New Research Brings Attention Back to Long Ignored Yukon Cave

February 19, 2015 / Canada, North America
A bone fragment of a medium-sized ungulate bearing a deep cutmark potentially resulting from butchery.

A bone fragment of a medium-sized ungulate bearing a deep cutmark potentially resulting from butchery. Photo via Ecomorphology and Paleoanthropology Laboratory, University of Montreal

New research sheds new light on often overlooked archaeological remains from a Yukon cave.

First discovered in 1976, Yukon’s Bluefish Caves contained the remains of animals that appeared to be covered with deep scrapes and sharp gouges usually associated with human tool marks. However, after some of the remains were radiocarbon dated to 25,000 years old, suggesting humans were in the area 10,000-15,000 years earlier than previously expected, the inconsistent data became largely ignored.

In research, published in the January issue of the journal PaleoAmerica, University of Montreal scientist Lauriane Bourgeon used a stereomicroscope to reexamine more than 5,000 bone fragments from Cave 2 of the Bluefish Caves site.

She found that scavenging carnivores accounted for the marks on all but two of the bones. This suggests that the bones that previously returned the 25,000 year old dates likely are not representative of human activity.

As for the two bones with deep, straight, parallel marks that indicate the animals were butchered by humans, Bourgeon believes that the site had been disturbed by animals and thousands of freeze-thaw cycles. Taking that into consideration, it is expected that new radiocarbon dates will place the bones between 10,000 and 14,000 years old, a range of dates congruent with other well-documented sites in the region.

This has big implications as the long overlooked site can now be reexamined and potentially provide new information on the earliest human history in the Americas.

[via Western Digs]

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