SIX NATIONS – In part three of our series on Early Man in the western hemisphere, we look at the Sheguiandah Early Man site a little closer and its discoverer Dr. Thomas E. Lee.
We will also include some of dozens of similar finds since those days of the 1980s when the Canadian scientific community refused to consider evidence contrary to the established Bering Strait land bridge hypothesis.
Public interest in the finds since their discovery in 1950s and into the 1980s was so high that Lee’s discoveries contributed to the passage of legislation to protect archeological sites in Ontario.
Wikwemikong historian and former chief, Shawana was one of the three area First Nations leaders (along with Aundeck Omni Kaning’s Patrick Madahbee and Sheguiandah’s Norman Augonie) who sat on the advisory committee for the Sheguiandah dig.
Discoveries made this millennium have substantiated the claims of Lee and retired archaeologist Ilse Kraemer who, totally separate from one another, discovered solid evidence that there were people living, hunting and reproducing in Ontario long before the land bridge. And they were not only here in the north, but also all the way into South America.
Kraemer discovered red stained stone tools in the early 1980s near Hagersville Ont. This shiny reddish stain — known as Desert Varnish — takes tens of thousands of years in exactly the right environment and location to form. Kraemer’s finds have been dated by reputable European University Early Man archaeologists as possibly 100,000 years old.
Lee and Kraemer’s finds were discredited by the western archaeological community for years, until more and more finds have cast a shadow on the once iron-clad theoretical date of Early Man’s arrival in the west being around 13,000 years ago.
Stone tools unearthed in Brazil only a dozen years ago, may date to as early as 22,000 B.P. (before present). Once again, acceptance of this as possible evidence of Early Man in the west has been resisted by most mainstream, American and Canadian archaeologists and anthropologists. But the weight of evidence to disprove the accepted 13,000 B.P. date of Early Man’s migration into North America is becoming too great to ignore and a new generation of scientists are revisiting that theory.
As written in parts one and two of this series, finds by Lee, Kraemer and other “renegade” archaeologists in the early 1980s clearly disprove the land bridge theory as the only point of entry into the western hemisphere. Some Asian scientists are now even questioning which way the migration of Early Man took place. Some are now entertaining the hypothesis that Early Man in North and South America migrated east across that land bridge and into Asia as well as the other way around.
If Early Man came to a humanless continent 13,000 years ago, migrating down the east coast, into Central America and South America, why are stone tools being found in those parts of the hemisphere that predate the land bridge theory by tens of thousands of years. Several finds are being made in the eastern parts of North and South America.
In Brazil, radiocarbon tests of carbonized plant materials where artifacts were unearthed, by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old, meaning that humans inhabited North American long before the last ice age.
“The dates could actually be older,” says Goodyear. “Fifty-thousand should be a minimum age since there may be little detectable activity left.”
What is known as the “Topper” site, located along the Savannah River of Allendale County in South Carolina, is believed by some archaeologists to indicate human habitation of the New World at a time earlier than the previously found Clovis culture. In fact, artifacts at Topper may predate Clovis by 3,000 years or more.
Recent excavations have gone down to a level that dates to at least 50,000 B.C.
Until the early 21st century it was unusual for archaeologists to dig deeper than the layer of the Clovis culture, believing that no human artifacts would be found older than Clovis.
At the “pre-Clovis” stratum at Topper, dated to 16,000 to 20,000 years B.P., a large piece nicknamed the “Topper Chopper” was found which once again put the text book makers on standby. Among the artifacts found were tools with bifacial flaking of the edge. That does not happen naturally.
“The Topper site is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America,” Goodyear says. “However, other early sites in Brazil and Chile, as well as a site in Oklahoma also suggest that humans were in the Western Hemisphere as early as 30,000 years ago to perhaps 60,000.”
“Three radiocarbon dates were obtained from deep in the terrace at Topper with two dates of 50,300 and 51,700 on burnt plant remains,” Dr. Stafford has reported. “The two 50,000 dates indicate that they are at least 50,300 years. The absolute age is not known.”
In a story penned by Guy Gugliotta for Smithsonian Magazine, in February of 2013, he writes that in the 1980s, archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History opened a formal excavation in a huge sinkhole that opened up in that state.
According to that article, below a layer of undisturbed sediment they found nine stone flakes that a person must have chipped from a larger stone, most likely to make tools. They also found a mastodon tusk, scarred by circular cut marks from a knife. The tusk is said to be 14,500 years old.
Again, scholars largely ignored the discoveries of the “Aucilla River Prehistory Project,” instead, clinging to the land bridge theory. Further digs have revealed evidence of even earlier human occupation of the cave beneath the sinkhole.
Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University with more than 30 years in the field, organized archaeologists and divers to gather more evidence of the sinkhole’s role in prehistory.
“This site is as old as anything in North America,” Waters said. “The context is fine, and the dating is fine, but people just looked at it and said, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting,’ and that was it. It had a lot of potential, but it was in limbo. We’re here to confirm the earlier work, and if we’re lucky, we’ll find some more artifacts.”
It is presently believed that dawn of modern homo-sapiens occurred in Africa between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. Evidence of modern man’s migration out of the African continent has been documented in Australia and Central Asia at 50,000 years and in Europe at 40,000 years.
The fact that humans could have been in North America at or near the same time is expected to spark sharp debate among archaeologists worldwide for years to come.
Goodyear and his team are still on the site and have begun digging even deeper, and with some success finding evidence of human presence at even deeper strata.
With every new find, the work of Kraemer and the late Dr. Lee, Carter and others about the origins of Early Man in the west is getting a closer look and making steps formal acceptance by the North American archaeological community. While estimates of the great antiquity of both Kraemer and Lee’s finds of tools dating as far back as 100,000 years in Ontario, have been confirmed by European universities and scientists, the North American scientific community by-and-large, continue to cling to the land bridge which seems to be collapsing beneath them.
In 2012 a Harvard genetics professor stated that the Beiring Strait Theory is not a fact, but a hypothesis about history.
“There’s a chance that Indians are not from Asia,” geneticist David Reich said. “So far [the Bering Strait theory] is consistent with the data, but… further research may prove that it’s wrong.”