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Flag DE A Look at Some of the Earliest Known Americans
MenuHomeAviationHumansOriginsScienceWeb LinksSite MapContact The history of early man in North America has come under criticism in light of recent discoveries. Most people will agree that the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus was not the first to discover the Americas. Recent discoveries and reexamination of older findings is shedding light on the possibility of multiple migrations into the Americas during the Pleistocene period or earlier (Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago). Study of ancient skeletal remains has indicated that there may have been migrations from both Asia and Europe predating the last ice age. This article briefly outlines some of these discoveries.

Arlington Springs Woman
10,000-13,000 years old,
DNA testing underway.
Location: California
Discovered in 1959 on Santa Rosa Island, Arlington Springs

Woman is estimated to be 10,000-13,000 years old. Santa Rosa Island is one of eight Channel Islands off the southern California coast and is better known for a variety of pigmy Mammoth that once lived there. The remains of Arlington Springs woman have recently been reanalyzed by the latest radiocarbon dating techniques. Radiocarbon dating is conducted by measuring the amount of C-14 (an atomically unstable form of carbon) that is contained in a sample. The result of the testing indicates an approximate age that makes her older than any other known human remains found in North America. She lived at the end of the Pleistocene, a time when sea levels were at least 150 feet lower than today. With lowered sea levels the Northern Channel Islands were joined creating one island. This woman’s presence on an island at this early date is significant, because it demonstrates that earliest PaleoIndians (PaleoIndian Period, 13,000 BP to 7,900 BP) had water craft necessary for a crossing of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Browns Valley Man
8,900 years old (Caucasoid features),
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Minnesota

The Browns Valley man was discovered on October 9, 1933, in a gravel pit on the Plateau Addition of Browns Valley. An investigation of the site determined the age of the grave to be between 8,000 and 12,000 years. Testing revealed that the Browns Valley skeleton was one of the oldest ever found in the United States. Based on examination his features resemble those of a Greenland Eskimo. His jawbone was much wider than that of the mound builder and exceeds in width even that of Heidelberg Man (Homo Erectus). Found with the Browns Valley man were artifacts of a transition period between the Yuma and the Folsom types. The Browns Valley Man was found a few years later than the famous Minnesota Woman, listed later.

Buhl Woman
10,800 years old,
no DNA testing,
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Idaho

This 11,000-year-old skeleton of a woman was found in a quarry near the town of Buhl in 1989 and has yielded valuable information about PaleoIndian skeletal morphology and diet. Buhl Woman was one of the best preserved and most thoroughly studied of the known early Americans. Her bones have been measured and photographed, teeth casts made, radio carbon dating and isotopic analysis done, and the geological context of the find recorded; the results appeared in last fall’s issue of American Antiquity. Examination and testing showed that she was between 17 and 21 years of age at the time of her death. Though no DNA analysis was done, the cranial morphology was determined to be similar to that of the American Indians and East Asian populations. Analysis of different carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in bone collagen (bone collagen is produced by removing the calcium content with an acid and reducing the bone to a protein gelatin) suggests that she ate mostly meat and some fish. Wear patterns on her teeth suggests that her food was likely cooked before eaten. Buhl Woman was healthy and cause of her death could not be determined. However, tooth enamel damage and bone development indicated periodic nutritional stress (possibly due to seasonal changes). An obsidian biface, and the eye of a bone needle which revealed no signs of wear, suggesting that they may have been made specifically as grave offerings. It appears that there was a deliberate placement of the biface immediate below the skull and would suggest a purposeful interment.

Horn Shelter
9,600 years old,
DNA testing underway,
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Texas

In 1970, a PaleoIndian double burial of an adult and child was discovered at the Horn Shelter, Number 2, in central Texas. The archaeological site is located along the western bank of the Brazos River between Waco and Lake Whitney. Two individuals, an adult male and a juvenile, were buried together in a shallow grave and covered with soil and stone slabs. Under the head of the adult was a variety of grave offerings. Included in the offerings were seashell beads, turtle carapaces, flint-knapping tools, red ochre, small slabs of sandstone, flint, and perforated canine teeth. Found with the juvenile was a small-eyed bone needle. Other bones found in and around hearths found under the shelter indicate a heavy dependence on smaller game, though bison bones have been found in deposits in front of the shelter. Both skeletons were fairly complete but had suffered from post-mortem damage. At the time of his death, the adult male was likely in his mid 30s to early 40s. The juvenile is believed to be a male with an approximate age of 12 years. The only traumatic injury on either individual was a healed fracture of a bone metatarsal (foot bone) on the adult male.

Hourglass Cave Man
7,900-7,700 years old,
DNA testing completed,
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Colorado

The Hourglass Cave man, while not among the earliest human skeletons from North America is one of very few from the early Holocene period (The Age Of Man, the last 11,000 years). Anthropologists have defined this as the youngest period for (PaleoIndians/Americans). Both nuclear and motrochondrial DNA from his bones was recovered. Researchers believe that the cold and the consistent environment of the cave enhanced preservation of his remains. DNA analysis produced no surprises for researchers. They confirm the sex by examining pelvic bones and features from his DNA linked the Hourglass Cave Man to living Amerind populations, though not to a specific tribe.

