Artifacts reveal human presence in America 22,000 years ago, much earlier than expected

Artifacts reveal human presence in America 22,000 years ago, much earlier than expected
Artifacts reveal human presence in America 22,000 years ago, much earlier than expected

Understanding the history of early human settlements in America is crucial to archaeology, shedding light on migrations and cultural developments. Traditionally, researchers believe that the first humans crossed the Bering Strait around 15,000 years ago. However, recent discoveries on Parsons Island, Maryland, have upended this hypothesis. A team led by Darrin Lowery, a former research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, has unearthed tools dating back 22,000 years, suggesting a much earlier human presence.

These excavations were motivated by the rapid erosion of archaeological sites. The tools, found under layers of coal in formerly glacial areas, would challenge traditional models of human migration. This discovery, published on a platform, without peer review, would require a reevaluation of the chronologies established by researchers, potentially transforming our understanding of human migrations in America.

A Revolutionary Discovery in Maryland

Excavations on Parsons Island were initiated in response to signals of rapid erosion threatening coastal archaeological sites in the Chesapeake Bay. Darrin Lowery and his team focused their research where environmental conditions made the loss of ancient artifacts likely. Lowery told the Washington Post that he had been investigating the 78-acre island since he was nine years old. He had first discovered ancient flint tools there while walking along the shore. He and his team discovered the first evidence of ancient humans in 2013, via a leaf-shaped prehistoric stone tool protruding from a cliff. After that, geologists returned to study the island 93 more times. They sent sediment samples to laboratories for analysis, allowing them to create a geologic timeline.

Thus, they discovered 286 artifacts, including various stone tools and particularly a biface. These ancient objects offer a unique insight into the techniques and lifestyles of the region’s first inhabitants. They suggest a human presence in America 22,000 years ago, well before current estimates. These tools were found in ancient soil that had eroded and was buried under layers of coal. Experts exhumed them in an area formerly covered by ice. The first humans then survived in extreme environmental conditions.

According to Darrin Lowery, a former research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, this research could revolutionize our understanding of American prehistory. It forces scientists to reevaluate current theories about human migration across the Bering Strait. They must consider the possibility of earlier and more complex migration waves.

Scientific controversy

The dating methods used to establish the age of the artifacts have caused discussion among scholars. Darrin Lowery has chosen to disseminate his results in an online manuscript, available on Research Gate. He criticizes the peer review process, which he considers biased and ineffective. According to him, existing biases in traditional scientific journals hinder the acceptance of new findings that challenge established theories.

Buried artifact. ©Darrin Lowery, 2021

This decision to publish online exacerbated the controversy surrounding his findings. Many experts are wary of results that have not gone through rigorous, formal review. Critics point out that peer validation is essential to ensure the reliability and accuracy of scientific findings. Especially since the ability to precisely date the sites is itself problematic. In fact, sediments move over time and can push layers deeper, making them appear older than they really are.

However, Lowery and his supporters believe that alternative platforms are needed to enable the rapid and free dissemination of information, especially when they offer major revisions to current knowledge.

Context and implications for human history

The dominant theory so far is known as the “Great Migration.” She maintains that the first humans crossed the Bering Strait around 15,000 years ago. They entered North America via a land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska. This hypothesis is based on archaeological evidence such as Clovis points. These are sophisticated stone tools dating from this period. These artifacts, found mainly in North America, have long been considered the oldest evidence of human occupation on the continent.

However, Lowery’s discovery would challenge this model by suggesting a much earlier human arrival. It would have been around 22,000 years ago. This new timeline implies that there may have been several distinct migratory waves. And perhaps originating from different parts of Asia. The implications are vast. The Clovis artifacts, along with other archaeological finds, should be reevaluated in this new temporal context. Scientists now need to examine how these early inhabitants survived in a glacial environment. They must estimate what alternative routes they could have taken to reach America, if Lowery’s results are peer-reviewed, regardless.

Environmental impact and research urgency in Maryland

As previously mentioned, Parsons Island in Maryland is experiencing rapid erosion due to rising sea levels and land subsidence. Climatic variations and human activity are accelerating the degradation of this region, endangering archaeological sites. This situation makes it urgent to study and document these sites before they disappear underwater.

Archaeologist Sébastien Lacombe, of Binghamton University, in an article inArkeonews, highlights the importance of preserving these fragile records to avoid irreversible loss of historical knowledge. He emphasizes the need to put in place immediate conservation measures. There is an urgent need to launch intensive excavation campaigns to save as much information as possible. Artifacts discovered on Parsons Island offer a unique window into a distant past that could rewrite the history of early human migrations.

Source: Lowery, Darrin. (2021). Parsons Island Maryland Synthesis of Geoarchaeological Investigations 2013-2020 Darrin Lowery FINAL 7-2-2021 low resolution version.

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