Doctoral student addresses critics of the Cerutti Mastodon Controversary

An anonymous doctoral student associated with the Cerutti Mastodon research addresses critics on Reddit as follows:

First off, my qualifications: My current advisor is the third author on this paper and I worked under (and collaborated with) the second author when I worked at the San Diego Natural History Museum (in fact, I re-prepared some of the material in this paper about 6 years ago). Furthermore, I am a doctoral student in the final months (hopefully) of my PhD. My dissertation work has been on proboscideans (elephants and their relatives), but I have also done a fair amount of work on cetaceans (whales) and other vertebrates.

As far as the dating methods go, this site was dated using multiple types of absolute dating methods, which all resulted in a very similar age. However, the Uranium-series dating (not to be confused with radiocarbon dating, which could not give you an accurate age this old) that was used here got results with a very high confidence. In fact there is essentially no evidence of alteration that might lead to an older date (which really would not be common anyways). The dates recovered are almost unimpeachable (and I don’t say that lightly). I would be very surprised if a geochronologist or any other expert had a major problems with the dates themselves (in fact a geochronologist was a reviewer for this paper for just this reason). Also, to the people that are saying that it is perhaps time to reassess our methods of isotopic dating in general, I strongly suggest you spend more time researching and trying to understand these methods before you make a claim like this…

One other misconception that I keep seeing here are peoples’ interpretation of what is meant by “human” in this paper. “Human” is meant here in the sense of a species of the genus Homo, not necessarily Homo sapiens specifically. In fact, because of the old age it seems fairly unlikely that this would be the modern species of human rather than some other [unknown] species.

I’m sure there will be other questions or comments here throughout the next day or so, and I will try to check in from time to time and update this post. I’m also happy to answer any questions that I can (to the best of my knowledge).

Edit 1: To the folks wondering if this site could have been scavenged by humans (as opposed to hunted), I would say that, that is absolutely possible. In fact there is really no evidence one way or another to argue for hunting over scavenging at this site, and I don’t believe that this paper takes a stance on this either. In fact, I would say that the argument of hunting vs scavenging in association with this mastodon is somewhat irrelevant. What is important is that this extremely old site (relatively speaking, anyways) has fairly clear association with ancient human activity.

Edit 2: Several people have pointed out that the article discusses a lack of evidence of meat stripping on the specimen. This does suggest scavenging, as it likely means the soft tissue was at least somewhat rotted and not usable.

Edit 3: Many people are suggesting that this animal could have been scavenged or had its bones modified many thousands of years after its death (i.e., implying the tools are much younger than the mastodon). To that point 1) the type of breakage seen on these bones is indicative of damage while the bone was still fresh. Fresh bone (sometimes called “green bone”) breaks in a very different “spiral pattern” than older dried out bone; and 2) you have to remember that the sediments that the tools and mastodon are found in represent the context in which they were buried. Therefore since these materials were all found within the same layer they must have been buried at the same time. It is possible that ancient humans exhumed old bones (though I know of no actual evidence of this), but we would see telltale signs of disturbance to the sediment (which was not observed here).
In other words, I don’t think that arguments about this site will come down to whether the material is associated and coeval, but whether folks think that these artifacts are indeed stone tools. Those people who do not agree with this identification will then have to reconcile the crazy taphonomy at this site and attribute it to some other natural process (which will be no small feat, IMHO).

Edit 4: For the people asking why we don’t have any evidence of humans (or human remains) in North America in the time between the age of this site and more generally accepted dates:

First off, I would just like to note that we are almost certainly not talking about a direct lineage of humans between the time of this site and those of Clovis times (in fact, as I’ve stated above, we are likely not even talking about the same species). This was likely a very small population of humans that made it to North America that probably died out long before the modern species of human ever made it over. In that sense, there isn’t necessarily a gap of time to “bridge”.

As for why potential sites might not be preserved: There are a couple of reasons that you might not have evidence of humans found from this time. First off, you may not have rocks of the right age readily exposed in the region where the individuals were living (which is somewhat the case on the west coast, as far as I am aware). Second, the individuals could be living in an environment that is not conducive to preserving fossils (e.g., organisms that live in montane environments tend to not preserve in the fossil record because sediments are not being deposited in those regions). Third, getting preserved in the fossil record (in general) is very rare, and if your study organism has a very small population size or is short lived (as we would expect in the case here) then you have a very very low probability of being preserved (let alone found and collected). Finally, even if these scenarios aren’t the case, there is the possibility that scientists have just been looking in the wrong strata, region, or age.

Three reasons the Cerutti Mastodon was not manipulated by hominins

A team of scientists recently announced an extraordinary claim that the 130,000 Cerutti Mastodon was manipulated by hominins.

“I have read that paper and I was astonished by it,” archaeologist Donald Grayson of the University of Washington. “I was astonished not because it is so good, but because it is so bad. Cracked bones and chipped stones at a fossil site might mean anything”, said Grayson. “It is quite another thing to show that people, and people alone, could have produced those modifications. The study doesn’t take that step, he said, “making this a very easy claim to dismiss.”

