I'm doing this post in stages, on two boluses of complementary news. The first earlyish in the morning to round up some news, off a paper in Nature being released this week even though it won't be printed for awhile, on how many distinct waves of Old World migrants reached North America in olden times. That's way before Vikings or China Treasure Ships or Columbus or anybody else arrived here to find it already well settled (not that Europeans, cheered on by the pope, had many compunctions about claiming every place they reached). Later, as a Science embargo drops (an event that may explain Nature moving its paper up), I'll add initial news accounts about an Oregon cave. There a large store of stone tools from 11,000 years ago or so turned up not looking at all like the famed culture of Clovis hunters with their big, megafauna-killing spear points. That is another wrecking ball into the already tottering Clovis-first theory of who the first Americans were. We'll see how or whether reporters doing the second of these news items will report whether the Science and Nature papers reinforce one another, conflict, or something else. One suspects going in they do not conflict - if linguistics and DNA point to at least three migrations, that should easily accommodate two distinct tool kits coexisting back when mammoths still roamed.
ONE: A large int'l team, its lead author a Harvard Medical School geneticist with a senior-author at University College London, reports in Nature that extensive sampling of DNA from living descendants of prehistoric migrants finds at least three stocks or waves of arrival. Most native Americans, both North and South continents of course, date from the oldest with its arrival at least 15,000 years ago. Second and third streams appear only to have settled the northern part of North America - the genes of one dominant in today's Eskimo/Inuit and Aleut peoples, the others in Canada's Chipewyan nations whose tongues fall in the Na-Dene linguistic family. These last two also contain genes from the first wave (or waves) of migration.
- USA Today - Dan Vergano: Native Americans came to the New World in three waves ; Puts this study into deep context, referring to the encounters in Europe between H. sapiens and its cousins, the Neanderthals - "A pattern of ancient people mixing, rather than completely running each other off" is emerging, it says here. The paper refers fuzzily to "at least" three waves, which becomes three in this account and several others today. One offers that the three-or-more stance is a better way to put things in a field as fast-moving as ancient migration patterns.
- LA Times - Eryn Brown: DNA study bolsters disputed view of migration into North America ;
- NYTimes - Nicholas Wade: Earliest Americans Arrived in Waves, DNA Study Finds ; Mentions prominently that some linguists had already made the same general conclusion - one that met stiff headwind.
- Wall Street Journal - Robert Lee Hotz: Early Americans Arrived in Three Waves ; Not just three waves (at least) but each appears to have formed in a different part of Asia.
- Alaska Dispatch - Doug O'Harra: First Americans passed through Alaska in three distinct waves ; Always the local angle. It lists the offshoots of the Chippewyan Na-Dene group still living in Alaska (Haidas among them. Always found that nation, out there on its big offshore islands, intriguing).
- Boston Globe - Carolyn Y. Johnson: Native Americans migrated to New World in three waves, Harvard-led DNA analysis shows ; Here's an interesting aspect. This reports that native American's from the lower 48 states are not included in the sampling. Too much paperwork to get permission.
TWO: Oregon Cave Tools ; Science has news from another large team. University of Copenhagen members found, in Oregon's Paisley Cave, human DNA dating to more than 14,000 years ago preserved in coprolites (er, dried or fossil turds). The DNA accompanies stone tools of a culture called Western Stemmed Projectile that have been examined by University of Oregon researchers. Oregon State members of the team examined the geological setting. That's a lot of collaboration. The gist of this news have been reported before but the dating is more solid. The tools are distinct from the famed Clovis big game-hunter tools, and the dates make the Oregon kits as old or older than Clovis. Ergo, at roughly the same time two sorts of people using two sorts of tools were in North America. The U. of Oregon news release features illus of tools. The Copenhagen p.r. shop had no compunctions about showing a photo of a crumbling, DNA-bearing feces.
One wonders - is there enough DNA there to associate the tool makers with any or several of the migration waves being reported in Nature?
- NYTimes - John Noble Wilford: Spearheads and DNA Point to a Second Founding Society in North America ; In the fifth graf is reference to the migration waves research, and a link to Nick Wade's piece.
- Bloomberg - Jeanna Smialek: Ancient Feces Found in Cave Dispels First American Theory ; No reference to the big splash about migration waves.
- Nature News - Ewen Callaway: Genomes and fossil faeces track the first Americans ; Ties the reports together in a big bow.
- LA Times - Thomas H. Maugh II: Who lived here first? New info on North America's earliest residents ; Links to colleague Eryn Brown's story on the three+-wave research, and provides a history. One might offer however that the Clovis First theory had many cracks in it before the Paisley Cave evidence began accumulating in 2008. That was a big crack, not the first. It's been more than 15 years since alternate theories have been getting heavy attention.
- New Scientist - Michael Marshall: Was America first colonised by two cultures at once? ; "What a difference a day makes" is the lede. The story frames the news as a conflict between the Nature and Science papers. But the first paper said there were at least three waves, so to make much of evidence that the first wave was itself accompanied by another wave at the same time seems to be an additive, not competitive, wrinkle. That aside, this is a lively and well-informed story.
- Science News - Bruce Bower: Early Americans took two tool tracks ; Fine story even without any ref. to the DNA work reported from Nature's publication. One gem is its brief description, one that fires imagination, of the distinctive fashion in which the Clovis and these Western Stemmed Tradition cultures expanded and, one imagines, encountered one another in some basin west of the Rockies. Nice closing quote from James Adovasio.
- Gotta go, but more stories are hitting
- Charlie Petit