An archaeological dig site near Buttermilk Creek in Texas is challenging scientist’s understanding of America’s first residents. The site contains small stone tools which are believed to have come from about 15,000 years ago, which is more than 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Fox News reports that the cache was found some five feet below the level where the earliest human deposits have been found and contained “15,528 artifacts, including chipping debris from working stones and 56 tools such as blades, scrapers and choppers.”
As Texas A&M’s director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans Michael Waters explained, the tools were mostly made from chert, or quartz, that can be chipped in such a way as to create sharp blades.
Because there was no organic material found at the site, the team used alternative techniques to date the tools. Again, from Fox News:
Steven L. Forman, of the University of Illinois, Chicago, a co-author of the paper, said the team used luminescence dating which can determine when the material was last exposed to light. They took samples by hammering black, sealed copper pipe into the layers.
Before the Buttermilk Creek site, human habitation was thought to have begun some 13,000 years ago and thought to have been dominated by a group called the Clovis. Not only are the tools at a depth which does not correlate other Clovis findings, they are much smaller tools, thought by the Buttermilk Creek researchers to have been used by a more mobile people.
Of course, the Buttermilk Creek findings are being challenged by critics unready to unset the Clovis as America’s first denizens. As is the case with science, it will likely be some time before this discovery is fully understood. But it is a certainty that Buttermilk Creek will be talked, debated, and shouted for decades to come.