Graecopithecus to the Americas

Let us go back to pre-human existence, in fact to the Jurassic (201–145 Ma) when Pangaea began to break up into two continents, Gondwana and Laurasia, marking the beginning of the separation of Scotland and North America. Sea levels rose, as Britain and Ireland drifted on the Eurasian Plate to between 30° and 40° north. Over thousands of years major forces reshape our planet.

Image of Jurassic Period

The oldest remains were uncovered in May of this year, said to be 7.175 million years old. These were found not in Africa, but Pyrgos, Vassilissis, Greece (today in metropolitan Athens) as given the name ‘Graecopithecus freybergi’ (El Graeco). The study author Madelaine Böhme says they do not doubt the presence of early hominins in Africa, “but the oldest potential hominin has been found in Greece and Bulgaria. That is the fact we present.”

Artist’s impression of Graecopithecus

We cannot fix any archaeological find as definitive evidence of our origins, nor can we begin to explain the migratory paths and genetic changes that led to the diversity of human beings. But numerous sciences are sharing data and pulling together more solid evidence as technological advances aid their studies.

We find great controversy about the origins of the humans who were living in the Americas thousands of years before the Europeans arrived with their devastating impact.

The USA continues to teach the ‘Bering Strait’ theory of how early paleoindians arrived in the Americas a mere 13000 years ago. Yes, the continent has oceans between it and Africa. So logic tells us to look at the end of the last glacial age.

The Siberia to Alaska land bridge existed during the last glacial period. Here enough of the earth’s water became frozen in the great ice sheets covering Alaska and Europe to cause a drop in sea levels. For thousands of years the sea floors of many interglacial shallow seas were exposed, including those of the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea to the north, and the Bering Sea to the south. Other land bridges around the world have emerged and disappeared in the same way. As you will note in my previous piece, mainland Australia was linked to both New Guinea and Tasmania. 

Image of Beringia


The term Beringia was coined by the Swedish botanist Eric Hultén in 1937. During the ice ages, Beringia, like most of Siberia and all of North and Northeast China, was not glaciated because snowfall was very light. It was a grassland steppe, including the land bridge, that stretched for hundreds of kilometres into the continents on either side.

It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand arrived in Beringia from eastern Siberia during the Last Glacial Maximum before expanding into the settlement of the Americas sometime after 16,500 years ago during the Late Glacial Maximum as the American glaciers blocking the way southward melted, but before the bridge was covered by the sea about 11,000 years BP. (BP Before Present = 1950)

Children in US Schools are taught the first people to inhabit the Americas arrived via the Bering Strait. This is the most popular theory, but is being challenged in light of recent evidence.

Before European colonization, Beringia was inhabited by the Yupik peoples on both sides of the straits. This culture remains in the region today along with others. In 2012, the governments of Russia and the United States announced a plan to formally establish “a transboundary area of shared Beringian heritage”. Among other things this agreement would establish close ties between the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and the Cape Krusenstern National Monument in the United States and the planned Beringia National Park in Russia.

Native American Indians are convinced the Bering Strait theory has been disproved. They have held beliefs which they will not give up. For example:

Montana’s Blackfoot tradition holds that the first Indians lived on the other side of the ocean, but their creator decided to take them to a better place. “So he brought them over the ice to the far north,” the account reads.

The Hopi people of Arizona say their ancestors had to travel through three worlds, finally crossing the ocean eastward to a new and final new world. And Oklahoma’s Tuskagee people believe the “Great Spirit” chose them to be the first people to live on the earth.

Stories handed down over millennia cannot be ignored. There is often truth in such ancient tales. So many Native Americans are highly sceptical of archaeologists and other scientists, mostly white, purporting to have found evidence which supports the Bering Strait theory.

I have my doubts about the Bering Strait ‘evidence’ too. From a wide range of very recent and more accurate data being produced almost monthly this year, this Bering Strait theory will surely be consigned to the bin one day.

We, as human beings, all have the right to an opinion of where our origins derive. We can intuit, imagine, sense and consider whatever information we are drawn to and add that to our personal opinion.

I have spent my life wondering, as I’m sure most of us do as to how and why our species should survive when so many extinctions have happened during fierce environmental events over millennia.

