Tag Archives: America

Cranial morphology of early Americans from Lagoa Santa, Brazil: Implications for the settlement of the New World

Cranial morphology of early Americans from Lagoa Santa, Brazil: Implications for the settlement of the New World

Comparative morphological studies of the earliest human skeletons of the New World have shown that, whereas late prehistoric, recent, and present Native Americans tend to exhibit a cranial morphology similar to late and modern Northern Asians (short and wide neurocrania; high, orthognatic and broad faces; and relatively high and narrow orbits and noses), the earliest South Americans tend to be more similar to present Australians, Melanesians, and Sub-Saharan Africans (narrow and long neurocrania; prognatic, low faces; and relatively low and broad orbits and noses). However, most of the previous studies of early American human remains were based on small cranial samples. Herein we compare the largest sample of early American skulls ever studied (81 skulls of the Lagoa Santa region) with worldwide data sets representing global morphological variation in humans, through three different multivariate analyses. The results obtained from all multivariate analyses confirm a close morphological affinity between South American Paleoindians and extant Australo-Melanesians groups, supporting the hypothesis that two distinct biological populations could have colonized the New World in the Pleistocene/Holocene transition.



Discussion and Conclusions
The three different quantitative analyses undertaken in this study demonstrate that the first South Americans exhibit a cranial morphology that is very different from late and modern Northeastern Asians and Amerindians (short and wide neurocrania; high, orthognatic faces; and relatively high and narrow orbits and noses) but very similar to present Australians/Melanesians and Africans, especially with the former (narrow and long neurocrania; prognatic, low faces; and relatively low and broad orbits and noses). Taking into account the large number of early specimens used in this study, this trend is unlikely to be a result of sample bias. The phenomenon cannot, as well, be said to represent the result of microevolutionary processes restricted to Lagoa Santa because the same cranial pattern has already been described in places as distant and as ecologically different as Southern Chile [Magellan’s Strait (19)], Colombia [Sabana de Bogotá (20, 21)], Mexico [Mexico Basin (22) and Baja California (23)], United States [Florida (24)], and elsewhere in Brazil [Bahia (25) and São Paulo (26)] (Fig. 4)

This item seems to have been written before the mtDNA type M was found in an ancient West American site. And the complete obliteration of a pre-existing set of Y and Mt DNA now looks entirely possible, as this seems to have happened in North Africa during the Aterian. I’m for a multiple colonisation scenario involving Australoids, Jomon, Western Europe/North Africa and finally the Mongoloid Asians.

For anyone not familiar with very ancient American sites, some are now dating 40k to 5ok old in Brazil and South East America. The  Pedra Furada  site and the Topper site are the ones that spring to mind.

Diversity and age of the four major mtDNA haplogroups in native America

Diversity and age of the four major mtDNA haplogroups, and their implications for the peopling of the New World.
S L Bonatto and F M Salzano,Departamento de Genética, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.  

Despite considerable investigation, two main questions on the origin of Native Americans remain the topic of intense debate-namely, the number and time of the migration(s) into the Americas. Using the 720 available Amerindian mtDNA control-region sequences, we reanalyzed the nucleotide diversity found within each of the four major mtDNA haplogroups (A-D) thought to have been present in the colonization of the New World. We first verified whether the within-haplogroup sequence diversity could be used as a measure of the haplogroup’s age. The pattern of shared polymorphism, the mismatch distribution, the phylogenetic trees, the value of Tajima’s D, and the computer simulations all suggested that the four haplogroups underwent a bottleneck followed by a large population expansion. The four haplogroup diversities were very similar to each other, offering a strong support for their single origin. They suggested that the beginning of the Native Americans’ ancestral-population differentiation occurred approximately 30,000-40,000 years before the present (ybp), with a 95%-confidence-interval lower bound of approximately 25,000 ybp. These values are in good agreement with the New World-settlement model that we have presented elsewhere, extending the results initially found for haplogroup A to the three other major groups of mtDNA sequences found in the Americas. These results put the peopling of the Americas clearly in an early, pre-Clovis time frame.

It’s nice to see a study that agrees with the older (40,000 years plus) dates that are seen in some American sites like Topper. Why the recent entry (13k) date is clung onto so fiercely by some I’ll never know.

