Aborigines may have Occurred in South America and Southwestern North America Before the Last Glacial Maximum

There is tantalizing genetic and archaeological evidence suggesting small ephemeral populations of people related to Australian aborigines occupied parts of South America and southwestern North America thousands of years before Amerindians colonized the continents. The archaeological evidence predates or at some sites is simultaneous with the Last Glacial Maximum, the climate phase when the most recent Ice Age glaciers reached their greatest extent about 21,000 years ago. Mainstream archaeologists long believed the first humans arrived in the Americas about 14,000 years ago, but there are just too many compelling archaeological sites, especially in South America and southwestern North America, that contradict this view. The radio-carbon dates can’t be wrong on all of them. Examples of archaeological sites predating or simultaneous with the Last Glacial Maximum include Monte Verde, Chile (33,000 years BP), Toca de Tara Peia, Brazil (20,000 years BP), Arroyo del Vizcaina, Uruguay (30,000 years BP), fossil footprints in Argentina (30,000 years BP), Chiquihuite Cave, Mexico (26,000 years-19,000 years BP), Conxcatlan Cave, Mexico (30,000 years BP) and fossil footprints in New Mexico (21,000 years BP). Now, a recent study of a site in New Mexico determined humans butchered a mammoth and calf here 37,000 years ago.

The recently studied site located in New Mexico is known as the Harley Mammoth Locality named after the hiker who found it. Scientists examined the mammoth bones using CAT scans and determined the mammoths were butchered by humans. The skulls were broken to extract the calorie-rich brains. Ribs were removed from vertebrae–a logical step when breaking down a large mammal. Calorie-rich marrow was extracted from the bones as well. 6 chert flakes, debitage from toolmaking, were found in situ. And it appears as if some of the bones were used for fuel to cook fish over open campfires. Fish scales were found, though the site is 70 yards from the nearest source of water. There is no sign of carnivore scavenging, but the scientists did find termite and cicada burrows in the bones. Insects likely burrowed into the bones after they were slowly buried when rain over time washed sediment downslope over the bones. Later, wind eroded some of this sediment away, allowing Hartley to find some of this material.

Stones modified by tool-making found at the Hartley Mammoth Site dated to an incredible 37,000 years BP. Image from the below reference.
Mammoth bones with evidence of human butchering. From the Hartley Mammoth Site located in New Mexico. Image also from the below reference.

3 Indian tribes found in the Amazon Basin, including the Surui, Karitiana, and Xavanti, have a genetic marker suggesting some of their ancestry is related to the ancestors of Australian aborigines. This genetic marker is known as the Y population and is found in no other known populations of Indian tribes. The oldest known human skeleton in the Americas, the Anzick child from South Dakota, dates to about 12,900 years ago and does not have this genetic marker. This genetic evidence suggests 2 different populations colonized the Americas. Aborigines colonized Australia about 40,000 years ago, and it seems likely they were capable of long-distance sea travel then–a knowledge that was lost over time. Small groups of them may have discovered South America at about the same time their relatives found Australia. Maybe, they were so traumatized by harrowing sea journeys, they decided to stick to land, and over a generation they forgot how to travel by sea. I hypothesize populations of aborigines in America remained low over millennia and likely were always on the verge of extinction in the harsh environments of the Late Pleistocene. The later invasion of more technologically advanced Indians probably displaced the aborigines across most of their range with the exception of the Amazon Basin where they interbred. Perhaps, Indians were more dependent upon aborigine knowledge in the more challenging environment of the Amazon jungle.

3 tribes in the Amazon basin have a genetic signature shared with Australian aborigines. No other Indian tribes in the Americas have this signature. These tribes may be relics from a more widespread population that was displaced by Indians during the Late Pleistocene. Linguistic evidence also suggests the former existence of aborigines alongside Amerindians.

Apparently, aborigines didn’t have as negative an impact on megafauna populations as the Indians. They were fewer in number and never specialized in hunting megafauna, though they did occasionally kill large animals. They probably preferred exploiting small game and fish because it was less risky. Small aborigine tribes couldn’t risk casualties when hunting larger more dangerous animals.


Rowe, T. et. al.

“Human Occupation of the North American Colorado Plateau ~37,000 years ago”

Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution July 2022


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