• Baylor researchers play large part in discovery of earliest inhabitants of the Americas

    For nearly a century, scientists have worked off the theory that the earliest humans to populate the Americas came over from Asia about 13,000 years ago. But now, in conjunction with scientists from Texas A&M and other universities, Baylor geology researchers have found evidence of the earliest human occupation on the continent — and right outside our back door.

    Dr. Lee Nordt, professor of geology at Baylor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Steve Driese, professor and chair of geology at Baylor, helped validate the age of the nearly 16,000 artifacts discovered during a dig outside Salado, about 50 miles south of Waco. Their analysis of the soil around the artifacts found that it had not been disturbed since the artifacts were discarded more than 15,000 years ago — dating the civilization that used those tools as the earliest known in the Americas.

    In the world of archaeology, the discovery is a turning point in how researchers view the earliest settlements in the Americas. The study, published last week in the journal Science, has received coverage in media ranging from The New York Times to the BBC to Scientific American, not to mention regional and local coverage from The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Waco Tribune-Herald, KCEN-HD (video) and others. A follow-up story in the Trib (subscription required) explains how Baylor’s involvement in such a discovery will likely boost the university’s and the department’s reputation in academic circles.

    My favorite tagline on the story comes from Texas Monthly‘s Twitter feed, where they joked that the “first Americans were not born in Texas, but they got here as fast as they could.”

    Sic ’em, Baylor researchers!

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