Gary Haynes of the University of Nevada Reno had this to say, “The paper states that the bones were being exposed by a backhoe. These pieces of heavy equipment weigh seven to fifteen tons or more, and their weight on the sediments would have crushed bones and rocks against each other.” When asked, Holen, the study leader, said that it “was very easy to tell the difference” between fractures made by stone hammers and those seen in bones crushed by bulldozers. He did not elaborate on how the differences manifest. “He’s pretty much dead wrong — there’s no definable difference,” Haynes said. A similar fossil dispute broke out in 2015 over a 24,000 year old mammoth in Maryland, he noted, shown to be fractured by heavy equipment. Also troubling, the “hammer” and “anvil” stones described in the paper don’t unequivocally look like tools, said Michael Waters of Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of the First Americans.

Michael Waters of Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of the First Americans noted that the “hammer” and “anvil” stones described in the paper don’t unequivocally look like tools. The study also runs afoul of the mounting genetic evidence, which indicates that the first people to reach the Americas and eventually give rise to modern Native Americans arrived no earlier than 25,000 years ago.”

ISLAM: Don’t Tarnish All With The Same Brush

This issue is a very complicated one. Ultimately, belief in Allah is akin to belief in the tooth fairy. Science demonstrates the lack of a spiritual realm.

I admire Bill Maher for his crusade of free speech. The more I watch him, the more I develop a more well rounded opinion of his views. There are some aspects of his opinions that I do disagree with. One, so far is his labelling of all Muslims as terrorists. Which is very unfair, indeed.

Now for Islam, the religion of Surrender. Surrendering all rational thought. It is one of the most popular imagineria in the world. It is deeply embedded in culture and tradition. There are 71 denominations of Islam, making it one of the least divided of the world religions. Add on top of that those who use military force to exert power and subjugation on others. Ultimately it is unfair of Bill Maher to label all of Islam based on a small group. I have a fear however, that apologetics will go too far to the point that we can allow Islam to exist. Religion was first established to answer questions like ” why are we here”, What is our purpose in Life”, How did our surroundings come to be”. In an era of Sciencelessness (new word for the Lexicographers), religion provided some convenient answers. With the dawn of the age of enlightenment, convenient lies were replaced with some semblance of reality. Religions are conglomerates of moral stories, rules and traditions, thrown together by humans from their own sense of morality. Religion is Iron Age and Medieval Morality.

Rula is encouraging Islamic Portectionism, siding with the Berkeley Dictators. Islam is NOT immune from criticism. The Qur’ an is the source of morality for ISIS (or DAESH as ISIS apparently despise to be called). It is the root of the problem. You say the Qur’ an is the word of God………………………it is amazing how variously and differently you can interpret it.

Why Complicated? Well humans being the apes that they are, like to fight for resources. The unrest in the Middle East is more than a religious problem.

Three things humanity can do to develop more respect for woman

In recent days youtube has lit up with videos about catcalling. An individual, nearly always male, shouts unflattering comments at a particular woman about how she looks, in public, on the streets. The unflattering aspect is, these women are objectified, a disrespectful mannerism.

I came across this video today:

This is very interesting and expected. There is a level of Islamophobia generally in the West. This manifests itself in various levels of intensity. So, this may explain the lack of catcalling to a degree.

Now, the Hijab-to-counteract-catcalling hypothesis is no excuse to legitimise the wearing of the Hijab. Traditionally the wearing of such is required by Allah, by Islam and as is well known this belief system is a figment of humanity’s imagination. From a Muslim standpoint, this video will be referenced to legitimise the Hijab wearing. It superficially halts catcalling. That’s fine, but men will always be men. Read on……

I want to address the issue of catcalling. Let’s examine all the cities of the world to see what results we would gain their. Of course, it depends upon the area you pass. Passing a red light district will give a particular set of results, while passing a financial district will give another. If you do not want to be catcalled avoid a red light district for example.

OK, so if you live in an area with high catcalling rates, nothing can be done in the short term. But long term, male attitudes need to change and raising awareness helps.

Afro-americans are unfairly represented, in my opinion. They will be maligned a great deal by this. Now, there are 20 hours of footage here…………..what was edited out. If the selection actually reflects an average for that twenty hours, then we are looking at a human male culture that has not changed with the times.

As male ape’s, we are no different from males of other genera. We are evolutionarily set to check out the opposite sex. Just read the selfish gene. Ultimately, some are asking for males to change their attitude. Truth is it’s hard to reverse millions of years of evolutionary statis. Culture has only recently developed exponentially over the last 200,000 years. Change will not come overnight while a sexdrive is around.

The rise of Islam, is subjugation of the feminine on an infamous epic scale. The West continued to surge ahead with progress, leaving Arabia behind in the smoke and dust. When I refer to the West, I’m not talking about the US and Europe, I’m talking about those regions of the North American, mainland SE Asian and European continents which were greatly influenced by the enlightenment of the 18th century onwards. Places where learning and knowledge are valued and Scientific methodology prevail.

There are locations, for example segments of New York or the American midwest or the Tabloid reading demographic, where this is not the case. Homophobia, sexism, rascism and religious tolerance still persists to varying degrees. All that can be done here is

1. stop buying gutter journalism. Need I say more…
2. Raise awareness of accepted and unexaggerated political correction ((respect for women: stop catcalling), rascism, homophobia)
3. Vote Democrate (if state-side)
4. Understand that we are all animals and if we keep that in mind, we will accept being evolutionarily driven organisms with one goal the desire to procreate.

Summary: How do you stop catcalling? Hijab is not the answer, raising awareness is. But know that it is going to take some time before catcalling diminishes on city streets. Doesn’t mean it will disappear, because it won’t. As long as there are two sexes, there will always be catcalling.

P.s: This ignores same-sex catcalling as there is little useful data.