Concepts of multiple millions of years ago really boggle my brain! As continents formed through these thousands of years whilst extreme events of astounding size and scope took place; that story as it has been told so far, does seem convincing. It also appeals to my imagination.

The relatively short period humans have traversed the planet has resulted in them developing methods of explaining how we came to exist and how we have been close to extinction many times as the earth constantly formed, reformed under continuing extreme events.

Debate, even intense argument has taken place between archaeologists and other developing sciences, as they all search for a way of increasing the certainty of defining our human origins and human development.

Since the sixteenth century, the origins of Native Americans have been an intellectual puzzle.

I have taken extracts from the book, 1491, it is enlightening as it points me to the human documented history of the period before Europeans arrived in the Americas. I would recommend this book as riveting reading for anyone interested. It argues against the Bering Strait theory most convincingly.

I have also dipped into areas of the Internet to help me gain more recent knowledge since the book was written.

Image of book 1491


First we must consider the notion that early inhabitants of the Americas could have hunted, even over hunted and caused the extinction of massive animals such as the one below. This idea was also attributed to the actions of early aborigine in Australia. Logic and further recent evidence suggests the women gathered the main diet and any meat acquired by the hunters was a luxury. 

Researchers are constantly trying to explore all avenues to understand how the emergence of Pleistocene hominins encompassed the rise of traits such as increased body size, reduced gut size, higher brain capacity and extended life spans, all of which anthropologists have traditionally associated to a shift towards high quality food sources such as meat. Increased amounts of lipids and proteins are presumably necessary to make these changes possible…………..Taking a look into the food sources available to early humans, no single food simultaneously fulfils both requirements. The richest dietary source of preformed AA and DHA regularly available to hominins through hunting or scavenging was possibly ruminant brain that complemented with bone marrow possibly satisfied both requirements. Evidence for fish consumption in early humans sites suggests that, fish became a food source rich in brain selective nutrients around 2 Ma. Aquatic food sources as well as ruminant brain would supply amounts of DHA that far exceed the daily intake recommended (100mg) for a normal brain development in modern humans …….https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465628/)

Remains of Megafauna (very big animals) in North America have been found, for example the daeodon is worthy of a healthy dose of fear. They were enormous hulking towers of brawny pig that lived around 20 million years ago in North America. They could grow to be six feet high at the shoulder and weigh thousands of pounds. Fossilized remains of their teeth suggest that they were omnivorous, dining both on animals (some as large as modern-day cows) and plants. It’s telling of their dominance of the food web that they belong to a family of animals nicknamed “hell pig” and “terminator pig.”

If humans had to fend against megafauna – even consider trapping, killing and eating them, this would have been a daunting task.

Searching for the earliest remains of hominids is producing results which challenge the long standing theory of ‘Sahelanthropus’ from Chad. This year we have a find in Greece and Morocco, both dated as much older than Sahelanthropus. As mentioned earlier, the 2017 ‘Graecopithecus’ was discovered in Greece, by an international research team headed by Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen and Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. These remains are now considered several hundred thousand years older than the oldest potential pre-human from Africa, the six to seven million year old Sahelanthropus from Chad. This would impact on the longstanding conviction that the split of the human lineage occurred not — as customarily assumed — in Africa; rather we might have to revise our understanding that lineage took place in the Eastern Mediterranean. But this will be debated, no doubt, and argued over for many years to come.

So we might also have to revise the time period and direction from whence humans first migrated to the Americas.

Archaeological discoveries in South America in the 1980s led to a revision in the timeline of the Bering Strait Theory, throwing the whole theory into doubt. This theory has been taught to all school children in America for decades. But the dogmatic insistence on a single passageway in a certain time period was also being challenged on many other fronts, despite a strong resistance by authorities to consider new findings.

In almost every case, recent research of Indian societies have been revealed to be older, grander, and more complex than was thought possible even twenty years ago. Archaeologists not only have pushed back the date for humanity’s entrance into the Americas, they have learned that the first large-scale societies grew up earlier than had been believed—almost two thousand years earlier, and in a different part of the hemisphere. And even those societies that had seemed best understood, like the Maya, have been placed in new contexts on the basis of new information.

