Oldest body discovered in America

Although the history of the human race spans millions of years, it isn't quite as old as the history of people living in North America. Africa, specifically the southern half of the continent, is where Homo sapiens evolved (via National Geographic). Humans remained mostly in that habitat for a long, but around 180,000 years ago, they began to migrate to other regions, first via Asia and Europe, then across to the Americas (via the Natural History Museum).

But how could ancient humans travel across vast oceans? According to the Santa Maria Times, the prevailing view holds that they crossed the Pacific Ocean at the conclusion of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower, revealing a sort of land bridge between Russia and Alaska. An alternative explanation says that people traveled throughout the western seaboard of the Americas specifically using canoes.

The discovery of human skeleton remains on an island off the coast of California in the 1950s added more proof to this notion, which has never been proven beyond a reasonable doubt (via the National Parks Service). The bones, known as "The Arlington Springs Man," were eventually dated to a time of about 13,000 years ago, making them the oldest human remains ever discovered in the Americas and much older than archaeologists had originally hypothesized.

The Arlington Springs Man's Discovery

According to the Santa Maria Times, the Arlington Springs Man's remains were initially uncovered in 1959. The bones, which were discovered on the Californian island of Santa Rosa, don't make up an entire skeleton. Instead, only the bones of the femur were found. No additional human remains have been discovered at the site despite years of additional examination (via West of the West).

The bones' approximate 40-foot depth led Phil C. Orr, the archaeologist who discovered them, to hypothesize that they were roughly 10,000 years old. However, it wasn't until 1987 that radiocarbon dating methods had advanced enough to allow the bones to be tested. This revealed the bones were approximately 13,000 years older than first thought.

The bones haven't always been in the best condition, which has unfortunately limited what archaeologists have been able to learn about the Arlington Springs Man — or, perhaps, the Arlington Springs Woman. According to the L.A. Times, after a reevaluation, scientists decided that the person, initially identified as male when the bones were carbon-dated, was actually a woman. But in 2006, researchers changed their minds once more after discovering more of Orr's original notes, which showed the femur head of the bone was quite large. That femur head, which had vanished or deteriorated since 1959, was most likely a man's due to its size.

What The Arlington Springs Man's Life Was Like

The world of the Arlington Springs Man was very different from ours in many ways. He was discovered on what is now Santa Rosa Island, but at the time, this area of land would have been a part of a larger island called Santarosae, some of which have since been submerged by rising sea levels (via West of the West). According to the Santa Maria Times, the Arlington Springs Man would have coexisted with and possibly hunted a wide variety of unusual animals on that island, including pygmy mammoths.

But how did he initially get to the island? The bones are proof that humans may have traveled down the western seaboard by boat, according to the National Park Service, because he would have needed a canoe to get to the island.

It remains to be seen if there are additional remains in the area or older remains elsewhere on the continent. The land bridge migration theory suggests that humans began migrating to the Americas as early as 20,000 years ago. If that hypothesis is correct, there might be even older skeletons or bone fragments lying in wait for researchers to find them.

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