AMERICA’S first settlers may have been from Japan – and could have arrived 1,000 to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Stone tools found in Idaho point to early settlers migrating along North America’s Pacific Coast and the moving inland.
It’s now believed that settlers may have came to the Americas from Northeastern Asia around 16,000 years ago.
It rewrites America’s earliest human history, which was previously thought to date back around 13,000 to 14,000 years.
The original theory was based on the discovery of the Clovis stone tools – named because they were found near Clovis, New Mexico.
It was believed that the people who made these tools migrated to North America on foot.
This was made possible by crossing Beringia, a lost stretch of land that once connected Alaska and Siberia.
These early migrants then travelled down an ice-free corridor that was only opened thanks to the retreat of huge American ice sheets.
But now researchers writing in the Science journal have found a cache of “pre-Clovis” artefacts that reveal American migrations date back between 15,000 and 16,000 years.
Stone tools were found at the Cooper’s Ferry site in Idaho, which was first excavated in the 1960s.
But between 2009 and 2018, Oregon State University professor Loren Davis and his team dug two large holes in the ground.
One of these pits produced a trove of artefacts – including 27 stone tools and 161 flakes of rock used to make these ancient instruments.
They also found bone fragments from an extinct horse species, stemmed point fragments, and a evidence of a hearth or fire pit.
“We think that represents someone butchering a horse”, explained Davis, describing an ancient cooking procedure.
Radiocarbon-dating confirmed that these aretefacts date back to as long ago as 14,000 BC.
Davis said it might be “the earliest radiocarbon-dated evidence of people interacting with extinct animals in North America”.
There’s a major mystery though: how did these ancient migrants get to America?
It’s possible that these migrants took a route across land over Beringia too.
But ice sheets may have hampered this – leading to alternative theories.
The best argument is that settlers used ancient boats to travel to North America across the sea.
And there’s evidence that these early settlers came all the way from Japan.
“The oldest artefacts uncovered at Cooper’s Ferry also are very similar in form to older artefacts found in northeastern Asia, and particularly, Japan,”
Davis suggests that this isn’t a coincidence, and that there may be a cultural link between the earliest American settlers and people in Northeastern Asia.
It’s possible that the culture may have originated in Japan and then spread to North America.
However, it’s unclear how much time there was between the Idaho tools and the original migration.
A timeline of life on Earth
The history of the planet in years…
- 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
- 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
- 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
- 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
- 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
- 530million years ago – first fish appear
- 470million years ago – first land plants appear
- 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
- 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
- 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
- 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
- 200million years ago – mammals appear
- 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
- 130million years ago – first flowering plants
- 100million years ago – earliest bees
- 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
- 30million years ago – first cats evolve
- 20million years ago – great apes evolve
- 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
- 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
- 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
- 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
- 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction
It’s also possible – but unlikely, researchers say – that the tool techniques were developed completely separately at the same time on different continents.
“So one hypothesis is simply that you’re looking at the extension culturally of people that are bringing these ideas with them from northern Japan,” Davis said.
Importantly, this group would’ve been separate from the later group we now know as Native Americans.
“Both genetics and dental anthropology indicate unequivocally that Native Americans are not derived from northern Japan,” said John Hoffecker, of the University of Colorado, speaking to Live Science.
But he added that in “the last ice age there may have been a different population of people there that are no longer represented in the modern genetic pool of Japan”.
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In related news, archaeologists are baffled by 200 ‘rock columns’ 2,500 years older than Stonehenge.
Haunting faces carved into rocks at “Europe’s first city” 8,000 years ago have also proved highly mysterious.
And a Celtic woman has been found buried inside a tree ‘wearing fancy clothes and jewellery’ after 2,200 years.
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