Late Glacial Lithics in Minnesota?


Something that may be the earliest known settlement site in the Americas has been found -- in Minnesota of all places. It's just a knapped-stone assemblage, no organics, so there can be no radiocarbon dates until they dig some more and get lucky. The find's position in the geological stratigraphy suggests a late glacial date, 14,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Thanks to Aardvarchaeology regular Mustafa Mond for the heads-up! Link.

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When I saw the post title I had a brief flashback to the Kensington Rune Stone! :)

Gah, the Kensington fake was actually moved to Stockholm and exhibited in the Museum of National Antiquities under the former director's reign a few years ago. The silly post-mod saw the stone as an interesting example of how modern identities are constructed out of fragments of the past yada yada yada. And the damn exhibition didn't even choose sides between the scientific consensus about the thing and the ideas of white supremacist amateur scholars around Kensington. Disgraceful.

This was an interesting story to read in the local newspaper this morning. I'll be interested to see if further analysis and digging confirms the dates. I find it impossibly unlikely that Minnesota would be the site of the oldest human settlement on the continent. But I suppose it could hold title for the oldest to be discovered.

Offtopic: Do you have cites for the scientific consensus labeling the KRS a fake and the claim of a connection to white supremacists? That came as a total surprise to me. Your comment led me to Wikipedia and Google where I found that the scientific evidence (to do with mica content?) tends to favor a medieval carving date, but the linguistic evidence favors a modern forgery. I found nothing on ties to white supremacy.

Sorry, I haven't got any good references in English. The mica thing was proven inconclusive last I heard. And the inscription is simply silly from a philological point of view.

As for white supremacists, maybe that's too strong a word. But I do know that the stone is very popular among people who would like for white folks to be an "indigenous" group in the US.

That looks like a rock. Could you, in your most patient for-the-ignorant-masses manner, point out just a feature or two that tells us this was a human tool and not just any rock? Thank you.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 12 Jan 2007 #permalink

Sorry, looks like a rock to me as well. Real lithics are knapped along the edges. But they've found at least 50 bits of the stuff and seem convinced that it's actually culture, not geology. I'd like to see more pix. It may be water-abraded stuff which would smoothen out the knapping scars a bit.

If you right click on the image and view just the image, it will be quite a bit larger, which will help in the identification. The right portion of the lithic shows some flaking off to make it more like an axe or adze type thing. I am by no means a lithicist, in fact, I am a bioarchaeologist, but that would tell me it was human made.
Secondly, I was just as surprised to hear of late glacial inhabitation in Minnesota. I was like, Minnesota?? Why not Cali, Oregon, or Canada?? Anyway, such is life, late glacial from Minnesota sounds really cool.

As a Minnesota archaeologist, this certainly was exciting news to hear this morning. My first groggy thoughts were about the impossibility given the extent of the ice sheets at this time. I guess by 13000 they had retreated enough from the north-central part of the state to allow for the possibility of some intrepid pioneers.

I too was disappointed in the lithics. The news reports also show an "axe-like" tool, which is a little more convincing than the "blade" that you post on this site. Still I would have preferred to see an undisputable artifact. I do know some of the archaeologists quoted in the paper. I have to say that I trust their ability to identify a real stone tool. They're no fools and know the implications of their claims. I understand a more thorough report is in the works. Hopefully the report will include all the evidence we need to evaluate this claim.


"As for white supremacists, maybe that's too strong a word. But I do know that the stone is very popular among people who would like for white folks to be an "indigenous" group in the US."

So without any evidence, isn't your first remark rather unfortunately specific and unjustified?

"the ideas of white supremacist amateur scholars around Kensington."

On Topic:

Anyway, NPR had an interview with one of the archaeologists that participated in the dig. For those interested:

Henrik: There are those who are in no doubt that it's genuine.

Nate: Thanks for the radio link, I'll add it to the post! My first remark was unfortunate. One more like that and I'll have to ban myself from commenting.

Europe fights back
Not to be outdone by these poorly-dated Minnesota rocks, researchers form the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Colorado claim modern human tools of stone, bone and ivory in Europe by 45.000 years ago. And the dating is on much more solid ground:

The sediment overlying the artifacts was dated by several methods, including an analysis of an ash layer deposited by a monumental volcanic eruption in present-day Italy about 40,000 years ago, Hoffecker said. The researchers also used optically stimulated luminescence dating -- which helps them determine how long ago materials were last exposed to daylight -- as well as paleomagnetic dating based on known changes in the orientation and intensity of Earth's magnetic field and radiocarbon calibration.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 14 Jan 2007 #permalink

Wow, good link! I wonder if they're weighing in on whether H. sapiens sapiens and H. sapiens neanderthalensis interbred succesfully or if non-adaptive cultural behaviour came in the way...

The Neanderthals, who had occupied Europe for more than 200,000 years, seem to have left the back door open for modern humans.

Well, as we all know, the Neanderpeople did get shafted in the end.

Wow, good link! I wonder if they're weighing in on whether H. sapiens sapiens and H. sapiens neanderthalensis interbred succesfully

Of course they did, that was covered in the book of Genesis.

By Mustafa Mond, FCD (not verified) on 15 Jan 2007 #permalink