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Oldest Human Remains in North America Found

In 1959, the partial skeletal remains of an ancient woman estimated to be 10,000 years old were unearthed in Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island, one of the eight Channel Islands off the southern California coast. They were discovered by Phil C. Orr, curator of anthropology and natural history at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The remains of the so-called Arlington Springs woman were recently reanalyzed by the latest radiocarbon dating techniques and were found to be approximately 13,000 years old. The new date makes her remains older than any other known human skeleton found so far in North America.

The discovery challenges the popular belief that the first colonists to North America arrived at the end of the last ice age about 11,500 years ago by crossing a Bering land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska and northwestern Canada. The earlier date and the location of the woman's remains on the island adds weight to an alternative theory that some early settlers may have constructed boats and migrated from Asia by sailing down the Pacific coast.

The Arlington Springs woman lived during the end of the Pleistocene era when large herds of bison and woolly mammoths roamed the grassy plains and other extinct native American animals such as camels, horses, and saber-toothed cats were still around.

The remains of Pleistocene-era animals have been discovered on Santa Rosa Island where the Arlington Springs woman was found. In 1994, the world's most complete skeleton of a pygmy mammoth, a dwarf species, was also excavated here.


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Scientific ClassificationLife ScienceMajor Discoveries About Human Ancestors

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