Footprints in the Sands of Time

The fossil footprints around an ancient lake in White Sands have been known for some time, but now we have what look to be perfectly respectable C-14 dates. They’re about 22 thousand years old, close to the Last Glacial maximum (LGM) and, as such clearly predate all existing evidence of human settlement of the New World (south of the glaciers, anyhow).

There were already hints: Amerindian populations in South America, mainly in Amazonia, carry a trace of a different genetic heritage. The existing population closest to that trace are the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, between India and Burma. Other populations such as Australian Aborigines and the inhabitants of New Guinea are also close. There is reason to believe that, until a few thousand years ago, all of Southeast Asia (including the islands) was occupied by related populations, known as Australo-Melanesians.

Here’s the key insight: the fact that the Andaman-like genetic trace is found in Amazonian Amerindians, but not in North America, suggests that it was picked up from a pre-existing population as the Amerindians expanded into South America. There are other possible scenarios, but it is hard to fit them with certain known facts. For example, we have ancient DNA from a Clovis kid, which is genetically close to modern Amerindians in South America, but does not contain this Andamanese-like trace. Hard to make this scenario work.

This implies that there was an earlier, less-successful colonization of the New World, one that preceded the Amerindians. One could have predicted this, and I did.

North America looked something like this in those days:

Note that crossing by boat would have been difficult at this time, assuming that settlers closely followed the coast. There is a long stretch of icebound coast before you reach somewhere habitable. The LGM was perhaps the most difficult time for a population to reach North America from Asia, so you have to suspect that they had crossed even earlier.

I say “less successful” because this population left very little sign, compared to the later Clovis culture. We find many artifacts and some skeletons from the early Amerindians, but very little from this (hypothetical) earlier population: in part this might be because their artifacts are harder to recognize ( because primitive) , but you have to think that their population density was considerably lower.

They may have done better in Brazil, because its climate was more favorable for hunter-gatherers than most places were back in the dreadful LGM.

One of the interesting differences between this somewhat hypothetical early population and Amerindians is that they seem to have been far less competent hunters. By the time of Clovis, Amerindians had atlatls and could apparently kill any animal, no matter how large. Ecologically dominant. In fact, they seem to have driven almost all of the megafauna in North and South America into extinction over a fairly short period of time.

This [hypothetical] earlier population may not have had atlatls simply because they hadn’t been invented yet: the earliest known example is about 18,000 years old. Considering that they may have entered North America some time well _before_ the LGM, this seems likely.

It may be that the alternative to being ‘ecologically dominant’ in the Americas was not very pleasant. The Amerindians could make a living hunting megafauna, and probably could deal effectively with the big predators sustained by those megafauna – at minimum, they were tough enough to make those predators think twice. After the extinction of the megafauna, most of those predators disappeared. This means that every other strategy of making a living – hunting lesser game, fishing, gathering plant foods – could be pursued without much risk. The whole landscape was theirs – the only thing they had to fear was other Amerindians.

For our hypothetical Precursors, this may not have been the case. Predators may have excluded them from much of the landscape, reducing their access to resources, which may not have been very abundant anyhow in the most severe part of the Ice Age.

It is safe to say that they didn’t leave a lot of skeletal fossils, since so far we haven’t found a single one. At the same time, any skeletal sample with useable DNA would be very valuable: as with the key Denisovan sample, where we have learned much about a whole separate branch of humanity from part of a little finger!

We can hope for luck finding skeletal fossils, but there may be another, more fruitful approach: looking aDNA in sediments in ancient sites. People have successfully retrieved ancient DNA from Neanderthal sites, and we may hope to do the same for pre-Clovis sites in the Americas. People ( other than James Bond) only die once, but they take a crap many times before their deaths. This approach might let us acquire genetic evidence from very early cultures, cultures with low population size, perhaps essentially failed colonizations or short-term explorations.

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73 Responses to Footprints in the Sands of Time

  1. Steve Sailer says:


    On the map, what’s the light green of northern Mexico?

