Prior to the advent of Columbus, Europeans generally didn't know that ancient civilizations existed in the American continents. However, after Columbus "discovered" America, scientists began to learn about the ancient peoples of the Americas. Their research is continuing today.
Scientists believe that ancestors of Native Americans came to North America during the ice age when ocean levels were low and there was a land-bridge between Siberia and North America, but their knowledge of when these migrations occurred is changing. Spear heads have been found in North America that show that "the first-known hunters in North America can now be dated back at least 14,000 years". ScienceDaily reported that "Textiles and rope fragments found in a Peruvian cave have been dated to around 12,000 years ago". For years, many, perhaps most, archeologists thought the Clovis people were the original immigrants to the Americas, but archeologists recently discovered "Artifacts in Texas [that] Predate Clovis Culture by 2,500 Years". "Archaeologists have discovered a 12,000-year-old iron oxide mine in Chile that marks the oldest evidence of organized mining ever found in the Americas"; iron oxide was used by the ancient people as a red dye.
As scientists learn more about the people of ancient America, brief reports on some of their research are given below.
The genome sequence of a 24,000-year-old Siberian individual has provided a key piece of the puzzle in the quest for Native American origins. The ancient Siberian demonstrates genomic signatures that are basal to present-day western Eurasians and close to modern Native Americans. This surprising finding has great consequences for our understanding of how and from where ancestral Native Americans descended, and also of the genetic landscape of Eurasia 24,000 years ago.
Results from a DNA study of a young boy's skeletal remains believed to be 24,000 years old could turn the archaeological world upside down -- it's been demonstrated that nearly 30 percent of modern Native American's ancestry came from this youngster's gene pool, suggesting First Americans came directly from Siberia, according to a research team that includes a Texas A&M University professor.
University of Illinois anthropology professor Ripan Malhi looks to DNA to tell the story of how ancient humans first came to the Americas and what happened to them once they were here.
He will share some of his findings at the meeting, "Ancient DNA: The First Three Decades," at The Royal Society in London on Nov. 18 and 19.
Archaeologists have uncovered 10,000-year-old Native American artifacts near a popular state-owned beach in the southern Adirondacks, making it among the earliest known occupied sites in New York state, officials announced Thursday. (News Daily, October 31, 2013)
Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, "We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon."
A new high-tech analysis led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher shows the oldest known petroglyphs in North America, which are cut into several boulders in western Nevada, date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago.
Archaeologists tunneling beneath the main temple of the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northern Guatemala have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text detailing the exploits of a little-known sixth-century princess whose progeny prevailed in a bloody, back-and-forth struggle between two of the civilization's most powerful royal dynasties, Guatemalan cultural officials announced July 16.
Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps with regard to the origins of Maya civilization. The first camp believes that it developed almost entirely on its own in the jungles of what is now Guatemala and southern Mexico. The second believes that the Maya civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilization and its center of La Venta.
The 5-million-year-old fossils belong to the same lineage as the famous Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a large, carnivorous apex predator with elongated upper canine teeth. Previous research suggested the group of saber-toothed cats known as Smilodontini originated in the Old World and then migrated to North America, but the age of the new species indicates the group likely originated in North America.
A team of scientists, led by researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox from CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), has recovered part of the genome of two individuals who were alive in the Mesolithic Period, 7000 years ago. The remains were found at La Braña-Arintero site, located at Valdelugueros (León), Spain.
Using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to date one of the sites in Oman, researchers have determined that Nubian MSA toolmakers had entered Arabia by 106,000 years ago, if not earlier. This date is considerably older than geneticists have put forth for the modern human exodus from Africa, who estimate the dispersal of our species occurred between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. Even more surprising, all of the Nubian MSA sites were found far inland, contrary to the currently accepted theory that envisions early human groups moving along the coast of southern Arabia. "Here we have an example of the disconnect between theoretical models versus real evidence on the ground," says co-author Professor Emeritus Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University. "The coastal expansion hypothesis looks reasonable on paper, but there is simply no archaeological evidence to back it up.
A consortium of 12 scientists from around the world, including two UF [University of Florida] researchers, gathered last year at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center to review 50 years of research related to population resettlement following natural disasters or the installation of infrastructure development projects such as dams and pipelines. The group determined that resettlement efforts in the past have left communities in ruin, and that policy makers need to use lessons from the past to protect people who are forced to relocate because of climate change.