Coprolites date human presence in Oregon as 12,300 years old.

DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America

The timing of the first human migration into the Americas and its relation to the appearance of the Clovis technological complex in North America at about 11,000 to 10,800 radiocarbon years before the present (14C years B.P.) remains contentious. We establish that humans were present at Paisley 5 Mile Point Caves, in south-central Oregon, by 12,300 14C years B.P., through the recovery of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from coprolites, directly dated by accelerator mass spectrometry. The mtDNA corresponds to Native American founding haplogroups A2 and B2. The dates of the coprolites are >1000 14C years earlier than currently accepted dates for the Clovis complex.

I believe the oldest Clovis site in America is the Blackwater Draw well, dated to 13,000 BP. This makes the humans present 1,200 years earlier than thought. However, the Clovis people reached New Mexico about the same era, so you have to allow some lead time before that. So probably closer to 15,000 years (about the same time as the Great Lakes comet is thought to have hit). However, habitations show up all over America much older than this date, about 50,000 years old at the Topper site.

This DNA would suggest that the Paisley cave poop came from Clovis Americans. I keep seeing 14,300 years ago all over the place. It said BP not BC people!

Coprolite DNA studies are an excellent idea, as they totally avoid Native American’s cultural sensitivity to strangers digging up their ancestors, but you access the DNA. No hurt feelings anywhere.

Spirit Cave Man.


Spirit Cave man skull and reconstruction. 

By Frank X. Mullen
GRIMES POINT – Death came for the Spirit Cave Man 10,630 years ago amid waves of pain. His body rested in a shallow grave in a cave near Fallon, but not for eternity. Two Nevada archeologists found his partially-mummified body in 1940, but his antiquity was not known until tests were done in 1994.

Spirit Cave Man’s remains are now the focus of worldwide excitement and a national controversy. The man does not resemble American Indians, anthropologists say, and he may represent a population already established in North America when ancestors of the Indians arrived.

Some anthropologists want to study him further. Nevada Indian leaders want his remains reburied without further testing.

Both sides have presented evidence in the tug-of-war for the ancient remains. The Bureau of Land Management, steward of the federal land near Grimes Point where the remains were found, may make the decision on the future of the remains this summer.

Once Spirit Cave Man’s age was known, scientists studied the remains with X-rays and computer scans, built models of his head, analyzed his dried excrement, and studied the pollen and other materials found with the burial.

In a way, the researchers have partially recreated a Nevada lost to time. “This was a period when people all over the planet were adapting to the end of the Ice Age,” said Amy Dansie, an anthropologist who did some of the first work on the Spirit Cave remains.

“The mega-fauna (mammoths and other giant animals) died out 1,000 years before this culture existed,” Dansie said in a lecture at the museum last year.

“All over the world people were at the same stage of technology and civilization. Everyone was trying to adapt to a much different world.”

From what scientists have learned so far, the first Nevadans adapted to change as well as any people, at any time, anywhere on Earth.

The Spirit Cave Man opens a doorway into a time and a people formerly lost to history. That doorway will be closed forever if ancient remains like those found at Spirit Cave are reburied without study, some anthropologists argue.

Here’s a look through that doorway in time, based on museum reports, lectures and interviews with scientists who have studied the Spirit Cave Man mummy:

The cave man’s world

He was about 45 years old and was probably an elder of his people. His name never will be known, but what scientists have learned about him indicates a hard life and a painful death among people who cared for him.

Spirit Cave man and his clan lived in a marsh at the edges of a receding lake – later to be known as Lake Lahonthan. The lake once stretched across what was to become northwest Nevada. Cattails and bulrushes reached overhead. The water was alive with fish and insects.

The people made use of all the things in their world. They caught fish in nets, harvested edible plants and used stone points to hunt animals. Like most ancient people, they probably believed spirits were all around them, but their beliefs have been lost to time.

They lived in a snapshot of time before written history. The great lake left after the last Ice Age was shrinking. The Great Basin was turning into a desert. Sagebrush mingled with Indian hemp near the people’s camp. The clan lived near a marsh that was moving steadily northward as water evaporated and the climate became warmer and dryer.

