Giant sloth jewelry has changed scientists’ understanding of ancient people


A new study suggests that humans lived in South America at the same time as the now-extinct giant sloths, supporting evidence that humans arrived in the Americas earlier than previously thought.

According to the Associated Press, scientists analyzed triangular and teardrop-shaped pendants made from sloth bone material. They concluded that the carved and polished shapes and drilled holes were the result of elaborate craftsmanship.

The researchers reported that the dating of the ornaments and deposits at the site in Brazil where they were found indicates an age of 25,000-27,000 years ago. This happened several thousand years before some earlier theories suggested that the first humans arrived in the Americas after migrating from Africa and then from Eurasia.

During the second migration, the same human lineage settled in Japan, which could help explain the similarities between prehistoric arrowheads and spearheads found in the Americas, China, and Japan.

“Now we have strong evidence – along with other finds from South and North America – that we need to rethink our understanding of human migration to the Americas,” said Mirian Lisa Alves Forancelli Pacheco, study co-author and archaeologist at the Federal University of San Carlos in Brazil.

In the past decade, other studies have challenged the conventional wisdom that humans reached the Americas only a few thousand years before rising sea levels closed the Bering Strait land bridge between Russia and Alaska, possibly around 15,000 years ago. , notes the Associated Press.

The jewelry was discovered about 30 years ago in a rock shelter called Santa Elina in central Brazil. The new study is the first to carefully analyze them and rule out the possibility that people found and carved them thousands of years after the animals died.

A team of researchers from Brazil, France and the US said their analysis shows that this handicraft was made within days or years after the animals died and before the materials were fossilized. The researchers also ruled out natural abrasion and other factors that could explain the shapes and holes. They reported their findings Wednesday in the UK’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

“We think they were personal items, perhaps for personal decoration,” said Tais Rabito Pansani, study co-author and paleontologist at the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil.

Once upon a time, giant ground sloths were among the largest creatures in South America, reaching 3-4 meters in length and usually walking on all four legs, using their sharp claws to burrow. They weighed more than 450 kg, and their skin included bony structures under the fur – somewhat similar to the bone plates of modern armadillos.

Two years ago, another group of researchers reported that fossilized human footprints found near White Sands, New Mexico date back to 21,000-23,000 years ago, although some researchers dispute these dates. Other evidence from Mexico suggests human presence some 26,000 years ago, while finds from Uruguay may indicate human occupation as far back as 30,000 years ago.

Jennifer Ruff, a genetic anthropologist at the University of Kansas who was not involved in the aforementioned study, said the new article was an “important addition” to the conversation, but like any findings on the topic, it could also draw opposition.

However, evidence from multiple sites is forcing scientists to rethink old assumptions that humans only arrived here in one big wave of “Bering Bridge” migration, said Briana Pobiner, co-author and paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

Some may have died out, “but it is very likely that several waves of people arrived in America,” she notes.

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