Humans reached North America 6,500 years EARLIER than thought

For decades, researchers believed early humans first settled in the Western Hemisphere around 13,500 years ago.

However, the discovery of 150,000 'unique' stone tools northwest of Austin, Texas, now suggests humans were living on the continent as far back as 20,000 years ago.

The latest research pushes back the earliest human habitation of North America back by almost 6,500 years.

It also suggests the previously-discovered 'Clovis artefacts' were not the first prehistoric tools on the continent.

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Researchers have found 150,000 stone tools (selection, pictured) that suggest humans arrived on the continent up to 20,000 years ago

Researchers have found 150,000 stone tools (selection, pictured) that suggest humans arrived on the continent up to 20,000 years ago

The Clovis people were a prehistoric Native American group of hunter-gatherers.

Clovis artefacts are distinctive prehistoric stone tools so named because they were initially found near Clovis, New Mexico, back in the 1920s.

These tools have since been identified throughout North and South America.

These early humans were distinguished by the fine-fluted stone points they made for their weapons.

In recent years however, archaeological evidence has increasingly called into question the idea that these people were the first to populate the Americas, a theory known as 'Clovis First.'

Now, in the latest research to question this long-held theory, researchers led by Thomas Williams from the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University excavated the Gault Site northwest of Austin.

They found an assemblage of artefacts between 16,000 and 20,000 years of age.

'These projectile points are unique. We haven't found anything else like them,' Dr Williams said.

'Combine that with the ages and the fact that it underlies a Clovis component and the Gault site provides a fantastic opportunity to study the earliest human occupants in the Americas.' 

The presence of Clovis technology at the site is well-documented. However, excavations below the deposits containing Clovis artefacts revealed the distinctly different older tools, called the Gault Assemblage (at the bottom) 

The presence of Clovis technology at the site is well-documented. However, excavations below the deposits containing Clovis artefacts revealed the distinctly different older tools, called the Gault Assemblage (at the bottom) 

WHO WERE THE CLOVIS PEOPLE?

The Clovis people, a prehistoric Native American group of hunter-gatherers, reached North America around 13,500 years ago.

They hunted mammoth, mastodons and giant bison with big spears.

Clovis artefacts are distinctive prehistoric stone tools so named because they were initially found near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s.

They have since been identified throughout North and South America.

These early humans were distinguished by the fine-fluted stone points they made for weapons.

Centuries of cold, nicknamed the 'Big Freeze,' are believed to have wiped out the Clovis, as well as most of the large mammals in North America

In recent years however, archaeological evidence has increasingly called into question the idea that these people were the first to reach the Americas.

Now, in the latest research to question this long-held theory, researchers led by Thomas Williams from the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University excavated the Gault Site northwest of Austin.

They found an assemblage of artefacts between 16,000 and 20,000 years of age.

Scientists believe the Gault Site, which encompasses a valley intersection of the Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie, would have been appealing to early humans.

The region has reliable springs and high-quality flint outcrops which could have been used for crafting tools. 

The presence of Clovis technology at the site is already well-documented.

However, excavations below the deposits containing Clovis artefacts revealed the distinctly different older tools, known as the Gault Assemblage.

'This projectile point assemblage is unlike anything in the early archaeological

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