  2. Dan_Kurt says:

    RE: “On the map, what’s the light green of northern Mexico?” Steve Sailer

    Check the East Coast area of the same color. It is labled: Scrub.

    Dan Kurt

  3. Daud Deden says:

    In your linked 2016 thread on the “pseudo-Andamanese” of the Amazon Surui are many interesting comments. I add a few here. The Andamanese used an S-shaped bow which doubled as a canoe paddle, hunting dugong and sea turtle. They lived in the rainforest but during the monsoon moved out to the coastal shores due to inland flooding and sodden trees dropping branches, and probably then beach harvesting was most fruitful. They lived in large communal dome huts with canoes kept inside. Like Congo pygmies & Tasmanians, they did not have fire-starters, but kept embers inside earthenware pots. They had no dogs, no megafauna prey nor predators, not part of their cumulative culture. (The footprints above show no dog prints), while Amerinds had domestic dogs before 12ka.

    My own speculative research puts Andaman-Papuan people having bark-canoes between 44ka – 24ka based on metroxylon/sago/larvae harvesting and rind/bark cutting, with the ability to travel over coastal seas along the warm north-bound Kuroshio current to Alaska, and south along the California current, while the Beringean straits were blocked, but only extremely optimistically. Travelling further south seeking warmer conditions, perhaps pushed by Amerinds into Amazon. The natives of Tierra del Fuego and the Piranha of Amazon both used only bark-canoes, afaik the rest all used dugouts or balsa rafts, might be relevant.

    • Daud Deden says:

      Addendum. Australians had the spoon-shaped woomera (Aztecs had a straight stick atlatl) which may have once been a combination canoe paddle. Australia had no dugout canoes until Austronesians from Macassar seeking trepang arrived on them, but did have bark canoes and rafts. I consider the coracle (bowl-boat) to be the earliest constructed watercraft (inverted dome hut) but have found no evidence of it anywhere south of the equator, presumably directed navigation was necessary over open waters and coracles can only float with the current & wind, while canoes are directional.

      • dearieme says:

        WKPD discusses dates for the woomera: “Records show that the implement began to be used about 5,000 years ago, although the Mungo Man remains from at least 43,000 years ago show severe osteoarthritis in the right elbow associated with the use of a woomera.”

        If the woomera arrived in Australia after the first Abos, who brought it?

    • mcdemarco says:

      Any theory involving the Pirahã is automatically more interesting.

      • Daud Deden says:

        Thanks, I didn’t mean the fish!

        A bit more background: of the Philippine negrito Agta/Ayta peoples, at least some traditionally seasonally trekked between the rainforest and the coasts (like the Andamaners), and one group (not the Mamanwa) has the highest level of Denisovan genes anywhere. I’m unaware of any distinct physical features of the Fuegians vs other indigenines.

    • Josh says:

      Fuegians were always said to look different even into historical times, right? Surely we can find some of that long dead fuegians, right?

    • teageegeepea says:

      Do we have any estimate how many times the bow was independently invented? Are there populations found within recorded history without bows?

      • gcochran9 says:

        As as I know, only once.

      • ziel says:

        Australians didn’t have bows did they?

        • dearieme says:

          No sign of them. Is it maybe odd that the people who introduced dingoes didn’t introduce bows? Or maybe the people who introduced dingoes didn’t stay in Australia but their dogs did. Maybe even jumped overboard and swam for it. Or maybe the people were killed by the peace-loving Gaia-worshipping Abos? Who knows? Where would you look for evidence? It’s a huge place.

          Nobody’s even found evidence of Polynesian explorers touching on Australia but surely they must have done.

  4. Jacob says:

    What’s the largest founding population the Precursors could’ve had? Coming by sea, and certainly not with the kind of vessels we’d use?

    Could’ve been pretty inbred, the genetic consequences of which would only be fixed after reaching the requisite population density for selection to do its work.

  5. Dave Pinsen says:

    If “LGM” is the abbreviation for “Last Glacial Maximum”, what’s the abbreviation for “Last Glacial Minimum”?

    • beancrusher says:

      LGm ?

