloth—and human fossils. The problem is that humans were not yet supposed to have been there, according to the standard story told to generations of archaeologists.

When discovered in the early 1900s, researchers insisted that the Vero Beach human remains washed in long after the large mammals fossilized. But new results, like so many other similar reinvestigations of old sites, show they were made at the same time and that humans lived and died in North America long before believed. What took researchers so long to acknowledge that?

The reason why it took so long for the evidence to come to light may be the same reason why fossil evidence of humans and dinosaurs is so scarce.

Archaeologists at the University of Florida analyzed the concentrations of rare earth elements in the various bones from the Vero site, finding that they all statistically matched.1 This evidence shows that they were buried simultaneously, and it contradicts longstanding dogma that humans had not yet arrived in America.

Supposedly, the earliest Americans were the Clovis peoples, who left tool caches in New Mexico caves that researchers discovered in the early and middle 20th century. However, all this new evidence of pre-Clovis peoples is finally forcing a broad-scale revision of history.

Nature recently reviewed some of the pre-Clovis evidences that include fossil dung from a cave in Oregon, campsite remains from Chile, stone tools from Salado, Texas,2 and "sites in Tennessee and Florida, where evidence of pre-Clovis mammoth hunting was uncovered in the 1980s and 1990s."3 And now, the Vero Beach evidence adds to the "slow avalanche of findings."3

Well, the evidence was not slow, but the willingness to investigate and report the evidence has been very slow, since some of these pre-Clovis sites were discovered decades ago. Has some factor other than archaeological evidence played a role in suppressing the evidence of pre-Clovis peoples?

Adherence to a particular narrative apparently holds a stronger sway than evidence contradicting that narrative. For example, one longstanding narrative that held an iron sway for so long among archaeologists told that ancients migrated across the Bering land bridge during the Ice Age, from Asia to America. But lately, some dare to suggest that the ancients instead travelled by boats along the coast, called "coastal migration." An even more rare dissenting voice suggests that they floated straight across the Atlantic.

Why were these alternative ideas so long in coming? University of Oregon archaeologist Jon Erlandson told Nature, "I was once warned not to write about coastal migration in my dissertation. My adviser said I would ruin my career."3

If a career can be ruined over as trivial a matter as challenging a North American Ice Age migration story, how much more easily would it be ruined by a researcher challenging the story of dinosaur extinction millions of years before man by daring to consider evidence of human and dinosaurs having lived together?

Certainly, for many years dogmatic adherence to the Clovis-first narrative suppressed the most straightforward interpretation of field evidence for pre-Clovis peoples. Similarly, the dogma of human evolution caused researchers to misidentify human foot bones found in Africa as belonging to an extinct ape.4 Who knows what human fossils may have been discovered in even deeper earth layers, but misidentified because they didn't fit the evolution narrative?

References

  1. Torrent, D. New UF study shows early North Americans lived with extinct giant beasts. University of Florida News. Posted on news.ufl.edu May 3, 2012.
  2. Thomas, B. North America's Oldest Inhabitants Found in Texas. Creation Science Updates. Posted on icr.org April 13, 2011, accessed May 14, 2012.
  3. Curry, A. 2012. Coming to America. Nature. 485(7396): 30-32.
  4. Thomas, B. Human Foot Bone Misidentified as Lucy's. Creation Science Updates. Posted on icr.org February 18, 2011, accessed May 14, 2012.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on May 30, 2012.