Horse and camel hunting by prehistoric humans in North America

New dates for horse and camel butchering sites in Canada push the clock back.

Advanced radiocarbon dating techniques have revealed that a prehistoric kill and butchering site attributed to the Clovis People was active approximately 300 years earlier than previously dated. Animal remains butchered with stone tools near Wally’s Beach, Alberta, Canada, currently represent evidence that prehistoric humans hunted now-extinct horse and camel species near the end of the last Ice Age. The site contains the only known evidence to date for horse and camel hunting in the Americas during that time period.

As documented in a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences*, Michael Waters of Texas A&M University and colleagues from two other institutions re-dated the remains using advanced sample purification techniques. The remains were previously dated to around 13,000 years ago and ascribed to the Clovis People. The authors produced 27 new radiocarbon ages that suggest that Wally’s Beach was active around 13,300 years ago, approximately 300 years before the generally accepted earliest date range for the Clovis culture. The new timeframe, the authors report, allows the Canadian site to be examined in the context of human hunting and the well-documented extinction of numerous large mammal species near the end of the last Ice Age. Added to other North American sites that demonstrate mammoth, mastodon, sloth, and gomphothere hunting, Wally’s Beach suggests that prehistoric humans hunted six of the 36 now-extinct genera of large mammals for at least 2,000 years before the animals vanished from the North American landscape around 12,700 years ago, according to the authors.*



Map of North America showing stages of Ice Age retreat with associated ages. Wally’s Beach, as an active site, would have been located within the 12 – 15 ka region on the map. T. Kostolany, Wikimedia Commons


*Article #14-20650: “Late Pleistocene horse and camel hunting at the southern margin of the ice-free corridor: Reassessing the age of Wally’s Beach, Canada,” by Michael R. Waters, Thomas W. Stafford, Jr., Brian Kooyman, and L. V. Hills.

Source: Adapted and edited from the PNAS press release, Large mammals hunted by prehistoric humans


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