      • Glengarry says:

        Which raises the issue of public speaking. For talks, or even conversations, should ‘LGM’ be pronounced firmly while ‘LGm’ is to be expressed in a squeaky voice?

    • ohwilleke says:

      “Last Glacial Minimum” = 2021 CE = -71 BP (because dates before present are calculated from 1950).

      • dearieme says:

        But to take your joke literally, no! At present when glaciers retreat people routinely find they’ve left behind evidence that once upon a time they existed only at higher altitude and that the land they’ve covered recently had supported plant life earlier in the holocene.

        I don’t know when the LGm was. Perhaps at what used to be called the Climate Optimum about 8000 years ago? Or maybe that didn’t leave enough time for maximum retreat to have happened.

  6. ziel says:

    So if they were in the White Sands area ~22kya, at the worst of the ice age, wouldn’t that suggest they were fairly successful outside of the Brazilian rain forest?

    • dave chamberlin says:

      It depends how you define success. It used to be wrongly assumed that once a large enough breeding population reached the Americas that they would have spread far and wide quickly. That did not happen and we can only guess why. Ferocious predators, poor hunting skills, inhospitable climate, or dare I say it, just not smart enough to create the tool package later humans could create. The experts were really stubborn insisting that modern man did not set foot on these continents until 13,000 years ago, because that is when humans expanded rapidly virtually everywhere. These first peoples remind me more of the Denisovans in Southeast Asia than moderns, so scarce they left almost no trace at all..

      It’s a puzzle with virtually no clues. They left us no bones or stone tools and their DNA is simply to fragile to last. There is hope that the science of recognizing distinct human proteins, far more stable than DNA , will progress and we will know more than almost nothing.

      • dearieme says:

        “the science of recognizing distinct human proteins, far more stable than DNA …”

        I didn’t know that: thank you.

  7. Robert C Goerlich says:

    Coastal remains from LGM would be below sea level now.

  8. ohwilleke says:

    The early failed wave of human settlement is correct. The existence of “Paleo-Asian” ancestry in South America is correct. The connection between the two of them is not. There is wide intra-population variation in the proportion of this ancestry component that can’t be reconciled with more than 10,000 years of antiquity, and there is also a reasonable vector for it in bride exchanges from ca. 1200 CE which is consistent with current distribution of this ancestry which could come from the Papuan part of Polynesian ancestry. See Marcos Araújo Castro e Silva, et al., “Deep genetic affinity between coastal Pacific and Amazonian natives evidenced by Australasian ancestry” 118 (14) PNAS e2025739118 (April 6, 2021) and Ioannidis, A.G., Blanco-Portillo, J., Sandoval, K. et al. “Native American gene flow into Polynesia predating Easter Island settlement.” Nature (July 8, 2020).

    • ohwilleke says:

      Some of the relevant literature is as follows: Alice A. Storey, et al., “Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to Chile”, 104(25) PNAS 10335-10339 (June 19, 2007). doi: 10.1073/pnas.0703993104; Montenegro, A., Avis, C. & Weaver, A. “Modeling the prehistoric arrival of the sweet potato in Polynesia.” 35 J. Archaeol. Sci. 355–367 (2008); Roullier, C., Benoit, L., McKey, D. B. & Lebot, V. “Historical collections reveal patterns of diffusion of sweet potato in Oceania obscured by modern plant movements and recombination.” 110 PNAS 2205–2210 (2013); Clarke, A. C., Burtenshaw, M. K., McLenachan, P. A., Erickson, D. L. & Penny, D. “Reconstructing the origins and dispersal of the Polynesian bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria).” 23 Mol. Biol. Evol. 893–900 (2006); Muñoz-Rodríguez, P. et al. “Reconciling conflicting phylogenies in the origin of sweet potato and dispersal to Polynesia.” 28 Curr. Biol. 1246–1256 (2018); Lie, B. A. et al. “Molecular genetic studies of natives on Easter Island: evidence of an early European and Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool.” 69 Tissue Antigens 10–18 (2007); Thorsby, E. “The Polynesian gene pool: an early contribution by Amerindians to Easter Island.” 367 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 812–819 (2012); Moreno-Mayar, J. V. et al. “Genome-wide ancestry patterns in Rapanui suggest pre-European admixture with Native Americans.” 24 Curr. Biol. 2518–2525 (2014); Fehren-Schmitz, L. et al. “Genetic ancestry of Rapanui before and after European contact.” 27 Curr. Biol. 3209–3215 (2017); Hagelberg, E., Quevedo, S., Turbon, D. & Clegg, J. B. “DNA from ancient Easter Islanders.” 369 Nature 25–26 (1994); Arthur Kocher, et al., “Ten millennia of hepatitis B virus evolution” 374 (6554) Science 182-188 (2021) (Hep B reached the New World ca. 20kya to 17kya); Raghavan, et al., “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans” Science (July 21, 2015) (morphologically ancient remains have typical founder population ancient DNA); Pengfei Qin and Mark Stoneking, “Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations” (April 3, 2015) (pre-print); Skoglund et. al., “Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas” Nature (July 21, 2015).