This the last era when most of the people of the world were on an equal footing. It was a time before widespread farming and cities and writing. The first step-pyramids of Egypt were 6,000 years in the future. The massive stone monuments of Europe would not be raised for another 4,000 years.

These first Nevadans were Stone Age people, but their weaving was as functional and beautiful as any ever made. They knew each plant and animal in a way modern people can never experience. Yet, for some, it was not a peaceful life.

Spirit Cave Man had a skull fracture from a blow to the head. The break stretched from the left front of his skull to behind his left ear. Two fractures spread out from a circular indentation in his skull, as though he had been hit with a blunt object, like a club or a rounded stone. The head fractures, more than a year old, had partially healed, but he had other medical problems.

His right hand had been broken in two places but had healed. His spine was malformed since birth, leading to conditions and injuries that probably gave him considerable lower back pain. He suffered from frequent dental abscesses, which left jagged edges on his jawbones.

Shortly before he died, three teeth were badly infected. The abscesses drained through an open sore in his cheek. The infection surged through his bloodstream. Fever raged through him. He was dying.

His people cared for him. Shortly before his death they fed him small chub and sucker fish, probably boiled and mashed. It was his last meal. The day he ate it, Spirit Cave Man’s life ended.

His clan members carried his body up an incline from their camp in the marsh. They went to a hillside where shallow caves – most no more than rock shelters – dotted the face of the hillsides. The hollows were dug by the wave action of the giant lake thousands of years before. Then, as now, the roofs and sides of the caves were coated in white tufa, calcium carbonate from the lake’s water.

The people dug a shallow grave and placed their clan member within it. He was lain on his right side with his hand resting beneath his chin. The people wrapped the dead man’s body in a rabbit fur blanket and covered his head with a diamond-plaited mat. It was not a special new mat for a funeral. It showed signs of wear where people – perhaps the dead man himself – had sat and reclined upon it. It, like the other artifacts buried with the man, was a thing of daily use.

The dead man’s moccasins, with tough leather soles and marmot hide tops, remained on his feet. One moccasin had been patched, heel and toe, with antelope hide after long use. Tule reeds inside the moccasins served as socks.

The people covered him with sand and rocks and left him for the ages in a cave where other human remains also would be found. It is not known if the people believed his spirit would go on to an afterlife, but they could not have imagined the kind of resurrection in store for him more than ten millennia after his death. The Discovery

Spirit Cave Man’s clan enjoyed their moist, green world for a brief snapshot in time. The marsh shrank year by year and desert took its place. Many generations later, the Great Basin would become even more inhospitable. About 7,000 to 4,500 years ago a great drought held the basin in its parched grasp.

Yet, people still lived in what was to be called Nevada. By the time the first non-Indian invaders crossed the Great Basin in the early 1800s, the people who wandered the desert and lived around the lakes, marshes and the rivers were well established.

The Numu, as the Paiute people called themselves, lived in the western, southern and central parts of Nevada. The Wa-she-shu, or Washoe people lived in the Sierra Nevada and the valleys to the east of the mountains. The Newe, or Western Shoshone people, lived in what would become western Nevada.

Throughout the basin were the remnants of cultures long vanished. In the caves and other hidden places were artifacts of the ancient ones. The modern Indians said these things were the traces of their ancestors. Scientists began to gather evidence of these Nevadans of so long ago.

Could these Ainu-like remains be from the people that the Paiute people called the Si Te Cah?

According to Paiute oral history, the Si-Te-Cah are a legendary race whose mummified remains were discovered (under 4 feet of guano) by guano farmers in what is now known as “Lovelock Cave” in Lovelock, Nevada. Although the cave had been mined since 1911, it was not until 1924 when miners notified authorities. An archeological excavation ensued producing 10,000 artifacts. “Si-Te-Cah” literally means “tule-eaters” in the language of the Paiute Indians. Tule is a fibruous water plant. In order to escape harassment from the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cahs lived on rafts made of tule on the lake.

