An Early Peopling of America
This is an essay (It is not scholarly enough to be a "paper), which summarizes in a neat way many things that I have posted on my blog.
In Part II, coming soon, I look into the genetics of the peopling of America and try to build a case for early entry and admixture between modern humans and Neanderthals / H. erectus.
An Early Peopling of America (Part I)
Austin V. Whittall
The argument used against an ancient peopling of America -before c. 25 thousand years ago (Kya)- is that there were no modern humans in Northeastern Siberia at that time ready to cross Beringia and enter North America.
Another claim is that only then, during the final period of the Wisconsin glaciations, had modern humans acquired the know-how to be able to survive in such a hostile environment and that the sea level had dropped enough to allow entry.
However archaeological remains dating >30 Kya in the Americas and the in depth sequencing of modern and archaic genomes open up the possibility that the first human occupant of the New World may have been either Homo erectus or H. Neanderthalensis.
This overview will present the case for an early peopling of America by these hominids and a later admixture in America with modern H. sapiens, which defined the particular genetic lineages of the New World.
Ancient hominids in Siberia
There is ample evidence of pre-sapiens hominids in Siberia and north East Asia who had mastered the techniques necessary to survive in that environment and could have entered America long before the 25 Kya “entry window period”.
Denisova Cave in Central Siberia site displays cultural sequences dating from 282.0 +⁄- 56.0 Kya to roughly 9.8 Kya, (1)(2) associated to both Neanderthals and the recently discovered Denisovans.
Further east the Diring Yuriakh site on Lena River has provided lithic elements dated to 260 Kya (3), probably fashioned by H. erectus or Denisovans.
Northern China is well known for H. erectus sites and remains from the Longlin cave in Guangxi and Malu cave in Yunnan China belonging to the “Red deer people” suggest that archaic hominids which display a mosaic of primitive and modern traits lived there 11.5 Kya (4); suggesting also admixture in China. An archaic skullcap from Salkit in Northeast Mongolia is also a mosaic of modern and archaic, similar to Neanderthals and Chinese Homo erectus yet has been dated to 12.6 Kya (34). These findings suggest a long history of archaic humans in Northeastern Asia.
Could these primitive Siberian Hominids migrate into America?
This question was posed by Argentine Anthropologist Juan Schobinger: “If relatively recent Homo erectus adapted to the cold winters of Northern China and Manchuria, why couldn't they advance along the North Pacific coast and enter -just like the fauna did- the American continent at any time during the last 400 thousand years?” (5).
The Beringia land route used by the fauna and later by modern humans was only open when the sea level dropped at the height of the glaciations. Warmer interglacial periods submerged that route and, would have required sailing across a short stretch of sea between Asia and America.
The Wisconsin glaciations (12 – 110 Kya), were one of many that occurred during the last half million years. The others glacial events are: Illinoian 120-200 Kya and Pre-Illinoian 300/380 - 455 Kya.
Regarding fauna migration, an ancestor of both black and brown bears colonized the Siberian steppe about 3.5 Mya. Shortly after that, the black bears migrated into America across Beringia. They were followed by the brown bears 300 Kya (6).
In an inverse path across Beringia, woolly mammoths from the New World colonized Eurasia 60 Kya (7). The cave lion ancestor of the American lion (puma) entered America through Beringia during the second-last (Illinoian) glaciations between 130 and 300 Kya.
If animals could cope with the harsh Beringian environment, an intelligent hominid such as H. erectus could do so too. H. erectus had adapted well to the extreme cold conditions of northern China and lived there for hundreds of thousands of years. They exploited the environment and used fire (8)(9) and perhaps clothing to deal with the cold. It is therefore possible that they could have crossed Beringia and entered America either by walking or, as suggested by recent evidence, sailing, during a warm interglacial period (10). Neanderthals, whose remains have been found in Western and Central Asia, were equally well adapted to the glacial conditions of Northern Eurasia.
Evidence of Archaic Humans in America
1. Ancient sites in America
Cobble assemblages with pebble and chopper tools similar to those found in Eurasian Pleistocene sites of Mid-Wisconsinan age (over 25 Kya) have been found in Alberta, Canada (Silver Springs, Grimshaw and Varsity Estates) (11)(12); however they have been contested as geofacts (13).
In South America tools from Malone, Lapa do Caboclo, Eduardo and Poseidon shelters in Brazil have been dated by TL and EPR methods to 41 - 60 Kya (14). Tools 22 Kya have been recovered from Toca da Tira Peia, Brazil (15). Arroyo Vizcaíno site in Uruguay has yielded stone tools and bones with man-made cut marks 27-30 Kya (16).
