An astounding discovery made at an archaeological site in Texas is prompting scientists to question what we know about the colonization of the Americas.
For decades, researchers believed that the first to set foot on the continent were the Clovis people — a Paleoamerican tribe that settled in North America some 13,000 years ago.
This ancient community invented what is now known as the “Clovis point” — a leaf-shaped, or lanceolate, spear point (imaged above) which was made out of stone and was used to hunt mammoths, mastodons, and other extinct beasts of the Late Pleistocene.
But a spectacular find announced yesterday by the Texas A&M University suggests that the Americas may have been already inhabited when the Clovis people first emerged on the territory. During a dig at the Debra L. Friedkin site located some 40 miles northwest of Austin, researchers unearthed spear points that predate the Clovis culture.
The ancient “projectile points” date back to 15,500 years ago and are believed to be the oldest weapons to ever be discovered in North America, reports Science Daily.
According to the Washington Post, the newfound weapons look nothing like the ones used by the Clovis people and come in two different shapes — a triangular lanceolate point, which bears a close resemblance to a predator’s sharp tooth, and a lanceolate stemmed point, shaped like a lobe with a tapered bottom.
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This incredible discovery, detailed in the journal Science Advances, suggests that the famous Clovis points may have evolved from an earlier spearpoint technology. This, in turn, hints that the Clovis culture might actually have been created by the descendants of the earliest American settlers, notes Science News.
“We have discovered two previously unknown spearpoint styles that predate Clovis,” said study lead author Michael Waters, who has been working at the site for more than a decade.
“The findings expand our understanding of the earliest people to explore and settle [in] North America.”
The pre-Clovis spear points are made of a type of quartz known as chert and were discovered alongside tools buried under several feet of sediment. All in all, the archaeologists dug up 12 never-before-seen spear points — two perfectly preserved ones and 10 additional fragments.
“These points were found under a layer with Clovis and Folsom projectile points. Clovis is dated to 13,000 to 12,700 years ago and Folsom after that,” explained Waters, who pointed out that the pre-Clovis weapons were undoubtedly “used for hunting game in the area at that time.”
“The dream has always been to find diagnostic artifacts — such as projectile points — that can be recognized as older than Clovis and this is what we have at the Friedkin site,” said the archaeologist, who is a professor of anthropology at Texas A&M and runs the university’s Center for the Study of the First Americans.