Humans would have arrived in the Americas 15,000 years earlier than previously thought

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It appears that humans arrived on the American continent much earlier than we thought, according to a new study by Cambridge University. To reach that answer, Andrew Somerville, lead author of the research, says that he and his team performed a radiocarbon analysis of animal bones found in deep layers of dust, rocks, coal and decaying plants in the Coxcatlan cave, in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico.

The analysis found records of the domestication of corn and the birth of agriculture, which is also one of the oldest records of human existence in the Americas. The analyzed material was dated between 28,000 and 31 million years ago, refuting the knowledge that humans got there “only” 14,000 years ago, through the continent that connected Alaska and Siberia — which is now flooded.

Somerville says that the aim of the study was not to find these ancient dates, but rather to investigate the history of agriculture in the region. However, the team says that carbon dating techniques have led them to contradictory results, making them choose to use newer technology. The cave was excavated exactly 60 years ago, but the collected material was kept in boxes for decades.

“We realized that no one had ever dated the lower layers [da caverna]. We hoped it would be similar to what the first excavation suggested, which was 12,000 years ago. However, we were very surprised: it was about 20,000 years older than we were expecting,” says Somerville.

The scientists’ next task is to analyze the bones found there, perhaps to detect cut marks and other procedures that may have been done to feed these animals. The study is available for online consultation.

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