[Paleopsych] NYT: Old, for Sure, but Human?
checker at panix.com
Wed Dec 28 03:01:25 UTC 2005
Old, for Sure, but Human?
[This could prove to be a major, major anomaly.]
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
What is one to make of the intriguing footprints found in Mexico?
The scientists who discovered them said last summer that they were
made by humans walking in fresh volcanic ash 40,000 years ago. This
seemed incredible, since no human presence in the Americas had been
established earlier than about 13,000 years ago.
So geologists went to the scene, near Puebla. They came to an even
more astonishing conclusion: the prints were in 1.3-million-year-old
rock, meaning the prints were laid down more than a million years
before modern Homo sapiens evolved in Africa.
The surprising antiquity of the rock bearing the prints was determined
by a research team led by Paul R. Renne, director of the Berkeley
Geochronology Center in California. The researchers conducted repeated
argon dating and investigated the magnetic imprint in the rock. All
the tests yielded the 1.3-million-year date.
In the journal Nature, the team wrote, "We conclude that either
hominid migration into the Americas occurred very much earlier than
previously believed, or that the features in question were not made by
humans on recently erupted ash."
The original discovery was made in 2003 by Silvia Gonzalez of
Liverpool John Moores University in England. Dr. Renne questioned that
these were, in fact, footprints. "Their distribution is quite random,
not like something made by early humans," he said by telephone.
Paleontologists she consulted, Dr. Renne said, agreed. It may be, they
said, that the prints are recent breaks in the hard surface caused by
vibrations from a nearby highway and an active quarry.
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