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Humans in Mexico One Million Years Ago?

   No. There probably weren't. Also it wasn't called Mexico then. No one actually knew WHAT to call Mexico a million years ago. But there is at least a possibility -- however remote -- however surely unworthy of our consideration! -- however utterly stupid beyond belief!!! -- that there were people, or, more exactly, hominins (the word "hominid" is out of fashion, my sources say) leaving footprints in volcanic ash more than a million years ago in what is now Mexico. What follows in bold (because I can't remember the codes for indenting text) is a press release from the University of California at Berkeley:

   Berkeley -- Alleged footprints of early Americans found in volcanic rock in Mexico are either extremely old - more than 1 million years older than other evidence of human presence in the Western Hemisphere - or not footprints at all, according to a new analysis published this week in Nature.

   The study was conducted by geologists at the Berkeley Geochronology Center and the University of California, Berkeley, as part of an investigative team of geologists and anthropologists from the United States and Mexico.

   Earlier this year, researchers in England touted these "footprints" as definitive proof that humans were in the Americas much earlier than 11,000 years ago, which is the accepted date for the arrival of humans across a northern land-bridge from Asia. [Achenbach note: Not exactly. That's a well-established date for human settlements in North America, but people may have crossed a land bridge much earlier into what is now Alaska. The orthodoxy states that they were met with an ice sheet, and had to wait many thousands of years for the appearance of an ice-free corridor that allowed migration south. Or did I dream that.]

   These scientists, led by geologist Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool's John Moores University, dated the volcanic rock at 40,000 years old. They hypothesized that early hunters walked across ash freshly deposited near a lake by volcanoes that are still active in the area around Puebla, Mexico. The so-called footprints, subsequently covered by more ash and inundated by lake waters, eventually turned to rock.

    But Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and an adjunct professor of earth and planetary science at UC Berkeley, and his colleagues in Mexico and at Texas A&M University report in the Dec. 1 issue of Nature a new age for the rock: about 1.3 million years.

   "You're really only left with two possibilities," Renne said. "One is that they are really old hominids - shockingly old - or they're not footprints." [End of press release.]

  I emailed Renne last night about this, and he made clear in his response that he favors the second explanation more than the first. I asked him more generally what he thought of the various theories that humans settled in the Americas prior to 11,000 years ago (which is the roughly date that the so-called "Clovis fossils," named for an excavation in Clovis, New Mexico, appear in many sites in the Americas). Renne wrote:

  "As far as I'm concerned there is no theoretical restriction against humans having entered the New World prior to 11,000 years ago. The distribution of Homo erectus suggests that even our immediate ancestors were capable of  extremely broad dispersal. The problem is that there's no evidence for it. Our work doesn't negate a pre-Clovis migration at all. It just says that this particular site either (A)  neither supports nor refutes the possibility or (B) (highly unlikely, and dependent on validation that they are real footprints) suggests that this migration occurred longer ago than most anybody would have thought possible. My money is on (A), based on the principle of least astonishment."  

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 30, 2005; 1:05 PM ET
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Seems to me that 1.3 million years can't possibly be right, otherwise Starbucks would have been on every corner during the Middle Ages, at the latest.

Posted by: HomeWithSickChild | November 30, 2005 1:17 PM | Report abuse

One of the things I learned in Bryson's "A Complete History of Nearly Everything" is how amazingly rare fossils or things like fossilized footprints are. Conditions have to be just so for fossils to be created, the animal/person has to die at just the right time, and of course the fossils have to be discovered and recognized for what they are by someone today. Certainly in my 'follow the bulldozer with shovel to clean up right-of-way edges' employment I wasn't on the lookout for them. So when read about a rare rock or fossil find I wonder what we're not seeing. (And has anyone done any statistical analysis of the total known fossil record? Surely you could make some rough inferences about how many species we don't know about based on the statistics of the things we do....)

Ah, I remember that map of Pangea with all the Starbucks locations on it.... Made me laugh.