Contact with Indians caused Europeans considerably more consternation. Columbus went to his grave convinced that he had landed on the shores of Asia, near India. The inhabitants of this previously unseen land were therefore Asians—hence the unfortunate name “Indians.”

A Smithsonian anthropologist, from 1904 to 1941, Aleš Hrdlička, who regarded himself as the conscience of physical anthropology and made it his business to set boundaries would thoroughly discredit all purported findings of ancient Indians. So much so that a later director of the Bureau of American Ethnology admitted that for decades it was a career-killer for an archaeologist to claim to have “discovered indications of a respectable antiquity for the Indian.”

In the village of Clovis, New Mexico, near the state border with Texas, a 19 year old young man named Whiteman who was part Indian, was fascinated by Indian lore. He had heard about farmers finding ancient bones in Folsom. He was hoping to find something in the dried up river bed of Blackwater Draw. During the Pleistocene era it served as a wide, shallow regional drainage channel, a kind of long, slow-moving lake. As the Ice Ages ended, Blackwater Draw slowly dried up. The continuous flow of water turned into isolated ponds. Game animals congregated around the water, and hunters followed them there.

In 1932, Whiteman made contact with Edgar B. Howard, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, who visited Blackwater Draw and was to work on the site for the next four years. He and a team of assistants peeled away the geological layers, and found Blackwater Draw had hosted not one, but two ancient societies. One had left relics just like those at Folsom. Below the dirt strata with these objects, though, was a layer of quite different artifacts: bigger, thicker, and not as beautifully made. This second, earlier culture became known as the Clovis culture. He made his findings known at the Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia, inviting four hundred scientists to an international symposium. They travelled from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The symposium featured a full-scale reproduction, fifteen feet wide and thirty-four feet long, complete with actual artifacts and bones, of a particularly profitable section of Howard’s excavation. (Whiteman was not invited; he died in Clovis in 2003 at the age of ninety-one.)

The Clovis finds were without skeletons, so evidence of the American Indians ancient history was not linked to the artefacts according to the authoritative 68 year old Aleš Hrdlička of the Smithsonian Institute.

Image of “Clovis point”


Clovis (left) and Folsom points (shown to scale; fluting at bases)

Clovis culture had a distinctive set of tools: scrapers, spear-straighteners, hatchetlike choppers, crescent-moon-shaped objects whose function remains unknown. Its hallmark was the “Clovis point,” a four-inch spearhead with a slightly cut-in, concave tail; in silhouette, the points somewhat resemble those goldfish-shaped cocktail crackers.Folsom points, by contrast, are smaller and finer—perhaps two inches long and an eighth of an inch thick—and usually have a less prominent tail. Both types have wide, shallow grooves or channels called “flutes” cut into the two faces of the head. The user apparently laid the tip of the spear shaft in the flute and twisted hide or sinew repeatedly around the assembly to hold it together. When the point broke, inevitable with stone tools, the head could be loosened and slid forward on the shaft, letting the user chip a new point. A paleo-Indian innovation, this type of fluting exists only in the Americas.

With Blackwater Draw as a pattern, scientists knew exactly what to look for. During the next few decades, they discovered more than eighty large paleo-Indian sites throughout the United States, Mexico, and southern Canada. All of them had either Folsom or Clovis points,  which convinced many archaeologists that the Clovis people, the earlier of the two, must have been the original Americans. (Excerpt from 1491).

The Megafauna of Blackwater Draw must have been something to behold. (For a list of Blackwater Draw Fauna see https://www.utep.edu/leb/pleistnm/sites/blackwaterloc1.htm)

One on the  list is the Glyptodon

Image of Glyptodon



A species of Glyptodon on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Credit: Copyright AMNH | D. Finnin. Until the end of the last ice age, American cheetahs, enormous armadillolike creatures and giant sloths called North America home. But it’s long puzzled scientists why these animals and other megafauna — creatures heavier than 100 lbs. (45 kilograms) — went extinct about 10,000 years ago. See artist’s impressions of 10 Megafauna at https://www.livescience.com/13670-25-amazing-ancient-beasts-dinosaurs-reptiles.html

In a recent fossil find in Madagascar, researchers suspect a deadly algae poisoned dinosaurs – and where all dried up water beds contain fossils of mass deaths of megafauna, then it is possible the water was contaminated with harmful algal blooms, which can develop repeatedly in the same place in late summer. See http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/did-tiny-algae-fell-mighty-dinosaurs?utm_campaign=news_daily_2017-08-29&et_rid=330717162&et_cid=1517895

Seeking explanations of extinction of megafauna other than over hunting seems logical to me, given the possibility early humans might recognise toxic water and not use it, especially if one of the tribe had died from tasting it before the others consumed it.

