By Ewen Callaway
Ancient humans settled in North America around 130,000 years ago, suggests a controversial study — pushing the date back more than 100,000 years earlier than most scientists accept. The jaw-dropping claim, made in Nature1, is based on broken rocks and mastodon bones found in California that a team of researchers say point to human activity.
Their contention, if correct, would force a dramatic rethink of when and how the Americas were first settled — and who by. Most scientists subscribe to the view that Homo sapiens arrived in North America less than 20,000 years ago. The latest study raises the possibility that another hominin species, such as Neanderthals or a group known as Denisovans, somehow made it from Asia to North America before that and flourished.
“It’s such an amazing find and — if it’s genuine — it’s a game-changer. It really does shift the ground completely,” says John McNabb, a Palaeolithic archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK. “I suspect there will be a lot of reaction to the paper, and most of it is not going to be acceptance.”
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