Posted by: Les | November 30, 2005 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"What do you do with all those artifacts that don't fit the paradigm? It's kind of like that scene at the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'"

-- Mark Vicente, Director, "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Posted by: Dreamer | November 30, 2005 1:45 PM | Report abuse

When Kurosawachick was about 5 we took her to the Paluxy River in central Texas and waded out into the river to stand in the dino tracks that criss cross the strata that forms the streambed. No amount of Jurassic Park CGI could ever rival that feeling.
Les is right. The marvel is not that we find so little fossil remains, but that we find so much.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 30, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse


(C) These imprints are there because God put them there 6,000 years ago when he made Everything.

The enitre "how old are these footprints?" argument is moot.



Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

SCC, again. "entire".

Gads, I should spell check these things more often.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

So if the footprints were made by the FSM 6000 years ago, that means that the people that lived there 11,000 years ago were walking very softly.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2005 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

Posted by: Les | November 30, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

Ha! "That's the Observer in action."

Posted by: Dreamer | November 30, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

That's nonsense, yellojkt, the FSM couldn't have left footprints, since it doesn't have feet! It would have left noodle marks.

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

You should have done a little googling of Clovis before writing this. Clovis doesn't have anything to do with fossils. It is the name of a type of stone spear point and knife. Even the animals remains the points were originally found with were not fossilized, much too young for that. However, not a bad take on the pre-Clovis problem for someone not in the business.

Posted by: Mike | November 30, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Does that give Mexicans some kind of seniority?

Posted by: MxWPFan | November 30, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse

FSM is an Observer, just like everybody else. Why would FSM's Heaven be the way it is if He weren't?


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I think that's senority...


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Mike, I'm confused about what I'm supposedly confused about. Is it just the word "fossils"? Perhaps I should have said artifacts. Is there something else amiss? There were spear points and other artifacts found in Clovis, New Mexico, dated to about 11,000 or 11,500 years ago, correct? And similar types of spear points were found at other sites with similar dating. I was trying to give some context to the comments in the press release and by Renne about the 11,000 year figure and Renne's reference to the Clovis migration.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Minor tweak, bc ...


Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't know, Mike. The remains found with Clovis points might be an location anomaly. My reasoning is it never takes long to fossilize food leftovers under my couch. Average fossilisation time under there was under a week so it seems entirely possible that the Clovis find remains might have been someones lunch.

Or maybe God put the fossils under my couch there.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure kurosawaguy has described himself as a fossil at some point or other on this blog. Or did I just dream that?

Anyway, if "fossil" can be used to describe the k-guy, it's probably -- PROBABLY -- okay to use it to describe something that is 11,000 years old, regardless of whether that thing is technically "fossilized."

[But why am I even having this needlessly nonsensical discussion?]

[Oh, and k'guy -- you know I'm only kidding, right? No umbrage.]

Posted by: Achenfan | November 30, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Fossils are neat stuff. I wsa reading recently abouthow the melting of the permafrost in the arctic circle has revealed a wealth of mammoth bones and the like. I'm wondering what we'll find under the ice in antarctica when that goes away.

Posted by: LP | November 30, 2005 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I heart mammoths.

Posted by: Dreamer | November 30, 2005 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Bayou. That was the keystroke I was looking for.

"Fossilized" is OK for general usage.

"Ossified" should only be used to describe Gene Weingarten.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you heart mammoths, Dreamer.

That reminds me that unless I get at haircut soon, I will continue to look like one.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Main Entry: os·si·fy
Pronunciation: 'ä-s&-"fI
intransitive senses
1 : to change into bone
2 : to become hardened or conventional and opposed to change
transitive senses
1 : to change (as cartilage) into bone
2 : to make rigidly conventional and opposed to change

Oooh, Wiengarten won't like that one! hehehehe

Posted by: slyness | November 30, 2005 2:41 PM | Report abuse

We have a fossil. When the kids were small we lived near Drumheller and found a rock with a fossil in it below one of the many bone bed sites. Philip Currie from the Royal Tyrell Museum said considering the cliff we found it on, it was most likely a hadrosaur fossil. We have some imprints of leaves and woody stems that were found near an old abandoned coal shaft in the same region of the province.

Sunday drives living there were some of our best family trips.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 3:01 PM | Report abuse

In your post on the earlier kit today, did you really mean peeing over the transom?

