Tracing the first North American hunters

Professor Eske Willerslev’s team from the Center for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, has in collaboration with Michael Waters’ team at the Center for the Study of the First Americans, University of Texas A&M, shown that the hunt for large mammals occurred at least 1,000 years before previously assumed.

It is the finding and analysis of a tip from a man-made projectile point (spearhead) gathered from the remains of a mastodon that is behind the rewriting of North American prehistory. The spearhead, which itself was carved out from a mastodon-bone, was found at the Manis site in the state of Washington when archaeologists excavated a mastodon in the late 1970s.

However, 30 years would pass before a team of researchers was able to put a date on the spearhead and establish the identity of both the bone and the spearhead that had been embedded into the rib of the defeated mastodon. This was done through, amongst other things, DNA analysis, protein sequencing, advanced computer technology, Carbon-14 dating as well as comparisons with other mastodon findings in North America, for instance in the state of Wisconsin.

Read the full  coverage at the center’s website