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Archaeologists Think ‘Most Terrifying Predators’ Lived in North America

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Archaeologists have been shocked by what they have learned about the huge prehistoric predators that early humans may have met when they first came to North America.

In recent years, multiple theories of when people originally landed in the Americas have been published, ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Many North American archaeologists concluded in the second part of the twentieth century that the Clovis people were the first to reach the Americas.

During the previous ice age, their forefathers were assumed to have traversed a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska, but this land bridge, known as Beringia, was eventually submerged as the ice melted.

The Clovis people are thought to have had a role in the demise of the megafauna that previously inhabited the Americas, including mammoths, mastodons, and different bear species.

The Solutrean hypothesis, which asserts that the first humans to arrive in the Americas came from prehistoric Spain, is one line of academic inquiry that has looked at the ancient peoples’ journey and the animals they would have encountered.

According to the theory, they carried with them a unique and distinct method of making stone tools, which served as the foundation for Clovis technology later on.

Dennis Stanford, a Smithsonian Institution archaeologist, and his colleague Brace Bradley are two of the hypothesis’ strongest supporters.

Their theory is that people from the Solutrean culture left Europe between 17,000 and 21,000 years ago and used a boat to cross the ice pack in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Many supporters of the theory point to recent archaeological discoveries at Cactus Hill in Virginia, Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania, and Miles Point in Maryland as proof of a transitional period between Solutrean lithic and Clovis technologies.

While the hypothesis is controversial and widely ridiculed, it was put to the test in the Smithsonian Channel program ‘Ice Bridge: The Impossible Journey.’

When those early humans arrived in North America, they would have come face to face with animals they had never seen before, with the video focusing on the “terrifying” extent to which the beasts would have soared above them.

They arrived, according to the hypothesis, in Chesapeake Bay, a 524-mile-long estuary separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Delmarva Peninsula.

The group’s first mission, according to the documentary’s narrator, would have been to “find stones to make the tools and weapons which their survival depends on.”

However, the cold wilderness would have been unlike anything the Solutreans had seen before because North America at the time was home to “massive prehistoric mammals” not seen anywhere else in Ice Age Europe.

“Among them, one of the most terrifying predators of all time, the short-faced bear,” the narrator continued.

“Capable of chasing its prey at 25 miles per hour and reaching up to heights of 13 feet.”

The short-faced bear went extinct roughly 11,000 years ago, which is only seconds away from the present day in the context of the Earth’s life.

It is thought to have expanded throughout North America before this, with its population peaking around 800,000 years ago.

The lesser short-faced bear (Arctodus pristinus) and the gigantic short-faced bear (Arctodus giganteus) are the two recognized species of short-faced bear (Arctodus simus).

The latter is thought to be one of the largest known terrestrial mammalian carnivores in history.

Giant ground sloths also roamed the Great Plains and forests of the Americas, thus this beast would have been the least of the Solutreans’ concerns.

Megalonyx jeffersonii was the largest of the ground sloths in the Megalonychidae family, growing to roughly three metres in length and weighing up to 1,000 kilograms when fully mature.

It originated in South America some 35 million years ago and migrated to North America eight million years ago, taking up residence in the big rivers and lakes.

During the Pleistocene epoch, both the short-faced bear and the gigantic ground sloth coexisted.

During this time, the planet experienced the Great Ice Age, which saw glaciers cover up to 30 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Researchers have long assumed that early humans were responsible for the extinction of the world’s megafauna due to the total freezing of portions of the world’s northern waters.

Archaeologists uncovered the fossilized footsteps of prehistoric humans at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico in 2018, proving this theory.

The researchers also discovered human footprints inside the footsteps of a huge ground sloth at the same location, leading them to conclude that the sloth was being chased and hunted.

While this supports the Solutrean hypothesis, which has been praised by many scholars, others argue that it is “scientifically implausible.”

Jennifer Raff, a geneticist featured in the Smithsonian video, has pointed out how the concept becomes problematic when confronted with indigenous history.

It “suggests a European origin for the peoples who made the Clovis tools, the first recognised stone tool tradition in the Americas,” she wrote in The Guardian in 2018.

She also said: “In addition to the scientific problems with the Solutrean hypothesis which I’ll discuss shortly, it’s important to note that it has overt political and cultural implications in denying that Native Americans are the only indigenous peoples of the continents.”

As the theory gained traction, some sources claimed that it had been hijacked by white supremacists, who took it to mean that the “original inhabitants of the Americas” were “white Europeans,” and that today’s Native Americans are descendants of “later immigrants” from Asia.

Ms. Raff added: “Indeed, although this particular iteration is new, the idea behind the Solutrean hypothesis is part of a long tradition of Europeans trying to insert themselves into American prehistory; justifying colonialism by claiming that Native Americans were not capable of creating the diverse and sophisticated material culture of the Americas.”

“There’s a serious time gap between when the Solutreans could have crossed the Atlantic via the ice bridge (~20,000 years before present (YBP) and when Clovis tools begin to show up in the archaeological record (~13,000 YBP),” she concluded.

Ms. Raff said: “There is no evidence of boat use, or tools used for making boats at Solutrean sites.”

Image Credit: Getty

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