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Discovery of North America's oldest weapons
Friday 26 October 2018

An article by Keith Randall on phys.org - Team finds oldest weapons ever discovered in North America - reports on the discovery of what are believed to be the oldest weapons ever found in North America: ancient spear points that are 15,500 years old.

A 15,000 year old stemmed point
A 15,000 year old stemmed point. Image: Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University researchers have discovered what are believed to be the oldest weapons ever found in North America: ancient spear points that are 15,500 years old. The findings raise new questions about the settlement of early peoples on the continent. Michael Waters, distinguished professor of anthropology and director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M, and colleagues from Baylor University and the University of Texas have had their work published in the current issue of Science Advances.

The team found the numerous weapons - about 3-4 inches long - while digging at what has been termed the Debra L. Friedkin site, named for the family who owns the land about 40 miles northwest of Austin in Central Texas. The site has undergone extensive archaeological work for the past 12 years. Spear points made of chert and other tools were discovered under several feet of sediment that dating revealed to be 15,500 years old, and pre-date Clovis, who for decades were believed to be the first people to enter the Americas.

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Waters states that there is no doubt the weapons were used for hunting game in the area at that time. The discovery is significant because almost all pre-Clovis sites have stone tools, but spear points have yet to be found. These points were found under a layer with Clovis and Folsom projectile points. Clovis is dated to 13,000 to 12,700 years ago and Folsom after that. In other words, diagnostic artifacts - such as projectile points - have been discovered which are older than Clovis.

What does this mean? To Waters, the findings expand our understanding of the earliest people to explore and settle North America. The peopling of the Americas during the end of the last Ice Age was a complex process and this complexity is seen in their genetic record. Now we are starting to see this complexity mirrored in the archaeological record.

Michael R. Waters et al. Pre-Clovis projectile points at the Debra L. Friedkin site, Texas 'Implications for the Late Pleistocene peopling of the Americas', Science Advances (2018). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4505

Abstract
Lanceolate projectile points of the Clovis complex and stemmed projectile points of the Western Stemmed Tradition first appeared in North America by ~13 thousand years (ka) ago. The origin, age, and chronological superposition of these stemmed and lanceolate traditions are unclear. At the Debra L. Friedkin site, Texas, below Folsom and Clovis horizons, we find stemmed projectile points dating from ~13.5 to ~15.5 ka ago, with a triangular lanceolate point form appearing ~14 ka ago. The sequential relationship of stemmed projectile points followed by lanceolate forms suggests that lanceolate points are derived from stemmed forms or that they originated from two separate migrations into the Americas.

More on the earliest people to explore & settle North America:
Across Atlantic Ice - The Origin of America’s Clovis Culture

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