Jacob J. Walker's Blog

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The Early Archaeologist Hypothesis

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I just read the NPR article: New Evidence Suggests Humans Arrived In The Americas Far Earlier Than Thought.  And in the article it suggests that because cut bones were found in what is now Southern California, of a mastodon that is 130,000 years old, along with sharp rocks, that humans were on the American continent that long ago, instead of only 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.  And while I think this hypothesis could be true, I want to advance another potential hypothesis: the early archaeologist / paleontologist hypothesis…

To understand the early archaeologist hypothesis, lets look at a simple thought experiment…  If some day in the far future, archaeologists were to dig up the work of archaeologists today, and find that there were cut mastodon bones along with current human tools…  If there was no other context, might they possibly think that the technology of today existed hundreds of thousands of years ago?….  So in a similar way, maybe a group of humans from sometime in the past, less than 20,000 years ago, were digging, or otherwise found a group of mastodon skeletons, and they were curious about the bones…. these early “archaeologists” (or probably more appropriately, early “paleontologists”) might have broken the bones to see what was inside, or try to use them for something.  This hypothesis would also explain why there were no cut marks on the bones (which would normally exist if the animal was butchered for meat), because the animal had been long dead, and so there was no meat to butcher…

Of course, I’m only an amateur archaeologist at best… (and in this case, really an “armchair archaeologist”), and there could be some clear evidence at the site that quickly disproves my hypothesis.  But sometimes expert archaeologists get so deep into their standard patterns of thinking, that having an outsider with new ideas can be valuable…

For example, the one bit of genuine (although still amateur) archaeological research that I have done, is about the Ancient Bathhouse in Nazareth…  I realized during this research that the best place to do carbon dating is not necessarily the deepest portion of the bathhouse, but possibly the pipes that are at the top of the bathhouse.  This is because if these were original pipes, and if they were from the Roman era, then the Romans usually mixed olive oil in to form the pipes…  And carbon dating that olive oil would likely have far more accurate results…

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Written by Jacob Walker

April 26th, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Scholarly Papers

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