UO's Erlandson questions new finding on peopling of Americas

Jon Erlandson of the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Archaeologists in California have released a study of a dig site where they say humans broke open mastodon bones with rocks, to harvest the marrow inside. A sensible plan, seeing as marrow is nutritious and there is no small quantity inside such a large bone.

The only problem? These bones are from 130,000 years ago — more than 100,000 years before most researchers believe humans arrived in America.

Many experts, including the UO’s Jon Erlandson, are disputing these findings. They say the breaks were probably caused by natural events and want more concrete evidence, such as human-made tools or human fossils, before they’ll believe it.

 “As scientists we’re supposed to keep an open mind, but this discovery is hard to wrap my mind around because it falls so far beyond the realm of accepted knowledge,” said Erlandson, an archaeologist and director of the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History. “I’m not opposed to controversial theories, but if it’s really 130,000 years ago it just raises so many questions.”

Unanswered questions include who these people were, how they got to California and why there isn’t any other signs of them.

The story, and Erlandson’s comments, were picked up by dozens of news outlets around the world. For a sampling, see: