The results discovered at Hueyatlaco
remain controversial even today.
Source: Kovalenko I / Adobe Stock
Some discoveries are just too hard to fully grasp, and that makes us question their accuracy.
Hueyatlaco in Mexico is one such archaeological site, forcing us to reconsider the timeframe of human habitation in the Americas. By a lot...
The finds presented at Hueyatlaco are still a matter of heated debate amongst scholars today, but one thing is certain - there are still many unanswered questions which need to be explored.
Situated in the central part of the country, this basin has been the focus of much interest for geologists, archaeologists and the scientific world as a whole.
This interest was sparked due to the presence of numerous megafaunal remains and evidence of very early human habitation.
Megafauna, as we know, is the term commonly used for large animals that roamed the landscapes of the Pleistocene, such as mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and cave lions.
although rich in important discoveries, the site has always been the
cause of much controversy, simply because some of the theories
surrounding it are very hard to fully grasp.
Nevertheless, the area is of immense geological interest due to it being dominated by the stratovolcanoes Popocatépetl and La Malinche, and its location in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.
such, this is a site with a time-worn history, which also helps shed
some light on early human habitation of the region, because geology
and archaeology often go hand in hand.
Irwin-Williams was soon joined by other prominent persons of the U.S. Geological Survey, notably Virginia Steen-McIntyre, who was responsible for publicizing the find and the magnificent discoveries it entailed.
Due to the vast numbers of animal fossils,
it was commonly believed that this site was a kill site, where
ancient humans butchered the animals they hunted.
Some of the ancient animal fossils found included,
But the really important finds were made in 1962, when Irwin-Williams discovered both animal bones and stone tools, together, in situ.
The subsequent struggle to positively
identify the age of these remains led to much controversy.
Cynthia Irwin-Williams discovered
animal bones, fossils and stone tools together.
The dating of these remains
has created unending controversy.
(Erica Guilane-Nachez / Adobe Stock)
These tools were diverse and included quite elaborate projectile points, many of which were made from non-local materials.
This was a
clear proof that Hueyatlaco was used by various groups of people for
a long period of time. Either way, these findings were quickly
pushing back the previously believed timeline of human habitation in
South America, which caused conflicts in the scientific world.
In 1967, Jose Lorenzo, a member of the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, came forth with a controversial claim that the artifacts discovered were deliberately planted at the site, in a way that made it difficult to know whether they were actually discovered.
This gossip was seemingly unmerited and looked
a lot like an attempt to disrupt the crew from making further claims
at the site.
Irwin-Williams did make a startling discovery of mammoth bone fragments that were carved with intricate images, depicting various megafauna animals such as serpents and saber-toothed cats.
Similar carved images have been discovered all over the world, and are associated with early man. However, these carved bones disappeared under puzzling circumstances, as if someone didn’t want them to reach the public eye.
Photographs of the carvings survive.
working on the Hueyatlaco site
in the mid-1960s.
(The Pleistocene Coalition)
During that same year,
the team published their first scientific paper that detailed the
excavations and the importance of the site. And that importance was
The usual radiocarbon dating indicated that the remains were roughly 35,000 years old. However, dating by uranium suggested the remains to be far older, roughly 260,000 years old.
At the time, these results were considered an
anomaly, especially due to the fact that general science proposed a
general time of 16,000 years before present for the settling of the
By 1973, scientists returned to Hueyatlaco, hoping to conduct new excavations and attempt to once more examine the layers and to resolve the oddities of dating the finds.
However, their research concluded that the layers were not
eroded and that specimens were not mixed up.
This confirmed the
extremely old age of human habitation at the site, and further
deepened the enigma that was Hueyatlaco.
was extremely new at the time, and its reliability not well known,
while the fission track dating method had a substantial margin of
error. In time, the excavation team was separated by their views.
On the other hand, Harold Malde and Virginia Steen-McIntyre, other team leaders, firmly believed the original dating of 200,000 years before present - which was so revolutionary that it was hard to comprehend.
Some suggested that the 20,000 year theory by Irwin-Williams was “puzzling” and almost a deliberate tactic to discredit the find.
This was believed mainly because no evidence for that age was found in the excavations at all.
unearthed stone tools, some of which were
very crude and primitive implements,
but others that were far more sophisticated.
On the other hand, the other part of the team firmly believed in their 200,000 year theory, and were not willing to drop it.
In 1981, this faction made up of Malde,
Fryxell, and Steen-McIntyre published an extensive scientific paper
in the Journal of Quaternary Research, providing a detailed insight
and evidence for the extremely old dating of human habitation at the
All of these tests confirmed the age of the remains to be roughly 250,000 years old which confirmed their theories.
To that end, the authors wrote in their paper:
This was an educated, accurate response that acknowledged that such a radical claim did seem odd, but was not entirely impossible.
The story of Hueyatlaco continued to look like a deliberate attempt to discredit these finds or hide them under the carpet.
The evidence was there:
But seemingly, someone did not want that truth to be accepted.
To that end, Irwin-Williams, who was at odds with the rest of the team, raised objections to several aspects of the published paper, seemingly continuing her attacks on the finds.
The team were confident and quickly refuted her attempts to discredit their work.
Virginia Steen-McIntyre was at one point fired from her job due to her claims, and she also revealed that some of the original team members were harassed, their careers were threatened, and they were proclaimed incompetent - all because of their involvement in the project.
So, we need to wonder,
Sure, to some, the claims of such an old age might seem radical and
hard to believe. But rather than simply disagreeing with the claims,
mainstream scholars went to great lengths to attack, harass, and
fully discredit the professional work the team has conducted.
In 2004, for example, researcher Sam Van Landingham conducted extensive bio-stratigraphic analysis, confirming that the strata that bore the discovered tools was some 250,000 years old.
He re-confirmed these finds once again in 2006. He states in his papers that the samples can be dated to the so-called Sangamonian stage (from 80,000 to 220,000 years before present) due to the presence of several diatom species only appearing in that age.
appeared in 2008, when paleomagnetic testing was conducted on the
volcanic ash layers from the site, dating them to roughly 780,000
years before present.
It is not at all impossible that early man could have crossed over to the Americas much, much earlier than is currently believed. In fact, there already is the conundrum of the Solutrean theory, which tells us that the Clovis people, the proposed ancestors of the Native Americans, were not the first inhabitants of the Americas.
Besides these, there are numerous pieces of evidence across the continent that tell us that,