In the video above, 18 people “walk” a 10-foot, 8,700-pound replica of an Easter Island statue along a Hawaiian road by tipping it back and forth (and yelling “heave ho,” of course). They are testing the theory, put forth by archeologists Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt, that this is how the Easter Islanders transported their statues from the quarry where they were carved, a water-filled crater of an extinct volcano, to their final positions. (Others think the islanders rolled the statues horizontally along on logs.) The reenactment, of sorts, is described in a recent paper.
What’s the News: Archeologists have discovered thousands of stone tools in Texas that are over 15,000 years old. The find is important because it is over 2,000 years older than the so-called Clovis culture, which had previously thought to be the first human culture in North America. As Texas A&M University anthropologist Michael Waters says, “This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, ‘hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas’.”
How the Heck:
What’s the Context:
Not So Fast:
The Future Holds: Now it’s time for archeologists to rethink the North American narrative of migration: How did humans first populate the continent? As James Adovasio, the executive director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, told NPR, “Everything we’re learning now, from genetics, from linguistic data, from geological data, from archaeological data, suggests that the peopling process is infinitely more complicated than we might have imagined 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago.”
Reference: The Buttermilk Creek Complex and the Origins of Clovis at the Debra L. Friedkin Site, Texas. By Michael R. Waters et al. DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6024.1512
Image: Courtesy of Michael R. Waters
What happens when evolutionary biology disagrees with archeology? If you’re thinking “scientific headache,” you’re right. New research suggests that Europeans first regularly used fire no earlier than 400,000 years ago—an assertion that, if true, leaves evolutionary anthropologists in a lurch because this date isn’t linked to the substantial physiological changes we’d expect with the advent of cooked food.
The majority of archeologists think that early humans’ control of fire is tied to their migration out of Africa. After all, how else would the first Europeans cope with the freezing winters?
Based on archeological evidence, we know that early humans first arrived in southern Europe over a million years ago, and—based on the Happisburgh site —reached England around 800,000 years ago. So the problem with the new 400,000 year-old date is that it means that hominids suffered through hundreds of thousands of years of cold winter unaided by fire. And according to evolutionary biologists, this new date clashes with the idea that cooked food aided the evolutionary enlargement of the human brain.
The 400,000-Year-Old Evidence