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Next AIA-Orange County Society Lecture

Sunday, June 11, 2017, 2:00-4:00 PM

Were Mastadons Butchered by Hominins in San Diego
130,000 Years Ago

Concordia University.

Dr. Thomas Deméré

Curator of Paleontology
Museum of Man
San Diego, CA

Were humans in the Americas 100,000 years earlier than scientists thought?

By Lizzie WadeApr. 26, 2017 , 1:00 PM

What broke the 130,000-year-old mastodon bones in California? Most archaeologists would tell you it couldn’t have been humans, who didn’t leave conclusive evidence of their presence in the Americas until about 14,000 years ago. But a small group of experts now says that the fracture patterns on the bones, found during highway construction near San Diego, California, must have been left by humans pounding them with stones found nearby. If correct, the paper, published this week in Nature, would push back the presence of people in the Americas by more than 100,000 years—to a time when modern humans supposedly had not even expanded out of Africa to Europe or Asia.

“The claims made are extraordinary and the potential implications staggering,” says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene who studies the peopling of the Americas. “But broken bones and stones alone do not make a credible archaeological site in my view.” He and many other archaeologists say it will take much stronger evidence to convince them that the bones were fractured by ancient people.

Archaeologists first excavated the Cerutti Mastodon site in 1992, after the construction exposed bones. Over time they found more splintered bones and a smattering of large round rocks embedded in otherwise fine-grained sediment. More recently, Daniel Fisher, a respected paleontologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, took a close look at the fractures and found patterns he says are consistent with blows from a rounded stone, which leave a characteristic notch at the point of impact. Other chips of bone show what he calls unmistakable signs of being popped off by the impact. “Nobody has ever explained those [characteristic bone flakes] satisfactorily in any way not involving human activity,” Fisher says. He says humans were probably breaking the bones to reach the marrow, or to turn the bone itself into a sharper tool. The nearby stones, hefty and round, show wear patterns consistent with being smashed against bone, the authors say. In experiments, they used that method to break elephant bones and produced identical fracture patterns.

By Lizzie Wade, Science Magazine, Apr. 26, 2017

Additional Information for Lectures at Concordia University ...

Refreshments will be served after the meeting.

Members - Free (members may also bring a guest free of charge)
Non-members - $5 suggested contribution
Students - Free

DeNault Auditorium in Grimm Hall
Concordia University
1530 Concordia West
Irvine, CA

Take Jeffrey Drive south from the San Diego Freeway (I-405)
Jeffrey Drive becomes University Drive south of the 405 Freeway
Turn left at Ridgeline Dr. and go a very short block
Turn right at Concordia East
Pick up a free parking pass at the gate house.

Park in visitor parking opposite Grimm Hall (see campus map)