According to the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cah were a hostile and warlike race who practiced cannibalism. The Si-Te-Cah and the Paiutes were at war, and after a long struggle a coalition of tribes trapped the remaining Si-Te-Cah in Lovelock Cave. When they refused to come out, the Indians piled brush before the cave mouth and set it aflame. The Si-Te-Cah were annihilated. She does not say that there were giants and there are no legends that there were giants. Stories on the web that the Paiutes built a pyramid are possibily confusion caused by the existence of the Pyramid Lake Paiutes and the Stone Mother Legend

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, related many stories about the Si-Te-Cah in her book Life Among the Paiutes. “My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called a mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family.

Pre Clovis sites in America.


Archaeologists put humans in North America 50,000 years ago.

By Marsha Walton and Michael Coren
Thursday, November 18, 2004 Posted: 5:12 PM EST (2212 GMT)

The location of the Topper site on the Savannah River. 
Archaeologists say a site in South Carolina may rewrite the history of how the Americas were settled by pushing back the date of human settlement thousands of years.

But their interpretation is already igniting controversy among scientists.

An archaeologist from the University of South Carolina on Wednesday announced radiocarbon tests that dated the first human settlement in North America to 50,000 years ago — at least 25,000 years before other known human sites on the continent.

“Topper is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America,” said Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

If true, the find represents a revelation for scientists studying how humans migrated to the Americas.

Many scientists thought humans first ventured into the New World across a land bridge from present-day Russia into Alaska about 13,000 years ago.

Section of the Savannah riverbed from the Topper site.


The Topper ‘chopper’, a stone tool.

This new discovery suggests humans may have crossed the land bridge into the Americas much earlier — possibly during an ice age — and rapidly colonized the two continents.

“It poses some real problems trying to explain how you have people (arriving) in Central Asia almost at the same time as people in the Eastern United States,” said Theodore Schurr, anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a curator at the school’s museum.

“You almost have to hope for instantaneous expansion … We’re talking about a very rapid movement of people around the globe.”

Schurr said that conclusive evidence of stone tools similar to those in Asia and uncontaminated radiocarbon dating samples are needed to verify that the Topper site is actually 50,000 years old.

“If dating is confirmed, then it really does have a significant impact on our previous understanding of New World colonization,” he said.

But not all scientists are convinced that what Goodyear found is a human settlement.

“He has a very old geologic formation, but I can’t agree with his interpretation of those stones being man-made,” said Michael Collins of the Texas Archeological Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Collins disputes that the stone shards at the site show signs of human manipulation.

Placing of the pre Clovis artifacts at Topper (in red).

But whether the Topper site proves valid, Collins said most archeologists now believe people settled in America before 13,000 years ago, refuting a theory that has held sway for 75 years.

Since the 1930s, archaeologists generally believed North America was settled by hunters following large game over the land bridge about 13,000 years ago.

“That had been repeated so many times in textbooks and lectures it became part of the common lore,” said Dennis Stanford, curator of archeology at the Smithsonian Institution. “People forgot it was only an unproven hypothesis.”

A growing body of evidence has prompted scientists to challenge that assumption.

A scattering of sites from South America to Oklahoma have found evidence of a human presence before 13,000 years ago — or the first Clovis sites — since the discovery of human artifacts in a cave near Clovis, New Mexico, in 1936.

These discoveries are leading archaeologists to support alternative theories — such as settlement by sea — for the Americas.
Archaeologists will meet in October of 2005 for a conference in Columbia, South Carolina, to discuss the earliest inhabitants of North America, including a visit to the Topper Site.

Goodyear has been excavating the Topper dig site along the Savannah River since the 1980s. He recovered many of the artifacts and tools last May.

Goodyear dug four meters (13 feet) deeper than the soil layer containing the earliest North American people and began uncovering a plethora of tools. Until recently, many archeologists did not dig below where Clovis artifacts were expected to be found.

Scientists and volunteers at the site in Allendale have unearthed hundreds of possible implements, many appearing to be stone chisels and tools that could have been used to skin hides, butcher meat or carve antlers, wood and ivory. The tools were fashioned from a substance called chert, a flint-like stone found in the region.

Goodyear and his colleagues began their dig at the Topper Site in the early 1980s with the goal of finding out more about the Clovis people. Goodyear thought it would also be a good place to look for earlier human settlers because of the resources along the Savannah River and the moderate climate.


