April 04, 2008|By Dennis O’Brien | Dennis O’Brien,Sun reporter
Lumps of anhydrous feces, dug from a cavern in Oregon and stored in artificial accoutrements on a shelf in a science lab, now accept some scientists assertive that bodies accept been in North America for 1,000 years best than ahead thought.
The acquisition angry out to be the oldest directly-dated affirmation of animal address in North America – a 14,300-year- old allotment of the addle of back we accustomed in the New World.
Researchers say the clumps, accepted as coprolites, were larboard by Native Americans who were in the arena at atomic 1,000 years afore aged tribes accepted as Clovis bodies began application their acclaimed extra credibility to coursing bold and carve tools.
Evidence of aged hearths, bean accoutrement and carved basic that are about as old accept been baldheaded in caves and clearings throughout the Americas, including assiduously advised sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania and South America.
But the assay in Oregon’s Paisley caves was the aboriginal in which scientists were able to define a date application animal DNA. The after-effects were appear bygone in the online copy of the account Science.
“We’ve absolutely anachronous animal beef to this time period,” said Dennis L. Jenkins, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History and a affiliate of the all-embracing aggregation that appear the findings.
Many scientists accept anticipation bodies aboriginal migrated to North America from Asia by bridge an ice-free aisle in western Canada about 13,500 years ago. They advance out quickly, designing spears and acicular accoutrement they acclimated to coursing to afterlife the bristling mammoths, mastodons and added ample mammals they found.
But the latest assay is acceptable to bake agitation over how bodies aboriginal accustomed in the Americas. The age of the coprolites indicates that bodies were actuality hundreds of years afore the Clovis ability and afore the ice-free aisle was formed, experts say.
“The clearing of the Americas is still a big catechism amid scientists,” said Fatimah Jackson, a assistant of biological anthropology at the University of Maryland. “How did bodies aboriginal get here, and what were the characteristics of those aboriginal people, and how did they survive?”
Scientists begin animal and basset DNA at the site. To skeptics, that agency the animal DNA detected by the advisers could accept appear from bodies whose charcoal became alloyed in with the carrion of beforehand animals.
“These guys are authoritative the arch case anyone anytime has that bodies were actuality that early, and I’m 99 percent convinced,” said Ted Goebel, a assistant of anthropology at Texas A&M University. “But it could be they accept 14,000-year-old wolf coprolites.”
But the advisers say the affirmation is clear, and that it shows North America was colonized by campaign who apparently catholic forth the Pacific coast.
“I anticipate it is acceptable they took a avenue forth the coast, and came either by baiter or by walking,” said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Copenhagen and the study’s advance author.
The coprolites were apparent on federally adequate acreage in south-central Oregon, a armpit of desultory archaeological excavations back the 1930s, Jenkins said. The cavern apparently was acclimated as some affectionate of acting shelter, and the coprolites were abreast the access in “kind of an anteroom off to one side,” he said.
“They’ve appear beyond a animal bathroom,” Jackson said.
The samples were about 6 or 7 anxiety bottomward in dry soils. There are apparently added sites with pre-Clovis animal charcoal in North America, but the Oregon cavern provided a decidedly acceptable ambience for preservation, the advisers say. “You accept hot and dry altitude and abiding temperatures because it’s in a cave, which makes for acceptable conditions,” Willerslev said.
The advisers acclimated two absolute labs able with accelerator accumulation spectrometers to date the coprolites. The labs, in Florida and England, acclimated altered methods, but came out with the aforementioned dates. Mitochondrial DNA assay links the coprolites to two abiogenetic subgroups of Native Americans that can be traced to East Asia and Siberia.
“They were absolute accurate about contagion issues and administration the DNA, which is archetypal in this affectionate of work,” said Robert Wall, a Towson University archaeologist not complex in the project.
What was disappointing: the absence of bean accoutrement and added artifacts, Wall said.
The alone artifacts adjacent were a acicular article that may accept been acclimated as a apparatus and a able bedrock that may accept been acclimated to accident basic or abolish beard from a horse hide, Jenkins said.
Future efforts will focus on assay of the samples to actuate absolutely what the citizenry ate, Willerslev said.
Jenkins and teams of acceptance baldheaded the coprolites in 2002 and 2003, but they remained on a shelf in his lab until the bounce of 2004.
When aboriginal testing showed the samples independent Native American DNA, Jenkins tracked bottomward the 55 acceptance complex in the blasting assignment years beforehand and align for them to accelerate him four claimed beard samples to ensure their DNA hadn’t attenuated the analysis results. It was assiduous work, but had to be done, he said.
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