    • gcochran9 says:

      No, it cannot come from the Papuan side of Polynesian ancestry.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The only way for population C to have more shared drift with pop A than pop B does is if C is more closely related to A than B is.

        If B is the source, nobody is closer.

        But the Andamanese are closer to the Amazonian Injuns than people in PNG, so PNG cannot be the source of the odd component. . The Andamanese aren’t either, but they’re closer to the source.

      • ohwilleke says:

        The law of averages makes the current distribution impossible if it is 10K+ (or even 5K+) years old, and there is no cultural mechanism that could give rise to population structure that would maintain the observed intra-population variations in ancestry percentages from this source in this case. You can’t support what is seen with more than a few dozen generations from first introgression into those populations, not several hundred of generations.

        Even if this ancestry didn’t have a Polynesian source, it simply can’t be that old.

        Also, suppose you wanted to argue for a narrative where you have a tiny relict population that remains population genetically isolated for 10K+ years and then finally starts to admix with other populations in the last 1000-2000 years, which is really the only alternative to a recent arrival hypothesis. If that was the case, there would be distinct Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups in these populations. Also, an admixture analysis would make the isolated relict population the remained distinct for thousands of year stick out like a sore thumb. Their autosomal genetics after that long a period of population genetic isolation would look like the Kalash people (which starts popping up as one of the top level categories in a K=10 autosomal analysis of all humans on Earth).

        Also, keep in mind that the proportions of the genomes being matched to a particular source are very small. It is a large harder to be definitive about a match to a hypothetical source population with 0.5% of a genome than it is with 10-20% of a genome, especially when you are trying to distinguish between somewhat genetically similar populations.

  9. swampr says:

    Aside from the difficulty of surviving an eastward transpacific drift in a primitive raft, I can’t find any reference to a floating object doing so in survivable latitudes. There’s a narrow westward equatorial current but prevailing winds are easterlies. 30,000 bath toys famously washed overboard east of Hawaii. They showed up all around the Pacific except the American shore south of Oregon and north of Patagonia.

    Broken down Mexican fishermen and downed WWII fliers drifted west. The Polynesians are thought to have waited for short breaks in the prevailing wind to explore eastward knowing they could easily return “downhill”. The return voyage of the Manila Galleons was the worst in the world, arcing into high latitudes and routinely killing much of the crew. Same route as the Japanese “castaways” who were actually in derelict ships.

    Perhaps some proto-Beringian group with Onge like admixture could struggle along a west Greenland type shore. Stellar’s sea cows were there in the Pleistocene. The Russians could wade right up to them without reaction and ate them all in a few years. Later waves could dilute the Onge fraction till it was undetectable outside marginal habitats, which tropical rainforest is for hunter gatherers–same reason the Pygmies only survive there.

    • Stephen St. Onge says:

      “Perhaps some proto-Beringian group with Onge like admixture . . .”

      How the hell did I get involved in this?

  10. Anonymous says:

    “It is safe to say that they didn’t leave a lot of skeletal fossils, since so far we haven’t found a single one.” —

    What about the Luzia Woman?