Cactus Hill (VA)
Cactus Hill is a buried multicomponent site on the Nottaway River of Virginia, with archaic, Clovis and, below the Clovis and separated by sterile sand, an apparent Pre-Clovis occupation.
Guitarrero Cave (Peru)
Guitarrero Cave contains evidence of human occupations beginning at least 10,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 12,500 years ago.
Manis Mastodon Site (USA)
The Manis Mastodon site is a possible Clovis or preclovis mastodon butchery site located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in the northwestern United States.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter (USA)
Meadowcroft Rockshelter was one of the first archaeological sites in the United States to contain evidence of pre-Clovis populations, and as such it has always been controversial.
Monte Verde (Chile)
Monte Verde is Southern Chile’s addition to the problem of when was the earliest settlement of the American continent.

The peopling of the Americas.

Europeans colonised America in 28,000 BC.

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor, in Washington DC
EUROPEANS colonised America up to 30,000 years ago, perhaps by crossing the Atlantic, according to a genetic analysis of native Americans that sheds light on their origins. By studying the DNA in “power packs” of cells called mitochondria, scientists can compare populations to reveal evidence of ancient migrations, the American Association for the Advancement of Science was told. Such work reveals four major lineages in native Americans which can be traced to Siberia and north-east Asia, notably in Baikal and Altai-Sayan.

However, a fifth – more minor – founding lineage, called haplogroup X, can be traced to Europe, and is found in North American populations, said Dr Theodore Schurr of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Dr Schurr said: “This is one of the intriguing findings that we have come across recently. These data imply that haplogroup X was present in the New World long before Europeans first arrived in the New World, before Columbus or the Vikings or anybody else.”

The find has led to some speculation that ancient people crossed the Atlantic from the Old World, because evidence of the group has not so far been found in Asia, though he stressed that not all central Asian groups had been analysed. Dr Schurr said: “Haplogroup X was brought to the New World by an ancient Eurasian population in a migratory event distinct from those bringing the other four lineages to the Americas.”

The haplogroup X occurs most among Algonkian-speaking groups such as the Ojibwa, and has been detected in two pre-Colombian north American populations. Today, haplogroup X is found in between two and four per cent of European populations, and in the Middle East, he said, particularly in Israel.The complex origins of the first Americans has also been highlighted by an analysis of thousands of skulls from around the world. A team of anthropologists from the University of Michigan found that the study confirmed the complex origins of Native Americans that have been suggested by recent archeological and genetic studies.


Using comparisons of thousands of ancient and modern skulls, collected over a period of 20 years and containing new data from Mongolia that became accessible just last summer, Prof Loring Brace showed how the native inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere fit into several different groups based on craniofacial patterns. Their studies show that descendants of the first humans to enter the New World, including natives of Mexico, Peru, and the southern United States, have no obvious ties to any Asian groups. He said: “This could be because they have been separated from their Asian sources for the longest period of time.”

A second group – including the Blackfoot, Iroquois, and other tribes from Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, and Massachusetts – was descended from the Jomon, the prehistoric people of Japan. The Inuit appear to be a later branch from that same Jomon trunk. Tribal groups who lived down the eastern seaboard into Florida share this origin, according to prof Brace. Another group, originating in China and including the Athabascan-speaking people of the Yukon drainage of Alaska and north-west Canada, spread as far south as Arizona and northern Mexico.

He said: “Their craniofacial configuration allies them more closely to the living Chinese than to any other population in either hemisphere.”

I’d just like to comment that a group of haplotype X people were found in Kyrgztani Altains, although it’s the wrong type to be a parent of the native American type X, and it only arrived there a few thousand years ago with the Turkic peoples.

This shows the Canaries current, which sweeps off the North West coast of Africa and across the Atlantic. This journey has been done in a row boat in 43 days. It wouldn’t take complicated boats to make the journey, the current would have done most of the work. Recently, African illegal immigrants have been arriving at the Canary islands in large canoes, so it is possible to make long ocean voyages in them. There’s also the suggestion that Homo Erectus would have had to have been able to build boats to reach the island of Flores, so we’ve probably always had boats as modern humans.


