**Evidence of Human Existence in South America Alongside Giant Sloths**
Recent research suggests that humans inhabited South America concurrently with now-extinct giant sloths, providing additional proof that people arrived in the Americas earlier than previously believed. Scientists have examined triangular and teardrop-shaped pendants made from bony material sourced from the sloths. After careful analysis, they have concluded that the carved and polished shapes with drilled holes demonstrate intentional craftsmanship.
**Dating the Artefacts and Sediment**
The researchers have reported that the age of the ornaments and sediment found at the site in Brazil where they were discovered dates back to 25,000-27,000 years ago. This new dating contradicts earlier theories that suggested the first humans arrived in the Americas several thousand years later, following migration from Africa and Eurasia.
**Challenging the Conventional Wisdom**
Over the past decade, other studies have challenged the widely accepted belief that people only reached the Americas a few thousand years prior to the submergence of the Bering land bridge, which connected Russia and Alaska. These studies propose that humans may have arrived as early as 15,000 years ago.
**Reanalyzing Artefacts Found at Santa Elina**
About 30 years ago, archaeologists discovered the ornaments at a rock shelter called Santa Elina in central Brazil. However, this recent study is the first comprehensive analysis of the artefacts, eliminating the possibility that humans found and carved them long after the animals had perished.
**Understanding the Timing and Craftsmanship**
The research team comprised scholars from Brazil, France, and the United States. Through their analysis, they have determined that the human handiwork on the pendants occurred within days to a few years after the sloths’ deaths, before the materials had fossilized. They have also ruled out natural abrasion and other factors that could explain the shapes and holes. These findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
**Decorative Personal Objects**
The researchers believe that the pendants served as personal objects, possibly used for personal adornment. This discovery highlights the existence of cultural expression and symbolic behavior among early human populations in South America.
**The Giant Ground Sloth**
Giant ground sloths were among the largest creatures in South America, measuring 10-13 feet in length and primarily moving on all fours. They possessed sharp claws used for burrowing. Weighing over a thousand pounds, their skin contained bony structures similar to the plates of modern armadillos.
**Additional Evidence of Early Human Presence**
Two years ago, a separate team of researchers discovered fossilized human footprints near White Sands, New Mexico, dating back 21,000-23,000 years. While some scientists dispute these dates, evidence from Mexico suggests human presence around 26,000 years ago, and findings from Uruguay indicate potential human occupation as far back as 30,000 years ago.
**Expert Opinions on the Study**
Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas, commended the new research as an important addition to the conversation. However, she acknowledged that findings related to this topic often face criticism and questioning. Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, emphasized that the evidence from multiple sites compels scientists to reconsider the notion that human migration to the Americas occurred in a single wave across the Bering land bridge. Pobiner suggests that multiple waves of people likely arrived in the Americas.
**Continued Exploration of Human Migration**
The discovery of human presence in South America alongside giant sloths pushes back the timeline for human migration to the Americas. It also encourages further exploration and analysis of archaeological sites across the entire continent, fostering a better understanding of the complex and diverse history of human populations in the Americas.