  11. Unladen Swallow says:

    I take it the has been no luck extracting DNA from from that old female skeleton from Brazil.

    • ohwilleke says:

      I think they did in this paper: Raghavan, et al., “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans” Science (July 21, 2015) (morphologically ancient remains have typical founder population ancient DNA).

  12. Henry Scrope says:

    Your National Parks Service has a photo, probably colourised and originally taken in black and white.

  13. Gord Marsden says:

    so first nations are back at least to 2nd ? they wont like that

  14. TWS says:

    Besides not having shoe technology, is there anything else we can tell about them?

    If I remember correctly, they keep saying women and children foot prints. Could these people be genuine pygmies? I’m going out on a limb and guess that pygmies of whatever origin don’t crowd the right side of the bell curve.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      They were Negritos. Very small stature, very ancient, and dispersed over a large area north of Australia that required boat travel. I like Cochran’s idea from his first post, give them some casinos, they got here first so they earned them fair and square.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        We need to organize another Kon-Tiki like publicity stunt. Yep, One fool, correction explorer-adventurer, and a bunch of pygmies have to make the trip all the way across the Paciific from one of the last Negrito villages to South America in a shitty raft. Each of the pygmies are promised a casino if they make it. If it fails miserably well then it becomes a reality TV show and the explorer-adventurer calls for a rescue pick up before the pygmies eat him.

    • Gordon Marsden says:

      they must have been very tough to walk barefoot in the snow , especially with grass so near by

    • Smithie says:

      Pretty common for women and children in Europe not to wear shoes until somewhat recently. In Ireland, it was still common to see shoeless children into the early 1900s, even in the bigger towns. Not to mention, a lot of people who had shoes would often go barefoot to save them from wear.

      In the Boy Scouts, in the US, in the ’50s, my father knew a boy who habitually didn’t wear shoes and who would fearlessly walk over small rocks. (Though presumably he did own a pair)

      • Horhe says:

        The wearing of shoes has actually led to weaker legs and feet. I read somewhere, here I think, about an Australian military leader who denied that the newer generations were weaker in spirit than the previous ones. But they were weaker in the feet because they had not grown up walking barefoot, and they had high rates of injuries. It stuck with me.

      • Jim says:

        When I lived on Guam as a child we children frequently walked barefooted on broken pieces of coral at the beaches. The bottom of our feet became extraordinarily tough. Walking on rocks wouldn’t have bothered us at all.

  15. James says:

    For what it’s worth, there was an ancient sample that showed this apparent “Australasian/Andamanese” affinity IIRC from Lagoa Santa, Brazil dated to ~10kya.

    It was reported in the study “Early human dispersals within the Americas” by Moreno-Mayar et al. 2018:

  16. dearieme says:

    The Olmec heads: people used to say they looked Negro. I always wondered whether that was rather rude, suggesting that ugly implied Negro. I suppose we can rule out their having any relation to Negritos and whatnot, can we? Too many thousands of years late, presumably?

    • Insightful says:

      Dearieme, people said they looked Negro based on the facial characteristics of the sculptures. You thought it was rude to have said so because to you, ‘negro’ implied ‘ugly’. That is projection on your part. That’s you putting your own biases on to other people.

      • dearieme says:

        Bias against Negroes seems to me a much more American habit than a dearieme habit.

        Perhaps for good reason – I am probably lucky that my few black acquaintances have been African rather than American. On the other hand, I have had important dealings with American blacks on two occasions . Both did me a service for which I was grateful. So my first hand experience has been just fine.

  17. dave chamberlin says:

    I don’t think those Negritos stood a chance anywhere against later waves of migration. Small in size and lacking in very much human ingenuity (yeah that’s rude and politically incorrect but it’s also the truth) they were quickly replaced in all the locations they got to first, but one, the jungle. Beringians, the ancestors of Amerindians were tough as nails. Look where they came from and the environment they survived in, Siberia during the last ice age. The jungle, accurately called the green hell, was the one location where pygmies held an advantage, because they were small they could survive on less. So where was traces of their ancestry found? The tribes living deep in the South American jungle.