Your Fan

Posted by: ToScottyNukester | November 30, 2005 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Some interesting research out of Texas on PreClovis (?...if these cultures are found to exist). One of the research sites is in San Antonio (use the link). Linguists, geneticists, and ancient skeletal remains all come into play:

"PreClovis," as it has come to be called, is still a controversial topic and one that is being vigorously pursued by linguists, physical anthropologists, human geneticists, and archeologists. Linguists specializing in the evolution of language are using computers to probe deeply into comparative vocabularies and language structures and are finding that the immense range of languages (some 1500) spoken by American Indians includes a few that seem to have split off from their sister languages of Europe and Asia long before 11,000 years ago. Based on this, some linguists suggest that people came to the New World by 20,000 years ago. Genetics also shows that some American Indians are so distinctive from other populations that their reproductive separation must have occurred in the very remote past, certainly before Clovis times. A drawback with the linguistic and genetic lines of evidence is that while information on timing may be reasonably accurate, there is no way to know where the splits occurred.

Early human skeletons found in the New World, none of them dated definitively to preClovis times, nonetheless indicate some interesting facts about early populations in the Americas. The few human skeletons in the Americas that can be reliably dated as older than 10,000 years before present have features more in common with similar-aged Australian aborigines and South Central Asians than they do with the peoples of Siberia who have always been considered the stock from which the first colonizers of the Americas derived.

Posted by: Loomis | November 30, 2005 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Highly recommended: 1491 by Charles Mann. The questions of how humans got to the Americas is still pretty murky, especially as concerns the lower and middle portions of what is now South America. The book is quite recent and a good, swift read.

Posted by: PeterK | November 30, 2005 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I met Phil Currie once, I actually followed him around in the Red River valley, in the badlands where the dinosaur bones are scattered almost like acorns in a forest. Currie is a great hiker: There's no level ground, everything is gooey and slippery and unconsolidated, and I was stumbling all over the place, but he had some amazing internal gyroscope, developed after a quarter century of working those hills. I found a bed of bones that Currie said hadn't yet been mapped, and thus the official scientific record would record me as THE DISCOVERER. But that business about saying that a bone is probably a "hadrosaur," I'm pretty sure those things were like the deer of the Mesozoic. The vermin of the fernlands.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, we need to come up with some new, standardized technical terminology and jargon to handle this discussion. What's yer cherce, ladies and gents?

Adjective for pre-Clovis times:
(a) pre-Clovian
(b) pre-Clovisian
(c) pre-Clovisistic
(d) pre-Landocalrissian

And of course:
(a) post-Colvian
(b) post-Clovisian
(c) post-Clovisistic
(d) post-Toasty

The period of time and the process by which food under dr's couch reaches solid state:
(a) crunchification
(b) munchification
(c) pastafication
(d) yummification
(e) twinkification
(f) uh-oh-spaghettiossification
(g) dustbunnification

How to refer to those folks who came across that ancient land bridge:
(a) pre-Loomis (pre-Loomisian, pre-Loomisitic, etc.)
(b) pre-Kurosawan (pre-Kurosawatic)
(c) semi-pre-Curmudgeonly (semi-pre-Curmudgeonitic)(status in some doubt, since he may either have been one of them, or already here and grumbling, "There goes the neighborhood")
(d) Mammothian (Mammothistic, Mammothosites)
(e) really old

The mythical period between pre-Clovian (or pre-Clovisian) times, circa 11,000 years ago, and the actual creation circa 6,000 years ago:
(a) pre-Kansasschoolboardian
(b) pre-noodlyappendagian
(c) pre-faith-based geology
(d) precreation (not to be confused with procreation, although there may be some interesting similarities)
(e) Cro-Magnon Lite

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 30, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Relating to the "are they footprints or not" discussion:

Last weekend my dad and my brother went on an arrowhead-hunting expedition (they live in northeast Oklahoma). This is kind of a family joke because my brother is very successful at finding arrowheads, and has quite a collection. My dad, on the other hand, is known for picking up random rocks and declaring that they are surely ancient weapons or tools, because, "just look how it fits your hand" (the human hand being very adaptable to a variety of rock shapes). So my dad sends me this email:

"[my brother] led an arrowhead hunting expedition near the old (now removed) Low Water Dam. He reported that we found no arrowheads, refusing to accept that the four slightly pointed rocks I'd collected were in any way human artifacts. Even after I demostrated how they could easily be attached to the end of a stick, possibly by having been used in much the shape I'd found them, without any chipping or flaking, he still insisted that they were 'just rocks.'"

