Skin and Bones

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The debate about when humans first arrived in the Americas is getting more intense after a new study found evidence that they were already in South America some 25,000 years ago, Cosmos Magazine reported.

Human arrival to the Americas is believed to have taken place around 16,000 years ago, but recent archaeological discoveries have hinted that it was much earlier: In 2013, a study conducted at the Brazilian cave of Toca da Tira Peia revealed that human-made objects found there dated back 22,000 years.

Recently, however, a research team studied artifacts found in the Santa Elina rock shelter in central Brazil, a site rich with cave paintings and stone tools.

They focused on three osteoderms belonging to giant sloths, an extinct behemoth that could grow to 13 feet in length and weighed more than 3,700 pounds.

These osteoderms – bony deposits found within the skin of some animals – had small holes and the researchers closely analyzed these fissures to determine if they were human-made or created by rodents.

Their findings suggested that ancient people had drilled these holes, suggesting that the osteoderms could have been used as ornaments. When the team dated the remains, they turned out to be between 25,000 to 27,000 years old.

This means that humans were already present in South America before the Last Glacial Maximum – the coldest part of the last Ice Age – 21,000 years ago, the authors said.

They told LiveScience that more research of other archaeological sites across South America could help settle the long-running debate about the prehistoric arrivals.

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