Thursday, November 18, 2004

Another link on the Topper >50k site Early Dates, Real Tools?

Key paragraphs: Archaeologists unaffiliated with the Topper project contacted by ARCHAEOLOGY today were cautious in their assessment of the announcement. David Anderson, an archaeologist and Clovis expert at the University of Tennessee, was one of several who said they were awaiting formal publication of the results before critically examining the new radiocarbon dates. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary standards of evidence," said Anderson. "A human presence upwards of 40,000 years old in the New World has been proposed by many previous investigators, but none of these early sites have survived careful professional examination." Other sites, such as Brazil's Pedra Furada, or California's Calico Hills, have been championed in the past as evidence of human occupation of the New World before 50,000 years ago, but have not withstood subsequent scrutiny.

"The early dates from Topper will require verification through careful and comprehensive analysis," says Anderson. "They'll also need to be evaluated through professional reporting in scientific journals." Specialists will be waiting for publication of the Topper data to take a close look at the stone tools and flakes found by Goodyear to determine whether they are indeed of human manufacture, or the result of natural processes. At least one archaeologist who has seen the objects, Michael Collins of the University of Texas, has already made his mind up. "I don't believe those are artifacts," he says. "They're geofacts--not man-made." The context of the finds and the geology at the site will also likely come in for close scrutiny.

So it seems likely that the key issue to be resolved is whether or not they are dealing with real artifacts or simple geofacts. This has been a persistent problem for sites claimed to be of vastly pre-Clovis age, such as Calico Hills.