True believers vs. skeptics, the eternal struggle!

Posted by: Reader | November 30, 2005 4:07 PM | Report abuse

hahahahahhaha,Curmudgeroni, you're funny!

Posted by: Nani | November 30, 2005 4:17 PM | Report abuse

We don' need no stinkin' bridges! We're KUROSAQUATIC!

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 30, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"pre-Landocalrissian" Curmudgeon, you're a hoot.

I vote for dustbunnification and pre-noodlyappendagian and challange anyone to say those words five times quickly.

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 4:20 PM | Report abuse

dustbunnificationdustbunnification dustbunnificationdustbunnificationdustbunnification


No biggie.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 30, 2005 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I am the least astonished blog reader around.

Posted by: Kamishkabob | November 30, 2005 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Where's señorification?

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Standard disclaimer: physicist talking, not chemist or geologist or paleontologist. But I like dinosaurs and stuff, so I've picked up some things in the gutter of Steven Jay Gould books, etc.

Regarding the concern raised earlier by Mike (not that Mike, a different Mike) about Joel's inaccurate use of the word 'fossil': to my understanding, a fossil is a relic of an organism or biological activity preserved in a matrix (stuff that isn't fossil, but that may have consolidated other fossils into it), and not incorporating the actual biological remains of the fossilized thing. A fossil thus could include the mold of the original object impressed in the matrix; it could include tracks, preserved by the track being filled by material different from the original matrix; and it could include a reproduction of the original organism formed by mineral replacement of the original tissues.

By an extreme stretch, I suppose you could consider a Clovis point to be a fossil, in that it is a track (trace) of activity by an organism (hominid).

You would not consider to be a fossil: Ötzi, the frozen guy from the Tyrol; bones, etc., from La Brea tar pits; insects preserved in amber; frozen mammoths; and that cool discovery of soft tissue in the core of a fossilized Tyrannosaur femur. The femur was fossilized, but some of the original marrow was entombed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 30, 2005 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I vote for (d) on the first two questions. Probably (a) on the third with (e) being the opposite process since those things can never change state.

Isn't Noodly Appendagian someone who plays New Age music?

I like (d) for the last question.

Posted by: pj | November 30, 2005 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Humans One Million Years Ago?

[bc slaps head]

Of course there were.
Raquel Welch in the fur bikini.

I can't believe it took me this long to dredge that up from the bottom of Loch bc's Brain.

I think I'm going in the cannons for sounding; I wonder what other gems are going to float up...


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 4:35 PM | Report abuse

some of the pre's might be protos's

some of the post's might be proto's as well

Posted by: kp | November 30, 2005 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Found it on the first try.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 4:36 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "going to bring in the cannons for sounding;".



Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Sheesh...Are there no geologists in the crowd? My state, Wyoming, has been called a geologist's playground. If you have read some John McPhee, you might know that every rock strata known has been found here in the state.
The Black Hills, an ancient and isolated group of mountains, straddle Wyoming and South Dakota. The Hills, to quote Kiowa author N.Scott Momaday, "form a calendar of geological time that is truly remarkable,older than much of the sedimentary layers of which the Americas are primarily composed."
An analysis of this rock was made in 1975 and indicates an age "between two billion and three billion years."
(From a New YOrk Times piece by Momaday, published 13 March 1998.)
Here before me is a recent article (18 October 2005) by Casper STar Tribune staff writer Dustin Blazehoffer re the recent discovery, in northwestern Wyoming, of a previously unknown, two legged swimming dinosaur, the only known evidence of any dinosaurs here during the middle Jurassic. The dinosaur left deep, three toed tracks in shallow water and fainter footprints as the deeper water bouyed it up as he/it swam off into the sea to look for food.
So far, the new dinosaur is unnamed; researchers from CU, Boulder (Colorado), Indiana University, Dartmouth College, and others are collaborating on the discovery.

