News & AnalysisArchaeology

Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunters Make a Point

Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 302
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6054.302

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Summary

On page 351 of this week's issue of Science, researchers report new analyses of the remains of a mastodon found in the 1970s with a bone spear point in its rib. Scientists used DNA and radiocarbon dating to demonstrate that the point came from a mastodon bone shaped into a weapon by humans and used a startling 13,800 years ago. That's nearly 1000 years before the Clovis culture, long considered to be the first culture in the New World. The find adds to the wave of recent compelling evidence demonstrating an earlier, pre-Clovis settling of the Americas. Although a few Clovis-first holdouts remain unconvinced, the early bone point also suggests that the extinction of large mammals such as mastodons and mammoths may have begun long before the Clovis people came on the scene.