Possible Evidence of Early Migrations to the Americas

Cave paintings
One indication of possible American aboriginal settlement of South America came from cave paintings in Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil. The paintings, which some archaeologists claim are older than the supposed date of arrival of the Siberian migrations to the area, are in a style not seen elsewhere in native American art. Researchers also point to both the physical traits of human remains found at the sites and tool-making technology as highly distinct from that associated with the Clovis culture.

The elaborate ritual costumes shown in the paintings exhibit similarity to those used by Australian Aborigines as well as those used by the Fuegians, the natives of Tierra del Fuego. According to some researchers, such as Walter Neves of the University of Sao Paulo, the Fuegians (who were reduced to only one woman as of 2004) may be descendants of intermixing between American Aborigines and American Indians, and therefore the last surviving remnants of the original settlers.

Monte Verde
Monte Verde is an archaeological site in south-
central Chile that pre-dates the earliest known Clovis culture site of Clovis, New Mexico, by 1000 years. One layer at Monte Verde is estimated to date to 12,500 years before present, making it one of the earliest inhabited sites in the Americas. At that time, the Bering Strait route was blocked by huge glaciers, suggesting that Monte Verde’s inhabitants arrived long prior to dates associated with the Clovis culture, or via a different route. Another layer at Monte Verde has been radiocarbon dated to 33,000 B.P., although some archaeologists have questioned the methodology used to determine the older date.
Luzia reconstruction
More solid evidence was found in the 1970s by anthropologist Anette Laming-Emperaire. In limestone caves of Lagoa Santa region in central Brazil, she unearthed the skeleton of a 20-year old, 1.50 m tall woman, later nicknamed “Luzia” (or “Lucia”). Laming-Emperaire died before she had a chance to study it. Some 20 years later, Walter Neves found the skull in the Quinta da Boa Vista National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, and found that its measurements were quite different from those of the later peoples descended from the Siberian migration(s), and more similar to those of Australian Aborigines, Melanesians, and Negritos. This find, dated between 10,500 and 9,500 BC, was greeted with much skepticism by the anthropological community. However, the find was eventually confirmed by remains of over 70 individuals with similar characteristics found in that same region. This matter [1] [2] has been discussed at great length by Dewar (2001) These findings have been linked to the widespread Jigue legend [3] to suggest African San migrations to the New World.
The Pericúes
Another boost to the theory came when anthropologist Rolando González-José of the University of Barcelona demonstrated that the remains of the Pericúes, a tribe that lived in Baja California Sur until the 18th century, were quantitatively more similar to the Lagoa Santa finds than to any other group tested, and both were closer to the Australian Aborigines and Melanesians than to Siberians. The “anomalous” appearance of the Pericúes had already been noted by European visitors to the area. In 1909 French ethnologist Paul Rivet first proposed a trans-Pacific origin of this population, although a more recent settlement of Pacific islanders (i.e. within the last few millenia) could not be considered a pre-Siberian migration.

The Fuegians of Tierra del Fuego at the extreme tip of South America are thought to be physically, culturally and linguistically distinct from other Native Americans. Some proponents of this theory suggest they may be the descendants of both the relative newcomers from Asia and American Aborigines. Both Tehuelches and Selk’nams practiced body painting in a way not unlike that of Australian aboriginals. In contrast to most other Amerindian peoples, Fuegians appeared to be taller than most Europeans (See: Patagon myth).
Kennewick Man
Kennewick Man, whose remains were found in Washington State, does not resemble today’s Amerindians. Researchers suggested South-East Asian, Polynesian, Ainu or European or Caucasoid-like ancestry based on skull studies. If confirmed, this would lend support to a theory that an important migration route lay along the North Pacific shoreline from Asia to America during a time when inland routes were blocked by ice. DNA analysis, which some Native American groups oppose, could help resolve this mystery, should there be enough left intact to extract from the bones.

Kennewick man, skull and reconstruction.


Natives of South America (below). This page of the book is from “The New Student’s Reference Work: Volume 1” by Chandler B. Beach, Frank Morton McMurry and others.

1Guatuso, 2 Talamanoan Woman ,3 Bolivian Indian, 4 Guaykuru, 5 Caraja, 6 Matako, 7 Brazilian Indian ,8 Guayaqui ,9 Araucanian ,(Chile) 10 Tierra del Fuegan,11 Patagonian, 12 Botocudo Woman.


