Early Colonisation of the Americas

In our first talk of the Hillary Term, Dr. Lorena Beccera Valdiva presented us her recent research on the emergence of first humans in the New World. Her work was mainly focused on analysis and re-analysis of samples from 18 archaeological sites from North and South America by radiocarbon dating technique. She described how through obtaining new radiocarbon dates, building traditional Bayesian age models, and increasing the resolution of sites with older dates refinement, they attempted to explore more spatiotemporal patterns of development in the Americas. Aim of their project was to create an inter-regional prehistoric timeline, resembling the one made by Higham for palaeolithic Europe sites showing replacement of Neanderthal cultures by those ascribed to Homo Sapiens.

The long-held archaeological assumption was that the Bering Strait was crossed between 13,250 and 12, 800 BP by people of the Clovis complex. This claim was effectively refuted in 1997 with finds from Monte Verde II site (Southern Chile) where evidence dated to 14, 600 BP was excavated. Dr. Valdiva focused her presentation on two sites- Chiquihuite Cave and Anzick 1. Human-made lithic artefacts found at Chiquihuite Cave pushed the date even further and indicated that people were probably present before and during the Last Glacial Maximum (26, 500 – 19, 000 BP). However, evidence from other sites is indicating an expansion of the population during abrupt warming of Greenland Interstadial (14, 700 – 12, 900 BP) and the presence of several human cultures is overlapping with the last appearance dates of 18 faunal genera.

Anzick I site is a Clovis complex burial located in North America (Montana), but surprisingly aDNA of a person from Southern American lineage was found there. As the site was dated between 8, 700 and 10, 500 BP, it brings evidence of much sooner genetic branching than was previously expected and opens up a possibility of initial colonisation in several independent waves. Nevertheless, more aDNA evidence from sediments is necessary in combination with chronometric information on extinct faunal remains to firmly approve the outlined hypotheses.

Full article about research conducted by Dr. Valdiva can be found here.

Our next talk about ancient Egyptian underworlds will be held on the 15th of February at 5 pm through Zoom.

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