Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Kudos to Science' Morning

Seriously. These are some mighty interesting stories from the last two or three days.

First: Rare dinosaur found in Canada's oilsands
"The Canadian oil sands, a vast expanse of tar and sand being mined for crude oil, yielded treasure of another kind this week when an oil company worker unearthed a 110-million-year-old dinosaur fossil that wasn't supposed to be there.

The fossil is an ankylosaur, a plant-eating dinosaur with powerful limbs, armor plating and a club-like tail. Finding it in this region of northern Alberta was a surprise because millions of years ago the area was covered by water.

"We've never found a dinosaur in this location," Donald Henderson, a curator at Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is devoted to dinosaurs, said on Friday. "Because the area was once a sea, most finds are invertebrates such as clams and ammonites."
Hmmmm. A dinosaur out of place. Puts me in mind of a certain political party and it's leader, or, should that be two political parties and their leaders.

Jurassic Jewel is a good name, though, especially for Mr. Laytoon, because I do like the guy. I just disagree with almost everything he and his party say and believe and can confidently say I will never vote for him/it. The Liberals, maybe, but they'll have to completely remake themselves, and that will take some doing and an appropriate amount of time spent wandering in the wilderness. Forty years should do it, which most likely means I won't be voting for them ever again 'cause I expect to be gone by then.

This dino wasn't the only one in the news this week. How 'bout this babe from Brazil! I'm kinda glad they died out before humans arrived, aren't you?  And speaking of humans arriving......

Second: Arrowheads Found in Texas Dial Back Arrival of Humans in America
"The new findings establish that the last major human migration, into the Americas, began earlier than once thought. And the discovery could change thinking about how people got here (by coastal migrations along shores and in boats) and how they adapted to the new environment in part by making improvements in toolmaking that led eventually to the technology associated with the Clovis culture.

Archaeologists and other scientists report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science that excavations show hunter-gatherers were living at the Buttermilk Creek site and making projectile points, blades, choppers and other tools from local chert for a long time, possibly as early as 15,500 years ago. More than 50 well-formed artifacts as well as hundreds of flakes and fragments of chipping debris were embedded in thick clay sediments immediately beneath typical Clovis material.

“This is the oldest credible archaeological site in North America,” Michael R. Waters, leader of the discovery team, said at a news teleconference."
"If the migrations began at earlier, pre-Clovis times, moreover, extensive glaciers probably closed off ice-free interior corridors for travel to the warmer south. Archaeologists said this lent credence to a fairly new idea in the speculative mix: perhaps the people came to the then really new New World by a coastal route, trooping along the shore and sometimes hugging land in small boats. This might account for the relatively swift movement of the migrants all the way to Peru and Chile."
"No one knows exactly who these migrating people were, scientists said. Genetic studies of ancient bones and later American Indians indicate their ancestors came from northeast Asia, possibly across the Bering land bridge at a time of low sea levels during the last ice age. But it has puzzled scientists that nothing like the Clovis technology has ever been found in Siberia."
"The new findings, the Waters group reported, “suggest that although the ultimate ancestors of Clovis originated from northeast Asia, important technological developments, including the invention of the Clovis fluted points, took place south of the North American continental ice sheets before 13,100 years ago from an ancestral pre-Clovis tool assemblage.”

Among other implications of the discoveries, the Texas archaeologists said, a pre-Clovis occupation of North America provided more time for people to settle in North America, colonize South America by more than 14,000 years ago, “develop the Clovis tool kit and create a base population through which Clovis technology could spread.”

The Texas archaeologists said the new dig site has produced the largest number of artifacts dating to the pre-Clovis period. The dates for the sediments bearing the stone tools were determined to range from 13,200 to 15,500 years ago."
There's more here about the death of the "Clovis first" theory and this new discovery.

Nobody is claiming, of course, that this in any way supports the notion that migration from the old world, as the source of human occupation of the Americas, is now defunct. It's simply that the "ice free corridor" theory is just about done for. Migration from Asia likely took place a bit earlier than the previous consensus would have it, but by only 2,500 years or so, and more likely via the coast line, which would now be inundated with water, since oceans have risen while the ice sheets, through which the "ice free corridor" supposedly ran, have melted and receded.

This will not be good news for the Indian Industry, especially those who like to claim that oral history is as good as evidence as archaeology is, or as the written record is, for that matter.  After all, 2,500 years adds another 100 generations through which origin stories will have had to have been passed along, all the while with each succeeding generation contributing new stories, new events, etc., that must be fitted into the narrative, somehow.   

Gee, you think origins stories can survive intact and accurate for 620 generations? That's 28 "great-great-greats" to add to the front of the word grandfather or grandmother. Can you imagine what a task it would be to keep that many generations of stories in your head with precision and accuracy? But I digress.

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Anonymous MaxEd said...

I have to smile when I see the coastal-hopscotching theory of the peopling of North ans South America touted as "new"; it was current, though bolstered with less sound evidence, when I was in graduate school, 35+ years ago.

March 27, 2011 2:41 pm  
Blogger Louise said...

I'm not sure I get your point. None of the articles on this topic claims the "coastal hopscotching theory" is new. No do I. What's "new" is the evidence of pre-Clovis occupation and that Clovis tools were a wholey made in the Americas invention.

March 27, 2011 3:12 pm  
Anonymous MaxEd said...

I referred mainly to the media as touting all this as new, but I have to take exception to ypour last sentence, based again on evidence that was around, if scantily, nearly 40 years ago.

March 27, 2011 7:45 pm  
Blogger Louise said...

If you're referring to the last sentence in my comment in reply to yours, then again, nothing in the articles or my comments suggest this is new.

What is new is the claim that this discovery in Texas has finally settled a very old debate, which, as you said yourself, and which is implied in the articles, has until now rested on very scanty and debatable (and debated) evidence.

Archeologists have been looking for Clovis tools in Eastern Siberia throughout the past 30 years but have yet to find anything, that I know of anyway. Perhaps they will now concede.

Unless you are claiming that the findings now being published about the site in Texas have been well known for 30 or more years, then I still think you've missed the point.

The point is, if you read the articles, that the evidence from the Texas site, using new dating techniques that weren't available 30+ years ago, have pretty much nailed the date of the find to be at least 2500 older than previously believed, which is plenty of time to allow a stone-aged societies to spread throughout the entire Western Hemisphere.

Older studies and other sites have not been as conclusive because the new dating techniques were not available then, and this allowed the doubters to discount the findings as published.

Unless I'm completely misunderstanding these articles, and please tell me how and where, this seems to be the gist of what they are saying: science has advanced and an old hotly debated issue is now settled, except for the diehards who will cling to their favourite theory, no matter what and among those diehards are folks who believe man was independently "created" on the American continents and use oral history as "proof".

It suggests that this find is the nail in the coffin to the "interior ice free corridor" theory and actually bolsters the coastline hopscotching theory, seeing as how that's the only other theory that makes sense.

March 27, 2011 8:29 pm  

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