Until now, native Americans were believed to have descended from Asian ancestors who arrived over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and then migrated across the whole of north and south America. The land bridge was formed 11,000 years ago during the ice age, when sea level dropped.

However, the new evidence shows that these people did not arrive in an empty wilderness. Stone tools and charcoal from the site in Brazil show evidence of human habitation as long ago as 50,000 years.

The site is at Serra Da Capivara in remote northeast Brazil. This area is now inhabited by the descendants of European settlers and African slaves who arrived just 500 years ago.

But cave paintings found here provided the first clue to the existence of a much older people. 

Images of giant armadillos, which died out before the last ice age, show the artists who drew them lived before even the natives who greeted the Europeans.

These Asian people have facial features described as mongoloid. However, skulls dug from a depth equivalent to 9,000 to 12,000 years ago are very different.

Walter Neves, an archaeologist from the University of Sao Paolo, has taken extensive skull measurements from dozens of skulls, including the oldest, a young woman who has been named Lucia.

“The measurements show that Lucia was anything but mongoloid,” he says. 

The next step was to reconstruct a face from Lucia’s skull. First, a CAT scan of the skull was done, to allow an accurate working model to be made.

Then a forensic artist, Richard Neave from the University of Manchester, UK, created a face for Lucia. The result was surprising: “It has all the features of a negroid face,” says Dr Neave.

The skull dimensions and facial features match most closely the native people of Australia and Melanesia. These people date back to about 60,000 years, and were themselves descended from the first humans, who left Africa about 100,000 years ago.

But how could the early Australians have travelled more than 13,500 kilometres (8,450 miles) at that time? The answer comes from more cave paintings, this time from the Kimberley, a region at the northern tip of Western Australia.

Here, Grahame Walsh, an expert on Australian rock art, found the oldest painting of a boat anywhere in the world. The style of the art means it is at least 17,000 years old, but it could be up to 50,000 years old.

And the crucial detail is the high prow of the boat. This would have been unnecessary for boats used in calm, inland waters. The design suggests it was used on the open ocean.

Fantastic voyage

Archaeologists speculate that such an incredible sea voyage, from Australia to Brazil, would not have been undertaken knowingly but by accident.

Just three years ago, five African fishermen were caught in a storm and a few weeks later were washed up on the shores of South America. Two of the fishermen died, but three made it alive.

But if the first Americans had drifted from Australia, where are their descendants now? Again, the skulls suggest an answer.

The shape of the skulls changes between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago from being exclusively negroid to exclusively mongoloid. Combined with rock art evidence of increasing violence at this time, it appears that the mongoloid people from the north invaded and wiped out the original Americans.

The only evidence of any survivors comes from Terra del Fuego, the islands at the remotest southern tip of South America.

The pre-European Fuegeans, who lived stone age-style lives until this century, show hybrid skull features which could have resulted from intermarrying between mongoloid and negroid peoples. Their rituals and traditions also bear some resemblance to the ancient rock art in Brazil.

The identity of the first Americans is an emotive and controversial question. But the evidence from Brazil, and a handful of people who still live at the very tip of South America, suggests that the Americas have been home to a greater diversity of humans than previously thought – and for much longer.

So far the only group that doesn’t seem to make a traceable appearance are the Africans, although claims have been made regarding  Negroid skulls being found in the Olmec area, there’s no DNA trace and every other anthropologist that had a look at the remains said they weren’t African. Given the cosmopolitan nature of ancient America, it would be a bit odd if they hadn’t made it over there at some point. Quite possibly, the ‘Australoid’ remains are part of a the very first population expansion out of Africa, straight across the Atlantic, as they would have looked a lot like modern Australoids. The remains found in the sites are extremely archaic in morphology. I’d love to know what mitochondrial DNA these people had, would they have been descended from ‘mitochondrial Eve’? Mungo man wasn’t.

The bones and DNA are pointing to a massacre of the first peoples by the current ‘first peoples’. It’s never a good sign when you only have the mitochondrial DNA of a people surviving.

Although, the. Great Lakes comet theory suggests that the older humans could have been at least partially wiped out by a comet impact about 13,000 years ago, clearing space for Newcomers up North