Posted by: cowgirl | November 30, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Regurgitating a topic from the previous boodle (or 'raj' -- I just don't see that term catchning on):

I, myself, came up with a brilliant plan to solve all significant Iraq problems, over a year ago. At the time, it seemed hopelessly expensive, but the cost of the real occupation is catching up to me.

My plan is to provide an all-expenses-paid one-year vacation to every Iraqi, provided they take their vacation somewhere outside Iraq. Estimating a cost of roughly $10K per person, for a current population of 26M, that costs about $260B. Note that 'person' includes little kids, so that families are well cared for, while singles will have to live a little more cheaply. $10K should get you a pretty decent vacation, so long as you don't try to go fancy-shmancy. Feel free to get a job in another country if you're ambitious. Meanwhile, a residual force will be induced to stay in Iraq during the Year of No Citizens by an offer of decent pay to rebuild the infrastructure of the whole freakin' country with no pesky 'users' underfoot (a system manager's dream), followed by a somewhat better vacation pay than everyone else got. The workforce thus costs probably of order $150B. Total cost, $410B to reconstruct the entire country in one year. Anybody left in Iraq without a wrench, screwdrive, or hammer in his hand is an insurgent, so shoot him. When everyone gets home a year later, minus those people who decided to stay elsewhere permanently, they have a sparkling clean and well-built country waiting for them, with ground well-fertilized by composting insurgents. $410B to get the whole job done no longer seems like such an outrageous expenditure.

Posted by: Tim | November 30, 2005 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Tim - Fabulous idea. Just don't send them all to LA. They'll never leave, and the traffic will just get worse.

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, you obviously didn't have enough to do at the day job this afternoon...that rivals our Fearless Leader in creativity! Now, don't get caught doing such good work...

Posted by: Slyness | November 30, 2005 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Some great dialogue there in One Million Years B.C.

Posted by: Bayou Self | November 30, 2005 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Tim, CowTown, you might want to see this:

Please to read the memo.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Give piece a chance! Very funny, bc.
Listen, I know it's irritating but I posted another kit. It's mostly a transcript of Rummy on a roll. Just fyi.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Great plan, Tim, and a bargain even if (when) you add in the travel insurance (remember how bad this past season's hurricanes were; the Yucatan got wiped out). Gives whole new meaning to the phrase, "taking a Ba'ath."

Shudder--Just had a vision of a couple hundred thousand Iraqi insurgents standing in line to get into to see "It's a Small World" at Disneyworld. I'm guessing the Geneva Convention would never permit it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 30, 2005 5:00 PM | Report abuse


Some old friends adopted a mutt a few years back who came with the shelter name "Clovis." When said friends were running their perspective mutt in the shelter's yard the loveable dog ran herself right *smack* into a tree. From thencly on the mutt was dubbed "Toast," as in, "Dumb as Toast."

Posted by: LP | November 30, 2005 5:02 PM | Report abuse

bc - "International Day of Piece" Naughty, naughty!

Posted by: CowTown | November 30, 2005 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Achenbach, Yes I was just quibbling with the use of the term fossil. Fossils are petrified biological remains or their casts in rock. Artifacts would have been a better choice.

Though an archaeologist, I'm more of an observer of the pre-Clovis debate rather than a participant. I'm exposed to it because some of my co-workers have been investigating a site in Missouri with Clovis material and deposits that date several thousand years earlier (Big Eddy, as seen in a recent National Geographic). The pre-Clovis deposits have some possible human-made artifacts, but nothing definite.

I personally have no problem with the possibility of pre-Clovis. I just don't know what to make of the fact that Clovis points are among the most sophicticated stone tools ever made, whereas purported pre-Clovis artifacts are usually rather amorphous, not the kind of things that shout "I was made by a human".

Posted by: mike | November 30, 2005 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Hey, it's not my fault if Some People at The White Hose - er, House - have difficulties with word usage.

I promise to put more family fiendly - er, friendly - material out there soon.


Posted by: bc | November 30, 2005 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Rule one: Avoid facile blogging about fossils.

