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  HOME | Uruguay

Fossils Found in Uruguay May Shed New Light on Settlement of Americas

MONTEVIDEO – Recent excavations in Uruguay to uncover and begin to investigate the bones of animals dating back 29,000 years could shoot down the theory that the populating of the Americas came via the Bering Strait some 12,000 years ago, officials said.

A team of experts from the Science Faculty at the Universidad de la Republica earlier this year began digging in an area where a few years ago prehistoric animal fossils were discovered, the Uruguayan Office of the President said in a statement.

“In this first excavation we discovered, in the stream bed, thousands of bones belonging to between eight and ten glyptodonts, sloths and a toxodont in a single spot” in a “marvelous” state of preservation,” Richard Fariña, the paleontology team leader, said.

The work, which is being carried out at the Vizcaino Creek in the town of Sauce, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of Montevideo, is a continuation of the initial work in the area in 1997, when the existence of the fossils first became known.

Economic problems prevented the investigation from continuing at that time, despite the fact that in 2001 Spanish paleontologist Alfonso Arribas reported the discovery of some marks on a clavicle that could have been the result of cuts made with manmade weapons.

The marks were in the shape of a “V,” while if they had been made by the jaws of an animal they would be shaped like a “U,” Fariña said, noting that stone fragments were found in the area that could have been utensils made by humans.

Carbon-14 dating of the clavicle showing the marks determined that it was 29,000 years old.

“If it is shown that the marks on the bones ... were caused by human tools, it would be necessary to revise the existing paradigm, which establishes that the populating of the Americas occurred 12,000 years ago, from north to south, via the Bering Strait,” Fariña said.

Officials in Canelones province, where Sauce is located, want to create a paleontology museum to exhibit the material that has been collected.

“We are optimistic regarding the results we may be able to obtain, but I will be prudent because we still haven’t proven for sure the hypothesis about the human presence in the Americas 29,000 years ago,” Fariña said.
 

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