In 2014, some dramatic, ancient DNA, was extracted from the remains of a 1-year-old boy who died in what is now Montana more than 12,000 years ago.

That’s the only human skeleton known from a brief but prolific culture in the Americas called Clovis.
“Clovis is what we like to refer to as an ‘archaeological complex,’ ” says Michael Waters, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University. That complex is defined by characteristic tools, he says.

The Clovis artifacts were common for about 400 years, starting about 13,000 years ago. But at this point, there is only one set of human remains associated with those sorts of tools: that of the baby from Montana.”So this genetic study actually provides us with a look at who these people were,” Waters says.The most obvious conclusion from the study is that the Clovis people who lived on the Anzick site in Montana were genetically very much like Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere.”The Anzick family is directly ancestral to so many peoples in the Americas,” says Eske Willerslev, from the University of Copenhagen. “That’s astonishing!”

The artifacts from this culture are found from Washington state to Florida and many places in between. But the culture also disappeared suddenly, around 12,600 years ago. Waters doesn’t find all of that so mysterious.”People change all the time and cultures change all the time and technologies change,” Waters says. “And they change because people are adapting to new environments and changes in climate.”

“And at the end of the Clovis time period, 12,600 years ago, when this child was buried, the climate was changing. It was the beginning of the Younger Dryas cold snap. This is when you start seeing a lot of cultural differentiation taking place,” Waters says.

The DNA evidence now makes clear that the people who used Clovis tools lived on, even though they left their old technology behind. But the Clovis genes give only a broad-brush view of how and when migrations through the Americas took place.

“We have no idea exactly where the U.S. fits in this pattern,” Willerslev says. “And to be completely honest, we have no idea how they actually moved through time, these different groups throughout the continent. In order to answer that question there’s only one way to go, and that is sequencing more genomes from ancient remains.”

That will require, among other things, cooperation with native peoples.

In the case of the Clovis child, the archaeologists worked closely with modern tribes to make sure the scientists were treating the remains appropriately. The Clovis infant is to be reburied later this year, on the property where he was unearthed.(from http://www.npr.org/2014/02/13/276021092/ancient-dna-ties-native-americans-from-two-continents-to-clovis)  

Many archaeologists believe Clovis sites to be the oldest in the Americas but that honour may go to the Pedra Furada human remains and hearths, a site in Brazil that precedes the Clovis culture and other similar sites by 19,000 to 30,000 years. (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_culture)

Looking  now at the present day Native American Indians of New Mexico (See http://www.native-languages.org/nmexico.htm)


And consider the proximity of Clovis


An example of one indigenous tribe is the Apache see – http://www.crystalinks.com/apache.html
The Apaches formerly ranged over southeastern Arizona and north-western Mexico. The chief divisions of the Apaches were the Arivaipa, Chiricahua, Coyotero, Faraone Gileno, Llanero, Mescalero, Mimbreno, Mogollon, Naisha, Tchikun and Tchishi. They were a powerful and warlike tribe, constantly at enmity with the whites. The final surrender of the tribe took place in 1886, when the Chiricahuas, the division involved, were deported to Florida and Alabama, where they underwent military imprisonment. The U.S. Army, in their various confrontations, found them to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists. The Apaches are now in reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and number between 5000 and 6000.


As a child in Britain, the Apache were the tribe name seemingly most commonly referred to in the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ action movies, which, in my ignorance of the real life situation, I was thrilled to watch. I grew up imagining I was a squaw, a heroic squaw, and would hide in the bushes in my garden and aim my pathetically useless bow and arrow at passers by – made by me from elderberry tree branches.

Nowadays we are all familiar with the brutal and harsh treatment all indigenous folk endure, even to the present day, whilst they attempt to protect their homeland, shrinking as it always does from industrial monstrous machinery which destroys everything in its path for the sake of perceived corporate financial profit.

