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Archaeologists Discover One of the Oldest Known Clovis Sites in North America

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« on: August 15, 2014, 01:15:10 am »


Archaeologists Discover One of the Oldest Known Clovis Hunting Sites in North America

Mon, Jul 14, 2014




Site yields first evidence Clovis people hunted gomphotheres, an extinct species of elephant, in North America.
Archaeologists Discover One of the Oldest Known Clovis Hunting Sites in North America

When University of Arizona archaeologist Vance Holliday and colleagues began uncovering large fossilized bones at the site of El Fin del Mundo in the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico in 2007, they weren't sure what kind of animal they were unearthing.

"At first, just based on the size of the bone, we thought maybe it was a bison, because the extinct bison were a little bigger than our modern bison," said Holliday, who has been researching geoarchaeology at Paleoindian sites across the U.S. for years.

Then, in 2008, they discovered something that clinched it for them.

"We finally found the mandible, and that's what told the tale," Holliday said.

It was a gomphothere. Actually, two of them. About the same size as a modern elephant, but smaller than their extinct cousins the mammoths, gomphotheres were once widespread in North America but were thought to have disappeared from the fossil record long before humans arrived in North America some 13,000 to 13,500 years ago.

Until now.

Radiocarbon dating of charcoal flecks and burned bone found within the context of the fossils indicated a reliable age of 13,390 years. This made these two gomphotheres the last known gomphotheres in North America.

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gomphotherehunting

Gomphothere mandible in place, upside down, at El Fin del Mundo excavation site. The fossil was fully prepared at the INAH zooarchaeology lab in Mexico City. Image courtesy of Vance T. Holliday.

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gomphotherehunting4

The fully excavated and prepared gomphothere mandible. Courtesy Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales/Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia

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gomphotherehunting5

These sculptures, made by Mexican artist Sergio de la Rosa, show three elephant ancestors: (from left to right) the mastodon, the mammoth and the gomphothere. Courtesy Sergio de la Rosa

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But there was more.

As they excavated among the bones, they also uncovered human artifacts—Clovis artifacts, to be specific—including 7 projectile points, some stone cutting tools and 21 flint flakes from stone tool-making. The position and proximity of the Clovis fragments relative to the gomphothere bones at the site suggested that humans did in fact kill the two animals there. Of the seven points found at the site, four were in place among the bones, including one with bone and teeth fragments above and below. The other three points had eroded away from the bone bed and were found scattered nearby. This suggested that the gomphomeres were likely hunted and thus constituted a Clovis prey species, along with mammoths, mastodons, and bison, already known to have been hunted by the Clovis.

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gomphotherehunting2

A clear quartz Clovis point found near the bone bed at El Fin del Mundo. Although very difficult to shape into a tool, quartz was used by Clovis tool makers at several sites.  Courtesy INAH Sonora.

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 "This is the first Clovis gomphothere, it's the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, it's the first evidence that people were hunting gomphotheres in North America, and it adds another item to the Clovis menu," Holliday said.

The Clovis culture, today considered the oldest clearly defined and recognized Paleoindian culture in the Americas, is characterized by its distinctive stone tools, particularly the fluted projectile points. The first examples of this culture were discovered by archaeologists near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1930s. The El Fin del Mundo site, along with the Aubrey site in Texas, is now among two sites that show the earliest solid evidence of Clovis hunting in North America, indicating that the earliest widespread and recognizable group of hunter-gatherers were already in place 13,390 years ago in the North American Southwest.

Holliday and colleagues suggest that the finds support the model of an American southwestern origin for the Clovis material culture. As they conclude in the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

    "These data expand our understanding of the age range for Clovis, Clovis diet, raw material preference, and the late Pleistocene megafaunal assemblage of North America, and provide evidence for a southern origin of the Clovis technocomplex."*

 

Holliday and the study team report that the radiocarbon ages from El Fin del Mundo were made based on testing the site's charcoal, shell, and organic matter at the Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory.

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*Article #14-04546: “Human (Clovis)–gomphothere (Cuvieronius sp.) association ~13,390 calibrated yBP in Sonora, Mexico,” by Vance T. Holliday et al.

In addition to Holliday, authors of the PNAS paper include: lead author Guadalupe Sanchez, who has a doctorate in anthropology from the UA; UA alumni Edmund P. Gaines and Susan M. Mentzer; UA doctoral candidates Natalia Martínez-Tagüeña and Andrew Kowler; UA master's student Ismael Sanchez-Morales; UA scientists Todd Lange and Gregory Hodgins; and Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

The dig at El Fin del Mundo, a joint effort between the U.S. and Mexico, was funded by the UA School of Anthropology's Argonaut Archaeological Research Fund, the National Geographic Society, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and The Center for Desert Archaeology in Tucson.

