A young archeologist, new to the field, approaches one who has an established reputation for recognizing human-made stone tools. “I need your opinion on something,” the young archeologist says. “Look at this stone. What can you tell me?”
The established archeologist takes it in his beefy hand and inspects it. “Yes. Typical graver spur, used by Cro-Magnon man to engrave bone. See where it has been flaked off to make the characteristic point? Nice specimen.”
“I found these with it,” our young archeologist says, handing over a box of stone chips.
Our established expert beams. “Yes, these were flaked off your spur. See how they fit?” He takes the tiny pieces and matches them up, not perfectly, but well enough to see how they have been chipped off. “Rare to find the tool and the chips together. Must have been a tool-making site, perhaps a campsite. Keep digging, there is more to be found.”
The young archeologist pulls out his smart phone, punches at the icons, and hands it to the expert. “Here are some pictures.” He watches as the established archeologist swipes through a dozen or so screens.
Handing back the phone, our established archeologist says, “That’s a deep pit. Got any dates for it?”
“Our geologist says 130 or 135 thousand years ago. We also have a uranium-series analysis date and a surface beryllium-10 date in rages of about 200,000 years ago.”
“Interesting. Where in Africa are you digging?”
“Not Africa,” our young archeologist says. “These are from America, California to be exact.”
Our established archeologist tosses the stone spur and the box of chips back at the young archeologist. “Impossible,” he says. “Humans did not reach America until 18,000 years ago.”
“But what about the engraver spur we found? We have scrapers and other tools, too.” the young archeologist says as he follows the departing expert. “That’s evidence for a much earlier date.”
“Natural erosion,” the expert says, waving a dismissive hand. “Don’t waste your time.”
“But,” our persistent young archeologist continues, now having to pick up his pace, “Louis Leakey agreed with not only the artifacts, but the date.”
“Hmmph,” replied our expert. “Old and doddering at the time, as I recall.”
When is an artifact not an artifact?
When it is found out of place or out of time.
The Americas seem to have a lot of artifacts that are not artifacts. Our two archeologists were discussing one that could have come for the Calico site in Barstow, California (San Bernardino County), or more dramatically from the Hueyatlaco site in Mexico.
Now conveniently destroyed to build a home with 6 foot concrete fences, this site was first excavated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Uranium series dating gives the age of a butchered mastodon bone to be 250,000 years old. (See Christopher Hardaker’s website for pictures of the mastodon bone from his excellent book.)
Also associated with the Hueyatlaco site were projectile points and other specialized tools, the hallmark of modern humans. Virginia Steen-McIntyre geologically dated the layer in which they were found at about the same age as the mastodon bone.
The Flagstaff Stone
Photo from the Rock Art Museum
This stone was discovered by Jeffrey Goodman, PhD. He dates it to 100,000 years ago based on the strata of earth in which it was found. But is it engraved? Here is what Dr. Goodman (1981, p215) has to say about it:
The geometric arrangement of the grooves, especially the fact that some of the grooves radiate from a common intersection, makes it highly unlikely that the grooves were formed naturally in a streambed or similar environment. The consistent depth of the grooves also argues against a natural origin.
Indeed, there are many such sites all up and down the Pacific coastline. Goodman (1981) gives this information in a table on page 85:
- Calico Hills, California and 200,000- maybe even 500,000 years ago
- Hueyatlaco at 250,000-300,000 years ago
- El Horno in Mexico at 250,000 years ago
- Flagstaff, AZ at 100-170 years ago
- Mission Valley in San Diego at 100,000 years ago
- Texas Street in San Diego at 70-170,000 years ago
- Crown Point in San Diego at 70-170,000 years ago
- Old Crow in the Yukon, Canada at 70-170,000 years ago
- Sunnyvale, California at 70,000 years ago
This last site is where the Sunnyvale girl (evidence of human remains in America 70,000 years ago) was discovered. I wrote about this skeleton and about the Del Mar skull, dated to 48,000 years ago, in my last blog.
Here is where it gets interesting:
Both the Sunnyvale girl (maybe 70,000 years old) and the Del Mar man (48,000 years old) were fully modern homo sapiens in America. But homo sapiens did not reach Europe until 43,000 years ago when they suddenly start competing with Neanderthals. Where did these Cro-Magnon homo sapiens come from? Africa? Or America? Goodman (1981) says America, and he has evidence supporting that theory.
Which came first, American or African homo sapiens? Or did both originate from some lost, drowned land? Hard to tell. Human-made tools show up in Africa and some parts of the east as early as 400,000 years ago. But archeologists are looking diligently over there, not over in the Americas.
Nonetheless, I have read about some other very old sites in the Americas. Here are some controversial sites dated 100,000 years ago or older:
- 9 million years before present (ybp) Table Top mountain was capped with lava. In that lava a mortar and pestle was reportedly found. (Some references say this artifact is 33-35 million years old.)
- 3 million ybp: Stone tools found in the Pliocene Monte Hermosan formation on the Miramar coast of Argentina. (I have also seen this site dated at 20 million ybp, and a report of a human skeleton found with the tools.)
- 3 million ybp: Human footprints at Puebla, Mexico. These are most likely 40,000 ybp based on the volcanic ash in which they were found.
- 750,000 ybp: Holomon Pit tools (Oklahoma) which are more sophisticated than the homo erectus pekinsis tools found in China and dated to the same time.
- 150,000 ybp: Wyoming Black Fork River Site (Corliss in Joseph (2013)).
- 100,000 ybp: Manitoulin Island Calgary tools (Corliss in Joseph (2013)).
- 100,000 ybp: Human remains at New Jersey’s Trenton gravels (Corliss in Joseph (2013).
So did modern humans migrate from Africa to Europe or from America to Europe? Or from some third area we have not discovered? It would seem there is an equal case for all these scenarios.
There is a YouTube for that:
This excellent documentary is on the suppression of the Hueyatlaco site.
Links are embedded in the text.
Goodman, Jeffrey (1981). American Genesis: The startling new theory that the first fully modern men made their world debut in North America. New York: Summit Books.
Hardaker, Christopher (2007). The First Americans: The Suppressed Story of the People who Discovered the New World. Franklin Lakes, NJ: The Career Press, Inc.
Joseph, Frank (2013). Before Atlantis: 20 Million Years of Human and Pre-Human Cultures. Rochester: Bear and Company.