After the Chiricahuan Apache were deported east to Florida in 1886, San Carlos became the reservation for various other relocated Apachean-speaking groups. These included the Pinal Coyotero of the northern Gila River area, the former San Carlos Apache bands Aravaipa (also Arivaipa or Tsee Zhinnee), Pinaleño (also Pinal Apache or Tiis Ebah Nnee), Apache Peaks (also called Bichi Lehe Nnee), and San Carlos proper (also Tiis Zhaazhe Bikoh or ′Small Cottonwood Canyon People′), the former Canyon Creek, Carrizo Creek and Cibecue bands of the Cibecue Apache.

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, in southeastern Arizona, United States, was established in 1872 as a reservation for the Chiricahua Apache tribe as well as surrounding Yavapai and Apache bands forcibly removed from their original homelands under a strategy devised by General Crook of using an Apache to catch an Apache. Also known as “Hell’s Forty Acres” under United States occupation because of deplorable health and environmental conditions.


Image of Guard House in San Carlos, Arizona circa 1880. Photograph by Camillus S. Fly.

Soldiers and their commanding officers sometimes brutally tortured or killed the Indians for sport while politicians in Washington, D.C., knew little about differences in tribal cultures, customs, and language. Politicians also ignored political differences and military alliances and tried to apply a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to deal with the “Indian problem”. As a result, tribal friends and foes were forced to live in close proximity to one another. Meanwhile, the Apaches were supposed to be fed and housed by their caretakers, but they rarely saw the federal money and suffered as a result.

As of August 2014, the San Carlos Apache tribe has an enrollment of 15,393 tribal members.

The San Carlos Reservation is one of the poorest Native American communities in the United States, with an annual median household income of approximately $27,542, according to the US Census. About 49.2 percent of the people live under the poverty line, and 36.7 percent of the active labor force is unemployed.

In December 2014, President Barack Obama signed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which would give land sacred to the Apache in Arizona to Resolution Copper Mine [RCM], a joint venture owned by London based Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The Act cleared the way for the land swap in which Resolution Copper would receive 2,422 acres of National Forest land in exchange for deeding to the federal government 5,344 acres of private land.

See Land Swap Map below


A proposal or rider in Section 3003 of the Act, titled “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act”, would allow RCM to develop and operate an underground copper mine 7,000-feet deep (approximately five Empire State buildings) in the publicly owned Tonto National Forest near Superior, Arizona. The mine would destroy an area set aside in 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache. The land contains more than 2,400 acres of the Oak Flat Campground, an area dotted with petroglyphs and historic and prehistoric sites. Said former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the Act’s attached rider: “This is Congressional politics at its worse, a hidden agenda that destroys human rights and religious rights.”

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, under the leadership of Chairman Terry Rambler, has led a strong opposition to the RCM land exchange. Both the National Audubon Society in Tucson and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club in Arizona along with the National Congress of American Indians have joined in the fight to Resolution’s land grab. Native American groups and conservationists worry about the impact to surrounding areas, including the steep cliffs at Apache Leap. James Anaya, former United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that without community and tribal support, Rio Tinto should abandon its Resolution Copper mining project. United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said she was “profoundly disappointed with the Resolution Copper provision, which has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes”.

By January 2015 over 104,000 had signed a petition to President Obama, “We the People|Stop Apache Land Grab”. Jodi Gillette, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, quickly gave an official White House response, vowing that the Obama Administration will work with Resolution Copper’s parent company Rio Tinto to determine how to work with the tribes to preserve their sacred areas.

In March 2016, the Oak Flat campground was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the designated site, which is identified by the National Register as the “Chi’chil Bildagoteel Historic District” will not stop the Resolution Copper mine, a federal agency must evaluate the project’s effects on the property before taking action. Bills introduced in 2015 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Tucson) would reverse the land-exchange deal, but neither has received a hearing

The Resolution Copper mine land grab has succeeded but is being currently debated. The Native American Indians see no end to their being treated as non persons when it comes to greed of the corporate ecocidal wheel crushing their hopes and dreams.
Read more at:
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2017/01/29/the-resolution-copper-land-grab-how-environmental-ngos-expand-green-capitalism/

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About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers.
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