An interesting discovery
Feb 28, 1997 10:59 PM
Here is an interesting newsreport I saw in today's news paper.
In this connection, I also quote from ML to APS: Letter 23B 3rd rev edn 1962
"The group of islands off the Siberian coast discovered by Nordenskjold of
the "Vega" was found strewn with fossils of horses, sheep, oxen, etc., among
gigantic bones of elephants, mammoths, rhinoceroses, and other monsters
belonging to periods when man -- says your science -- had not yet made his
appearance on earth. How come horses and sheep to be found in company with
the huge "ante-diluvians"? The horse, we are taught in schools -- is quite a
modern invention of nature, and no man ever saw its pedactyl ancestor. The
group of the Siberian islands may give lie to the comfortable theory. The
region now locked in the fetters of eternal winter uninhabited by man --
that most fragile of animals, -- will be very soon proved to have had not
only a tropical climate -- something your science knows and does not dispute
Also I recall reading about the shifting of continents /poles.
Artifacts May Push Back Human
Residency in Siberia by 300,000
By Curt Suplee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 28 1997; Page A08
The Washington Post
Stone Age people somehow managed to live in the forbidding environs of
Siberia as early as 300,000 years ago -- hundreds of thousands of years
before experts had thought possible -- according to a new analysis of
Even now, in a relatively warm period of Earth's recent climate history, the
region 75 miles south of Yakutsk, where signs of archaic habitation have
been found, gets as cold as minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
So scientists have long assumed that human settlement was not possible
there until about 40,000 years ago, coincident with the evolutionary advent
of anatomically modern humans who had the capacity to develop
sophisticated shelters, make suitable clothing and control fire.
That determination has been reinforced by the fact that, for five decades,
the earliest convincingly dated sites of human occupation in upper Siberia
have been shown to be no older than 35,000 years.
But three researchers report in today's issue of the journal Science that an
ancient quarry site called Diring Yuriakh, apparently used by people to make
simple stone tools, is at least 260,000 years old.
"It kind of breaks our mind-set," said coauthor Michael R. Waters, a Texas
A&M geoarchaeologist, by indicating "that people were able to push into this
rigorous environment and make a living there."
Diring -- located on the Lena River at the same latitude as central Alaska --
has been something of an enigma since it was discovered in 1982 by Russian
archaeologist Yuri Mochanov.
Eventually, thousands of artifacts were removed from the excavation, and
Mochanov decided the site was at least 2 million years old.
That claim, which would put Siberia on a chronological par with east Africa
for early evidence of human-like habitation, met with profound skepticism
from most quarters. Estimates of the tools' true age, the authors write,
varied widely: from Mochanov's maximum of 3.2 million years to as little as
Waters, along with geologists Steven L. Forman and James M. Pierson of
the University of Illinois, traveled to Siberia to investigate the site.
The once-open quarry had been covered by blowing sand and other
sedimentary material; and because there was no other material to use for
dating, the scientists were obliged to employ a generally reliable method
called thermoluminescence (TL).
The technique relies on the fact that buried mineral crystals (of the sort
common in certain rock types and the wind-blown sand at Diring Yuriakh)
are gradually exposed to low-level radiation, whether from radioactive
material in the rock or in the surrounding earth.
The energy from that radiation dislodges electrons that get trapped in defects
within the crystal. When the material is later heated in the lab, those trapped
electrons are released, shedding their energy as light: The more light emitted,
the longer the sample has been buried and subjected to radiation.
Exposure to sunlight, however, generally removes all the trapped electrons in
a sample, "resetting" its internal clock to zero. So the sand that blew into the
Diring quarry would have had no trapped electrons at the time it was first
deposited; trapping would have begun only when that geological layer was
TL studies of specimens from the site, the Texas-Illinois team concluded,
indicated the sand around the stone tools was 250,000 to 350,000 years old.
If the tools are actually tools (and some scientists believe the Diring stones
may have cracked naturally) and are genuinely 300,000 years old (which
some researchers would prefer to see confirmed using another dating
method), it still does not necessarily mean archaic humans were able to live
"What happened," said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins program
at the Smithsonian Institution, "when the weather got bad that year or the
following year? We just don't know."
@CAPTION: This cutting tool apparently used in Stone Age was found at
Diring Yuriakh, an ancient quarry site on Lena River.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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