Hints of early settlers in North America were uncovered as fishermen pulled up a mastodon skull and an ancient tool that are believed to date back to about 22000 years. Both of these relics come from an area that hasn’t been dry land for more than 14000 years. The report also goes on to suggest that man settled in the area thousands of years before the Clovis culture, a civilization that is popularly known to be the first settlers in North America.
Current theories state that the first Americans had arrived from Siberia once they crossed the Bering Strait about 15000 years ago in order to colonize North America. These settlers, who were known as the Clovis people, have left traces all the way from the edges of North America to Canada.
In the year 1974, a wooden scallop trawler was found on the sea floor, about 230 feet below the surface at a distance of approximately 60 miles from the Chesapeake Bay coast. According to Dennis Stanford, the Smithsonian Institution archaeologist who had analyzed the find, the fishermen had hit a snag which automatically meant that something heavy was stuck in the net. Once the net was pulled out, the skull of a mastodon (a relative of the woolly mammoth that is believed to have become extinct about 12000 years ago) as well as a flaked blade made from rhyolite, a volcanic rock, were found.
Since these fishermen couldn’t carry the skull back in the small boat, they sawed off the teeth and the tusks and tossed the rest overboard. The captain of the boat gave away the tusk portions, the knife and the teeth to one of his relatives who in turn donated them to the Gwynn’s Island Museum where they were left unnoticed for decades.
These remains were recently noticed by Darrin Lowery, a geologist working for the University of Delaware. Steps were taken to measure the fractions of radioactive carbon isotopes and it was discovered that the mastodon tusk dated back to almost 22000 years. Although the blade cannot be given an exact date, the technique is similar to those used to make Solutrean tools in Europe about 22000 to 17000 years ago.
Researchers state that since the continental shelf area submerged about 14000 years ago, the knife must be at least 14000 years old. Stanford believes that both artifacts are possibly from the same environment such as the marshes that can be sometimes found between sand dunes. This environment would also have been perfect for mastodons to find ample food.
According to Michael B Collins, an anthropologist with the Texas State University, the hypothesis sounds extremely convincing. He also states that these items could have come to rest together at different periods of time with the tool dating back to 18000 to 19000 years.
To some experts like Vance Holliday however, a University of Arizona archaeologist, the hypothesis is extremely controversial because the finds are at a considerable distance from the original settlements, thereby making it difficult to draw any conclusions.
These new discoveries were described in one of the chapters of the “Prehistoric Archaeology on the Continental Shelf”. They are yet to be published in any peer reviewed journal.