Gordon Creek Woman
9,700 years old (Caucasoid features),
No DNA testing.
Location: Colorado

Discovered in 1965, the Gordon Creek woman had a relatively small face with a distinctive alveolar prognathism, a trait more common in today’s European and African people than in Asians. There are two types of prognathism: alveolar prognathism, which is limited to the tooth region, and facial prognathism which affects a much larger area of the face, causing it to jut out, thereby increasing the facial area. At this site, hematite covered bones and associated tools were found. Hematite is blood red in color (in the powdered form) and lends itself well in use as a pigment. Hematite gets its name from the Greek word Hemos meaning blood-like. To date, no DNA analysis has been conducted. Little additional information is available on the World Wide Web about the Gordon Creek Woman.

Grimes Point Woman
9,700 year old,
no DNA testing.
Location: Nevada

The Grimes Point Archaeological site is noted for its rock carvings and petroglyphs. Archaeological excavations unearthed the remains of a female believed to be 8-10 years of age at the time of her death. Subsequent testing revealed her remains to be 9,700 years old. A wealth of information on the site and surrounding area can be found, but little information is available on the World Wide Web about the Grimes Point Woman.

Kennewick Man
9,300 years old (Caucasoid features),
Awaiting a Federal Court decision:
demanded by the tribes for repatriation.
Location: Kennewick, Washington

Kennewick Man was named after the city where he was discovered. He is 9,300 year old with strong Caucasoid features. He was found in July of 1996 by two men gathered to watch a hydroplane boat race at Columbia Park, in Kennewick, Washington. Initial studies of the skull and bone fragments (more than 390 bones and bone fragments were recovered from a 300-square foot section of the river bottom) showed the remains to be the second oldest ever found in Washington. The state’s oldest were 10,300 years old and were found near Lyons Ferry along the Snake River. At 5 feet 9 inches, the skeleton is taller and thinner than most ancient Indian skeletons. A 2-inch-long stone spear point was lodged in the skeleton’s right hip. It was a stone projectile point used 5,000 to 9000 years ago. Years before his death this projectile had slammed into his hip, remaining there until his death. Additionally, some years before he died, this mans chest had been crushed, and he had to cope with a withered arm.

Pelican Rapids Woman (Minnesota Woman)
7,800 years old (Caucasoid features),
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Minnesota 

In 1932, a crew of road builders near Pelican Rapids dug into the silt of a lake bed and found the well-preserved fossilized remains of a young girl. The fossil skeleton, found in previously studied layers, was determined to be about 8,000 years old. The much discussed young woman has come to be known as the “Minnesota Woman” and has been extensively measured and studied in order that her racial origin and age may be surmised. Measurements indicate that she is an ancient Homo Sapien, more primitive Mongoloid than the Indian or Eskimo, being long-headed whereas finds of later groups are more or less round headed.

Spirit Cave Man
9,400 years old (Caucasoid features),
returned to tribes (repatriated).
Location: Nevada

The Spirit Cave man burial was discovered in a small cave in 1940. The lower burial was found intact and in an excellent state of preservation. It was lined with sagebrush, on which the mortuary bundle was deposited, and then covered with more sagebrush. The upper part of the body was partially mummified: some hair and scalp remained on the head, and his leather moccasins, rabbit-skin blanket, and burial mats were in good condition. The body had been placed on his left side with his knees flexed upward to the level of his hips. Recent radiocarbon dating results indicate that Spirit Cave Man dated to the transitional Pleistocene or early Holocene, more than 9,000 years ago.

Wizard's Beach Man
9,200-9,500 years old,
DNA testing completed.
Location: Nevada 

Wizard's Beach Man was found in 1978 after a prolonged drought had lowered the level of Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno. The discovery site is only about 100 miles from Spirit Cave. The related ages and proximity of these two sites indicate a major Paleoindian presence in the region. An important note, the skulls of these individuals differ considerably from one another; Wizard Beach Man resembles modern Indians, while Spirit Cave Man most resembles the Ainu (indigenous people of Japan, originally inhabiting northern Japan and Sakhalin).

9,000 -11,000 years old,
DNA testing completed.
Location: Texas

The Wilson-Leonard site was discovered in 1973 and deemed as having major archaeological significance. At the Wilson-Leonard site in central Texas studies of a 6-meter-thick sequence of alluvial fan deposits was conducted. Alluvial fans are created over time by disposition of soil and matter. The well preserved archaeological deposits represent the major cultural period of the Holocene and terminal Pleistocene periods. Scientists discovered in the deposits a burial. Radiocarbon dating placed the skeletal remains at 9,000-11,000 years old. Wilson-Leonard deposits were found to be at least 16 feet thick and represented virtually every known interval in local prehistory back to 11,000 years ago.

Individually, these archaeological discoveries represent a page in the history of early man in North America, but when examined with one another they begin to write another chapter. However, additional work, archaeological investigations, radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis is still needed before the book of history on early man in America is rewritten. It would appear that PaleoIndian populations of North America were far more complex than originally anticipated. Do PaleoIndian represent a single cultural group? Why is it that the oldest PaleoIndian sites appear in South America and not North America? Were there other people on the continent before the arrival of the PaleoIndian?

MORE (New Questions)

David Heath
Kennewick, Washington

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