Early Arrivals

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Science  11 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5617, pp. 215
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5617.215c

Most of the dates of when humans arrived in the New World are radiocarbon dates of organic material that brackets artefacts (for example, the Clovis points) or of cultural horizons. There are few human remains available, which is one reason for the heated debate over possession and sampling of Kennewick Man, who lived in what is now the state of Washington about 9500 years ago [a radiocarbon age of about 8500 years before the present (yr B.P.)] Such samples are important for direct comparison with potential ancestral populations in the Old World, for assessing the diversity of the early populations, and, potentially, for direct analysis of ancient DNA. Perhaps the richest collection of remains comes from several sites in central Mexico, but obtaining accurate dates on these early inhabitants has been problematic. Gonzalez et al. report successful radiocarbon dating of 4 out of 11 individuals. The uncalibrated radiocarbon ages for the two oldest individuals are around 10,200 to 10,800 yr B.P., or about 12,800 calendar years ago, making these some of the oldest remains recovered in the New World.—BH

J. Hum. Evol.44, 379 (2003).

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