People may have lived in Brazil more than 20,000 years ago | Science News



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People may have lived in Brazil more than 20,000 years ago

7:00am, September 5, 2017
notched sloth bones

EARLY ARRIVALS  These notched sloth bones, perhaps personal ornaments, are evidence of an early human arrival to South America, scientists propose.

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People hunted giant sloths in the center of South America around 23,120 years ago, researchers say — a find that adds to evidence that humans reached South America well before Clovis hunters roamed North America 13,000 years ago.

Evidence of people’s presence at Santa Elina rock-shelter, in central-west Brazil, so long ago raises questions about how people first entered South America. Early settlers may have floated down the Pacific Coast in canoes before heading 2,000 kilometers east to the remote rock-shelter, or they might have taken an inland route from North America, Denis Vialou of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and colleagues report in the August Antiquity. Other proposed Stone Age South American sites lie much closer to the coast than Santa Elina does.

Excavations revealed remains of hearths, stone artifacts and bones of giant sloths. Sloth remains included small, bony plates from the skin that humans apparently made into ornaments of some kind by adding notches and holes. 

Three different dating methods indicate that people reached Santa Elina over 20,000 years ago.


D. Vialou et al. Peopling South America’s center: the late Pleistocene site of Santa Elina. Antiquity. Vol. 91, August 2017, p. 865. doi:10.15184/aqy.2017.101.

Further Reading

B. Bower. People roamed tip of South America 18,500 years ago. Science News. Vol. 188, December 26, 2015, p. 10.

B. Bower. Disputed finds put humans in South America 22,000 years ago. Science News. Vol. 183, April 20, 2013, p. 9.

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