The Sequim Gazette trumpets (sorrrrrry, couldn’t help it!) the news that a mastodon discovered there in 1977 was hunted and butchered by humans 13,800 year ago. This is the oldest demonstrated date of human hunters in North America, and helps bury the long-held “Clovis first” theory. The research appeared in Science 21 October 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6054 pp. 351-353 DOI: 10.1126/science.1207663.
The paper was written by a cast of thousands (seems like it, anyway) headed by Michael R. Waters of the Center for the Study of the First Americans (Departments of Anthropology and Geography) at Texas A&M University.
Here is a summary of the Science paper, written by Andrew Lawler of the journal’s editorial staff:
Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunters Make a Point
On page 351 of this week’s issue of Science, researchers report new analyses of the remains of a
mastodon found in the 1970s with a bone spear point in its rib. Scientists used DNA and radiocarbon dating to demonstrate that the point came from a mastodon bone shaped into a weapon by humans and used a startling 13,800 years ago. That’s nearly 1000 years before the Clovis culture, long considered to be the first culture in the New World. The find adds to the wave of recent compelling evidence demonstrating an earlier, pre-Clovis settling of the Americas. Although a few Clovis-first holdouts remain unconvinced, the early bone point also suggests that the extinction of large mammals such as mastodons and mammoths may have begun long before the Clovis people came on the scene.
The paper’s abstract reads:
“The tip of a projectile point made of mastodon bone is embedded in a rib of a single disarticulated mastodon at the Manis site in the state of Washington. Radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis show that the rib is associated with the other remains and dates to 13,800 years ago. Thus, osseous projectile points, common to the Beringian Upper Paleolithic and Clovis, were made and used during pre-Clovis times in North America. The Manis site, combined with evidence of mammoth hunting at sites in Wisconsin, provides evidence that people were hunting proboscideans at least two millennia before Clovis.”
The projectile point is about 10 inches long, and had been sharpened.
The Sequim Gazette’s article has two great illustrations, showing views of the projectile and the bone it penetrated.
The “Manis mastodon” was found by Emanuel “Manny” Manis of Sequim, Washington. It is on the register of National Historic Places, but is private property. Fossil bones recovered from the site are on display at the Sequim Museum and Arts Center, located at 175 W. Cedar Street in downtown Sequim. It is open from 9AM to 4PM Monday through Saturday. This museum is filled with local historic exhibits. They have a model of the diggings, a video, and some displays.
Oregon Live web article on the Manis Mastodon exhibit.
King 5 news report (video and article).
Filed under: fossils |