Through a hole in the bone, these scientists believe that Homo sapiens came to America much earlier

Brazilian scientists have come to the conclusion that Homo sapiens, which entered North America through the Bering Strait and spread south, was not the first. Homo sapiens already roamed Brazil 25,000 years ago. And not only there. Discovery has not gone well yet.

The guide comes from an area called Santa Elena, in the state of Mato Grosso in midwestern Brazil. This terrain still resembles a savannah, where many large mammals once lived: herbivores, predators, as well as armadillos. Numerous animal remains have already been found in Santa Elena, as well as petroglyphs and pots, and are a treasure trove for archaeologists and paleontologists. Fortunately, the finds were carefully removed. They are stored in the Archaeological Museum of the University of São Paulo, says researcher Mirian Pacheco, an archaeologist and paleontologist at the University of São Carlos, also in the state of São Paulo.

The hero of this story, the giant sloth, Linguistic Phinesis, It wandered about 25,000 years ago in the Ice Age and weighed about five hundred kilograms. Standing upright, it can reach a height of six meters. Under his skin was bony plates, well amenable to human manipulation. They became extinct about 11,000 years ago.

From a giant sloth, a team led by Pacheco studies three bones with more or less perfect round holes that must be man-made. It may have been tools or jewelry. Researchers prefer to use the neutral term “artifacts”.

Sanded bones

The team has been busy with material for about five years. Pacheco: “We actually had no intention of breaking the paradigm at all. We just wanted to learn more about the artifact’s provenance and properties.” Pacheco and her colleagues concluded that human hands moved the bones. They found that the bone had been polished and prepared with tools.

A hole made by humans about 25,000 years ago in the bone of a giant sloth.University of Sao Carlos’s photo

They also concluded that the bones and humans were contemporaneous, in part because the bones were eaten by rodents. These only gnaw fresh bones, not fossilized ones. Pacheco: “It’s also possible that people later found fossil bones and edited them, but it turns out that’s not the case.”

The impact of this discovery is significant, because the match between the artifacts and humans is 25,000 years old, which contradicts the generally accepted theory that Homo sapiens migrated from Asia about 15,000 years ago, via the Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from the eastern tip of Russia. ., and ended up in the Americas. From there, humans would have spread across North America and later South America. However, many scholars consider it plausible that modern humans already lived in South America before that period 15,000 years ago, before crossing the Bering Strait.

This is not the first time that the dominant theory in South America has been undermined. Pacheco: “It is generally accepted that Homo sapiens crossed the Bering Strait sometime around 15,000 years ago. But in northeastern Brazil, well-known researcher Agueda Fiallo found tools dating back 20,000 years ago.

Electron microscopes

Why did Pacheco and her colleagues make their discovery now rather than earlier? After all, the artifacts have been in the museum for decades. She explains it through improved technology. For example, researchers have used electron microscopes to get a better look at how humans polish bone, and using special optical techniques (Pacheco calls it photoluminescence) to determine whether the bones are “fresh” when they are processed or whether the bones are “fresh” when they are processed. . They were already petrified.

The publication appeared in the magazine in July Proceedings of the Royal Society b. “We’ve had a few formal reactions from the scientific community, but the reception has been overwhelming so far. It’s OK, it forces us to make a better argument, and we’re working on a second article to better explain how we use the technology,” Pacheco says, laughing over the phone.

In this way, the Brazilians hope to break this paradigm and open the debate about the early presence of Homo sapiens in South America. To further their theory, they are eager to return to the treasure house of the giant sloth’s precious material, Santa Elena, in the savannah landscape. Thanks to improved technology, perhaps more material can be found there, which will hopefully answer burning questions. Pacheco: We’ll apply for funding

    Mirian Pacheco.  University of Sao Carlos's photo

Mirian Pacheco.University of Sao Carlos’s photo

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