    It can strike one as a big contradiction that these Negritos I have labeled as well, dumb, should be traipsing all over the Southeast Asian seas in boats but it really isn’t. Beachcombing hominids have been successful in Southeast Asia for 700,000 years. It’s an optimum environment for food collection. Whoever got there first and had a little more smarts in the boat building department than the last bunch of hominid shell crackers would prosper.

    • Doughty Folk says:

      The proto-Native Americans were replaced across the entirety of North Eurasia, very rapidly after the LGM, and probably weren’t living there during the LGM.

    • Curtis says:

      Negritos are small because of Island dwarfism. Given a few thousand years and a whole continent, their descendents could easily have been larger.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        There are several models that account for the origins of the Negritos. The one you suggest island dwarfism is one of them. The more likely model in from what I have read is they are the scattered surviving descendents of the first wave of humans into the area. I don’t for sure.

    • Sheila St-Onge says:

      Based on Greg’s map, the Amazon wasn’t jungle back then.

  18. TWS says:

    So we know 20k + years ago minimum. What is the window for earliest settlement? Didn’t one of the Leakeys say that in America they just tossed stuff that in Africa would be evidence of tool making?

  19. Matt says:

    Latest run I’ve tried with ADMIXTOOLS to look at this problem:

    Human Origins latest release, qpWave, 410325 polymorphic SNPS.

    Left=c(‘Karitiana’,’USA_Nevada_SpiritCave_11000BP.SG’), Right=C(‘ONG.SG’,’Mbuti’,’Sardinian’, ‘Lithuanian’,’Ulchi’,’Kankanaey’,’Han’,’Jar.SG’,’Papuan’,’Australian’,’Russia_West_Siberia_HG’)

    This basically tests whether Karitiana and SpiritCave are consistent with being a single population with respect to the outgroups, which are Onge and Jarawa, the span of the East Asian cline, Papuans and Australians, and late Ancient North Eurasians (Russia West Siberia HG).

    Result: chi-sq: 13.7, p-value: 0.185

    Karitiana and SpiritCave are consistent with being a single population with respect to the outgroups at that p-value. It passes as far as a >0.05 p-value is considered generally good with that number of SNPs and outgroups.

    If I use qpAdm instead and place Onge in the ancestors (with Jarawas in the outgroups), then the fit can improve to CHI-SQ 10.3 and p-value 0.243 with 1.16% Onge into Karitiana. But it’s not a very significant improvement. Other Native American populations I tested tended to take 0 or 0.4% Onge only, but did again not do significantly better without it than Karitiana does without it (Mixe around p value 0.197 without it) and many don’t pass, probably due to West Eurasian ancestry*.

    *Z scores for representative statistics for shift towards Sardinian away from West_Siberian ANE for the groups I tested, indicating recent West Eurasian ancestry, under the stat f4 (Sardinian, Russia_West_Siberia_HG, USA_Nevada_SpiritCave11000BP, X):

    Karitiana: -0.907 (non sig), Pima: -2.27 (borderline sig), Mixe: -1.31 (non sig), Mixtec: 3.64 (sig), Bolivian: -4.71 (high sig), Piapoco: -0.85 (non-sig), Surui: -0.775 (non sig), Quechua: -6.1 (high sig), Zapotec: -3.57 (high sig).

    • James says:

      That’s interesting, so am I interpreting your post correctly by thinking that Onge-like ancestry is not more than a trace in the Native Americans you mentioned?

      And if so, what could be causing that popY signal that past papers on Native American aDNA have found? Differences in post-Columbian West Eurasian ancestry?

  20. skeptic16 says:

    Could they have crossed the south Pacific like the Polynesians, say through Easter Island? If they were a seafaring people, maybe that’s why they were not competent hunters. But then, they would have settled by the sea.

    • dearieme says:

      But everyone I’ve read on the Polynesians emphasises that they were the first colonists on their far-flung Pacific islands in the sense that there’s no evidence of anyone earlier. Is my reading out of date?

