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Secrets Of First Americans Uncovered From Mastodon Bones

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Human beings and mastodons lived together side-by-side in Florida roughly 15,000 years ago, a new analysis of an older fossil find reveals. This discovery could significantly impact what we know about the first people to walk the lands that would become the United States.

Artifacts found beneath a river, dated to 14,550 years ago, included stone tools and the butchered remains of mastodons. This finding is unique, showing humans settled in the southeastern region of the United States as much as 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.

The find was made near the city of Talahassee, Fla., at an archaeological site found beneath the Aucilla River. The Page-Ladson site, located in a sinkhole 26 feet beneath the water surface, was first explored in 1983. Tools discovered at the archaeological site include a biface, a type of knife designed for butchering animals. Divers James Dunbar and David Webb also found a mastodon tusk there with apparent scratch-marks from human processing, along with eight stone tools.

The grooves were two to three inches long, and 1/16-inch wide. Their conclusion, that the marks came from food preparation, was initially rejected by the scientific community. However, a new analysis suggests the original interpretation of the ancient relics was correct.

"These grooves are clearly the result of human activity and, together with new radiocarbon dates, they indicate that humans were processing a mastodon carcass in what is now the southeastern United States much earlier than was generally accepted," Daniel Fisher of the University of Minnesota said.

Mastodons went extinction at the end of the latest ice age. However, this discovery shows the species did not disappear as quickly as previous research had suggested. According to investigators examining the evidence, this find shows humans and mastodons co-existed in the same region for roughly 2,000 years.

Clovis people, once thought to be the first settlers in ancient America, did not arrive in the region until 13,000 years before our own time. A total of 71 radiocarbon dating measurements were taken, allowing researchers to precisely date the find.

Analysis of the ancient stone tools, and what the discovery can teach us about the earliest Americans, was published in the journal Science Advances.

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