Posted by: Achenbach | November 30, 2005 5:34 PM | Report abuse

JA, further to the slippery mud of the badlands, going there with my kids made me understand why my mom always stayed at the car when I was a kid climbing those same hills with my dad, eons ago.

I originally left a message at the desk at the museum about our fossil. I assumed a flunky would call me back, and tell me what to do. I've always felt it a measure of the man, that Dr. Currie took interest in big science and the small science. I got the impression that he looks at all finds as possible new discoveries.

Do you put your discoverer role on your resume? You should. Otherwise can you tell me if being a discoverer pays well? I'm thinking that stuff under my couch should be a scientific doscovery of some sort.

Posted by: dr | November 30, 2005 6:39 PM | Report abuse

All I can say about these "footprints" is that it is a human trait to find meaning in random patterns, be they in geological formations or grilled-cheese sandwiches. These alleged fossils aside, I am fascinated by how the possibility of pre-clovis humans complicates the conventional morality play of European arrival. Like all good children of the 70's I was taught that Europeans were bad because they invaded North America and displaced the indigenous peoples. But what if the indigenous peoples really weren't, you know, indigenous?

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 30, 2005 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Amusingly, homonin is very nearly a homonym for homonym...

Posted by: Bex | December 1, 2005 2:54 AM | Report abuse

Usage: ad hominem attacks by the Repubicans left John Kerry flummoxed.

Posted by: mizerock | December 1, 2005 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I was in Mexico about a million years ago, working on a Cardinal Rumsfeld Fellowship. I do not recall seeing any footprints.

Posted by: muon | December 1, 2005 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"Tracks of extinct, giant scorpion found in Scotland". Ordinarily, I would have taken this story at face value, but now I have learned that footprint analysis is not an exact science.

Posted by: mizerock | December 1, 2005 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Reply to Loomis' "Pre-Clovian peoples"...

Pakistanis test as having 40% native american blood on those home gene kits to test if you are American Indian.... so definitely a possibility.
Another thing to keep in mind that most Asians look vaguely "chinese" because of relatively recent intermixture between peoples, genocide, conquest, etc.

Genghis Khan is a great example, 1 in every 200 males carries a Y chromosome identical to his, because he was very prolific. He is a direct ancestor of far more people than that.

Taking an conservative estimate of 25 generations since Genghis Khan, at that point in time every of us had roughly 33,554,432 ancestors alive then.
The world population then was around 450 million.
Of course, we all have distant cousins intermarrying in our family tree, which cuts our actual ancestor number down.

Let's go back 1,000 years ago, to classical times. The total number of possible ancestors in our 50th generation of great-grand ancestors is 1.12589 x 10^15... or just over one quadrillion-- far more than are currently alive now.

The total world population then was estimated at 254 million.

That means on average, if you were descended from everybody then, they would show up in your family tree over 4.4 million times! That's assuming equal ancestry... and that doesn't happen.
Many of those people died without any descendants, or their descendants died out (Black death, anyone?), and some are extremely successful.

We do not actually carry a million genes-- only 100,000 genes. So you actually don't carry a gene from every of your ancestors who survived the black death, let alone the 1000 AD ancestors. Some genes in fact will have been mixed up (recombined) or mutated so they no longer look exactly the same as the genes in 1000 AD.

However, those ancestors often had the same kind of copies of the genes, anyway.
The total human genetic diversity is estimated to be pretty low, compared to chimpanzees, dogs, etc.

Ethnic looks are just "family resemblences" diluted throughout the population.

Maybe when we think the ancients tended to carve the same face over and over again... they weren't ;).

Math. Great stuff. Maybe North america was settled by Pre Clovis peoples, the first wave of oceanic settlers... that would make sense, I never understood how Australia could have been colonized thousands of years before North America.

Then a few Native Americans, came back across to Asia much further back than 11,000 years ago, stayed an close knit tribe, became Mongols, and went on to sweep Asia.

How can we prove this did NOT happen?

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 1, 2005 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"Genghis Khan is a great example, 1 in every 200 males carries a Y chromosome identical to his"

Here's the story:

Posted by: mizerock | December 1, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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