Thursday, April 03, 2008

The collapse of Clovis?

Triggered by a pile of crap, no less? The new issue of Science (sorry, no link: you gotta have a subscription, personal or library) has an article called:
DNA From Fossil Feces Breaks Clovis Barrier
There have been several finds of ancient human remains (and/or or evidence of human presence; I'm not sure offhand about that) that have begun suggesting that the Clovis view of the settlement of the Americas (starting, say, 13,000 years ago) isn't right. The latest, presented in this piece, is what appear to be human coprolites (yup, crap) left in a cave in Oregon 14,000 years ago. The DNA is complicated, with some evidence for canid and some for human presence, indicating that both humans and animals used the cave as a toilet.

In the inevitable moment of overreaching, this is suggested to support the Bering route, since it's very early and near there. Could be, sure, but it's pretty speculative. Recent linguistic evidence (here) makes a better case that this route was used, but of course it doesn't exclude that other groups got here other ways.

In the end, the good folks at Science aren't that much more sophisticated than old Team Verb – their photo of the find is captioned "Prehistoric poop". But note that I've again passed up a good chance to improve my Cuss-O-Meter score. Next time.


Anonymous said...

For people with access to Science, NPR is doing a piece on it right now. In some ways, I think it's a better version of the story -- lots of comments from specialists, etc.

Joe said...

Here are some comments by Johanna Nichols, a leading linguist interested in these issues, on how she sees this evidence in the broader context: