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Planet Earth

95: Team of Archaeologists Crack Siberia's Secrets

By Ken KostelJanuary 2, 2005 6:00 AM

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Evidence unearthed by a Russian archaeologist in Siberia indicates humans lived there 30,000 years ago, bolstering theories that humans migrated across a land bridge from Asia to North America thousands of years earlier than the accepted theory suggests.

Vladimir Pitulko, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in St. Petersburg, discovered spear foreshafts made of mammoth ivory and woolly rhino horn, stone tools, and bones that display signs of butchering. The location, date, and composition of the artifacts suggest not only that our ancestors had adapted to the climate, says Michael Waters, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University, but that they may also have been in a position to migrate across the Bering Land Bridge to North America before glaciers closed off the route at the height of the last ice age. “They had the subsistence strategy and technology to survive in a harsh climate,” says Waters. “If you have all those capabilities, there’s nothing stopping you from traveling to the Americas.”

Waters and others hesitate to attach overwhelming significance to the find until they locate similar sites farther east—a task akin to finding a needle in a frozen haystack of continental proportions. “It just goes to show us how much we don’t know about Siberia,” says Waters. “It’s a big place. It has a lot of secrets.”

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