Source: Some material for this article was adapted and edited from a University of Arizona press release, Meet the gomphothere: UA archaeologist involved in discovery of bones of elephant ancestor

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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2014, 01:15:48 am »



Gomphothere mandible in place, upside down, at El Fin del Mundo excavation site. The fossil was fully prepared at the INAH zooarchaeology lab in Mexico City. Image courtesy of Vance T. Holliday.
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2014, 01:16:14 am »



The fully excavated and prepared gomphothere mandible. Courtesy Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales/Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2014, 01:17:17 am »



These sculptures, made by Mexican artist Sergio de la Rosa, show three elephant ancestors: (from left to right) the mastodon, the mammoth and the gomphothere. Courtesy Sergio de la Rosa
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2014, 01:17:58 am »



A clear quartz Clovis point found near the bone bed at El Fin del Mundo. Although very difficult to shape into a tool, quartz was used by Clovis tool makers at several sites.  Courtesy INAH Sonora.
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2014, 01:18:18 am »

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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2014, 01:19:08 am »


Ancient Clovis Elephant-Hunting Camp Discovered in Mexico
Posted by Blake de Pastino on July 14, 2014 in anthropology, archaeology, artifacts, Clovis, excavation, gomphothere, hunting, Indians, Native Americans, nature, news, Paleoindians, prehistoric, Recent, science, Southwestern Archaeology | 6101 Views | 10 Responses



A tip from a rancher in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert has led to an unexpected find: an ancient encampment where members of the Clovis culture hunted an elephant-like animal never before seen in North America’s archaeological record.

More importantly, the camp turned up a host of exquisite stone points and bone ornaments, with organic material dated to 13,400 years ago, making it one of the oldest and southernmost Clovis sites yet found on the continent.

Archaeologists were tipped off in 2007 to unusual bones eroding out of a cut bank some 200 kilometers south of the Arizona border, at a site given the ominous name El Fin del Mundo, or The End of the World.
gomphothere excavationThe jawbone, or mandible, of a gomphothere as it was found, upside down, at El Fin del Mundo excavation site. (Courtesy Vance T. Holliday)
[Learn about another striking find made in northern Mexico: "Oldest Human Footprints in North America Identified"]

There they found the remains of two animals that initially proved difficult to identify.

“At first, just based on the size of the bone, we thought maybe it was a bison, because the extinct bison were a little bigger than our modern bison,” said University of Arizona archaeologist Vance Holliday, in a press statement.

After uncovering the distinctive jawbone and teeth of one of the specimens, they realized they had found gomphotheres, odd-looking, long-jawed ancestors of modern elephants once thought to have vanished from North America before humans arrived.

Much older gomphothere specimens had been found elsewhere in North America, Holliday said, and Clovis hunters were known to have stalked their evolutionary cousins, the mammoths and mastodons. But this is the first evidence that humans shared the continent with, and hunted, gomphotheres.

“This is the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, and it’s the only one known,” Holliday said, before ticking off the many firsts marked by the find.

“This is the first Clovis gomphothere, it’s the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, it’s the first evidence that people were hunting gomphotheres in North America, and it adds another item to the Clovis menu.”
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« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2014, 01:19:33 am »

Evidence of the creatures’ fatal encounter with humans includes four large stone points, all crafted in the characteristic fluted Clovis style, found in situ among the animals’ remains.

Three more points were found within two meters of the animals — including one striking projectile fashioned out of crystal clear quartz — along with stone flakes, two small carved bone ornaments, and burned bones.

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« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2014, 01:20:10 am »



A clear quartz Clovis point found near the bone bed at El Fin del Mundo.
Although very difficult to shape into a tool, quartz was used by Clovis tool makers at several sites.
(Courtesy INAH Sonora)

In addition to shedding light on the historical longevity of the ancient elephants, the find perhaps more importantly may broaden our understanding of the Clovis, thought by many to have been the continent’s first widespread indigenous culture.

Like many things in American archaeology, when and where the Clovis culture originated are topics of debate.

But the dates from El Fin del Mundo eclipse almost every other reliably dated Clovis site on record, including Montana’s Anzick site, which produced the remains of a 13,00o-year-old Clovis boy.
[Read about a recent breakthrough in the study of Clovis DNA: "Genome of America’s Only Clovis Skeleton Reveals Origins of Native Americans"]

Only a bison-hunting camp known as the Aubrey site, discovered in North Texas in 1988 and dated to more than 13,400 calendar years ago, is definitively older, Holliday and his colleagues said.

And the presence of early Clovis sites so far south may suggest that the culture actually arose in the Southwest, they noted, and not in the northern Great Plains, as many have previously theorized.

“Including Aubrey and now El Fin del Mundo in the corpus of dated Clovis sites raises the possibility that Clovis originated in the south,” they write in their study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And if it did originate in the North, they add, then the Clovis culture must date back even farther than 13,500 years in order for its members to have reached these southern latitudes.

All told, the evidence emerging from El Fin Del Mundo promises to revise our understanding of the continent’s most influential native cultures, from its practices and its range to the ancient environment with which it interacted so successfully.

As the team concludes in its paper, “These data expand our understanding of the age range for Clovis, Clovis diet, raw material preference, and the late Pleistocene megafaunal assemblage of North America, and provide evidence for a southern origin of the Clovis.”

http://westerndigs.org/clovis-elephant-hunting-site-discovered-in-mexico/
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2014, 01:20:23 am »

http://westerndigs.org/clovis-elephant-hunting-site-discovered-in-mexico/
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