    • Gordon Marsden says:

      even the sea settlers might get a hankering to wander after a few generations .

  21. skeptic16 says:

    How was C-14 dating used in this case? Was it performed on the organic matter in the sediments?

  22. Gordon Marsden says:

    long ago i remember reading that there was very old spanish (pre columbian ) DNA in some indian populations in the minnesota area . cannot find the source now. maybe was even this blog?

  23. dave chamberlin says:

    The Reich lab has produced an amazing number of papers shedding light on the first waves of migration all over the world. They found genetic evidence of Andaman Islanders in South America, and these people are Negritos. They got to South America and they got there very early. Were the small 22,000 year old foot prints found in New Mexico from them? I am guessing so for a number of reasons but I’m not sure. It is the most plausible explanation from what little we know. Not only do we know they were on the connected continents very early but it would provide an answer to why we can find little to no evidence of their presence. Whoever was here rarely used stone tools and were not very good hunters. That eliminates almost all the existing people from 22,000 years ago but it does not eliminate the Negritos. Today there are small surviving groups of Negritos are scattered over a large area of separated islands north of Australia. They got there very early and obviously traveled by boat. It is implausible that they made the trip across the Pacific by boat but it is far more implausible that they took the land route via a frozen north.

  24. Guy says:

    Hi Folks, I am almost positive that I read a SF short story with the name of this posting, but my googlefu is coming up short. It was a time travel story and ended up with two sets of human footprints in a Pleistocene context ending in a green glassy area (energy weapon). Maybe Keith Laumer? Any idea?

  25. TWS says:

    Are you really the same species of human if you can’t deal with large animals? Seriously, large animals are a solved problem. We drove whole continents into extinction when we had throwing sticks and the buffalo pound was the pinacle of hunting techniques. We separate wolves from coyotes, about a million species of trout from each other. How can we say people who cannot do the most basic large scale activities all other humans can do are the same thing as the rest of us?

  26. NumberOneCustomer says:

    Niven, Ringworld, Teela Brown. Bred to be lucky.

  27. dave chamberlin says:

    Lots and lots of news articles about those 22,000 year old footprints are coming out. I read them in hopes that they will have read the news about indigenous peoples of South America and Australia region are genetically linked and throw that into their conclusions about who the first peoples on the American continents were. Nothing. Not a peep.

    Let me guess where this news story goes. No where fast. Now and then the projected age of the Americas first people will be pushed back further, and resisted by the so called experts and mass media wordsmiths. But then a new technology will develop and start bearing fruit. The ability to recognize distinct human proteins that last longer than bones or DNA in limestone caves.

    Then ages that shock people will start filtering back to news articles that find where people went and approximately when. The experts will fight these findings, but gradually they will agree, yep, people got to the Americas very early. How early. I dunno and I am not guessing. What I am guessing and the genetic evidence supports this guess is small people spread far and wide throughout the islands of Southeast Asia, and all the way to Australia and all the way to South America. They will get a status promotion and a new more dignified name. Pygmies or Negritos ain’t gonna fly.

    But the last piece of the puzzle, why did they leave almost no trace won’t be mentioned. Why couldn’t they manufacture stone tools or hunt very well. After all we all know human evolution stopped magically when we left Africa. Right?

  28. Brian S. says:

    I’m betting that well known Pre-Clovis skeptic Stuart Fiedel will have something to say on this. He’s the type of guy who will never back down…even after the cumulative evidence has piled up into a mountain. He’s made a career out of sarcastically dismissing anything before 13,000 B.P. and will never change his tune.

  29. dearieme says:

    Maybe they suffered a high rate of male death as they tried to develop the boomerang. If you fail to duck when the boomerang returns you will no longer compete in the Darwinian struggle.

    On a more serious note: what happens when primitive hunter-gatherers move to a new continent whose flora and fauna are unfamiliar? How long do they take to learn which plants are nutritious, which toxic? Which creatures are venomous? Indeed, how long do they take to learn to recognise where, for example, tubers may be found?

  30. Pingback: Sensor Sweep: Cirsova, Charles Fort, Bear-Dogs –

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