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Publication Date

January 2017

Abstract

The timing of the first entry of humans into North America is still hotly debated within the scientific community. Excavations conducted at Bluefish Caves (Yukon Territory) from 1977 to 1987 yielded a series of radiocarbon dates that led archaeologists to propose that the initial dispersal of human groups into Eastern Beringia (Alaska and the Yukon Territory) occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This hypothesis proved highly controversial in the absence of other sites of similar age and concerns about the stratigraphy and anthropogenic signature of the bone assemblages that yielded the dates. The weight of the available archaeological evidence suggests that the first peopling of North America occurred ca. 14,000 cal BP (calibrated years Before Present), i.e., well after the LGM. Here, we report new AMS radiocarbon dates obtained on cut-marked bone samples identified during a comprehensive taphonomic analysis of the Bluefish Caves fauna. Our results demonstrate that humans occupied the site as early as 24,000 cal BP (19,650 ± 130 14C BP). In addition to proving that Bluefish Caves is the oldest known archaeological site in North America, the results offer archaeological support for the “Beringian standstill hypothesis”, which proposes that a genetically isolated human population persisted in Beringia during the LGM and dispersed from there to North and South America during the post-LGM period.

Notes

PloSONE, Vol. 12, no. 1 (2017-01-06).

Keywords

Radioactive Carbon Dating, Archaeology, Archaeological Dating, Paleoanthropology, Taphonomy, Horses, Reindeer, Loess

Description

1 online resource

Subject: topical

Radioactive Carbon Dating; Archaeology; Archaeological Dating; Paleoanthropology; Taphonomy; Horses; Reindeer; Loess

Type

Article

Genre

Serial publications

Identifier

K26-05340

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