Bifacial axes similar to the Levalloisian, Mousterian and Clactonian industries, >35 Kya were reported in Cuba (17)(18). The Burnham site in Oklahoma, US, has bison bones associated with stone tools and radiocarbon dates of 35 to 42.5 rcybp (19).
Even older sites such as Valsequillo, Mexico and Calico Mountains, US, have produced lithic implements that have been dated to 80 - 220 Kya and 70 - 100 Kya respectively, generating controversy regarding their human or natural origin (20)(21)(22).
The paucity of such sites and associated archaic lithic industries in the Americas suggests that archaeologists pass over evidence that does not fit within the accepted framework of a late peopling of the contient as the last step of an Out Of Africa migration.
This oversight is not due to negligence or lack of knowledge, we assign it to training: if, under current theories such assemblages are not expected in America, then they are not sought for, or if encountered, are not identified at all.
2. Robust or Archaic crania
It is claimed that no remains of H. erectus or Neanderthal have been discovered in America; however crania with archaic features have been found but dismissed as belonging to modern humans.
A superciliary arch found at Lake Chapala site in Guadalajara, Mexico of notable “thickness and robustness are comparable to those of KNM-ER 3733 (African Homo erectus)… the brow is more like that of Zhoukoudian Skull XI (Asian Homo erectus)… the remains were mineralized and recovered with Pleistocene-age fauna” (23).
The “Loess Man” site close to Omaha, Nebraska, US, discovered in 1896 produced skulls with pronounced brow ridges of “Neanderthal type”, but they were dismissed as belonging to recent Native Americans (24).
A cranium discovered in the Paiute region of Nevada, US, at Lovelock Cave displayed: “Unusual features… prominent brow ridge… low retreating forehead… os inca… exceptionally developed occipital torus…”(25). The occipital torus or bun is a characteristic feature of Neanderthals, whereas it is very rare among modern humans. In part 2 of this paper we will review these archaic features.
Redheaded Paleo-Indians, Neanderthals?
At Spirit Cave, also in Lovelock, a mummified body of a man was recovered in 1940. Dated in 1994 to 10,630 Kya., its unusual “Caucasoid” features and red hair are quite unlike those of current Paiute natives, the Native Americans that peopled the area in historic times (26).
A book written in 1883 by a Paiute records that they: exterminated a “small tribe of barbarians” known as “people-eaters” who waylaid them to “kill and eat them”. These people “had reddish hair” from which the Paiute later made garments (27).
Red hair is very infrequent among Amerindians and Mongoloids, but, apparently could be a Neanderthal trait since they had the MC1R gene (melanocortin 1 receptor) associated with red hair in humans (28).
Remains that cannot be assigned to the typical East Asian morphology have been ascribed to Caucasoids (29), African Blacks (30), and other populations (31)(32) that may have peopled the continent before the arrival of Mongoloids groups via Beringia. Surprisingly the first Spanish Chronicles during the conquest of Meso-America, the Caribbean and Northwestern South America report Negroids (30). These distinct morphologies could be attributed to admixture with pre-sapiens hominids.
Humans are infested by three types of head louse (Pediculus humanus). One of them has a global distribution (Type A), while the other is only found in North America and Europe (Type B). The third type is very rare and found only in Nepal and Ethiopia.
Genetic analysis shows that type A an B diverged from each other about 1.2 Ma. Type B has been thought to have evolved separately in America and brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. American Type B louse is believed to be the original Homo erectus’ lice strain, that accompanied these hominids when they left Africa for Asia 1.2 Ma. They evolved isolated into a new variety, while the original strain that remained in Africa became Type A.
About 1.1 million years later Homo sapiens left Africa, moving out with their own Type A lice. When modern humans and ancient H. erectus met in Asia the primeval louse lineage (Type B) jumped from erectus to sapiens, infesting modern man who took the ancient Type B louse with them into America. The lice remained isolated from the rest of mankind until the arrival of Europeans.
Homo erectus died out in Asia and its Type B lice with them, removing them from further contact with humans in Eurasia and Africa (33).
We understand that this interpretation is flawed as it does not account for the lack of infestation with Type B variety in modern humans who remained in Asia.
A more plausible explanation is that Homo erectus had moved out on into America with its Type B lice and by the time humans reached Asia erectus had died out in there. Erectus had taken its Type B into America, effectively isolating them from all modern Old World humans. Infestation took place in America, when humans migrated to the New World and encountered H. erectus and its Type B lice.
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© 09.January.2014. Austin V. Whittall
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall ©