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Florida Sinkhole Reveals Evidence of Ancient Humans

May 16, 2016 12:56 PM EDT

Researchers who dived several times in an underwater Florida sinkhole discovered evidence of ancient humans, once again disproving earlier theories on the first people to come to the Americas.

A stone knife, mastodon tusk, animal bones and fossilized dung are just some of the unearthed materials from the site, which show that people already lived in the American Southeast by 14,550 years ago. This is 1,500 years earlier than previously thought.

This finding contests the long-held belief that Clovis people, which was thought to have arrived 13,000 years ago, are Americas' first people, as per Reuters.

The tools discovered in the sinkhole under the murky waters of the Aucilla River near Tallahassee revealed to have been used for butchering animals, particularly the mastodon, an extinct cousin of the elephant. The recovered tusk had cut marks that were likely used to detach it from its skull.

The researchers dived 890 times into the sinkhole, which was described to be very dark at 35 feet deep and 200 feet wide. Scientists said it was probably a small inland pond or water hole in the earlier times, which was used to corner their prey, as per The Guardian.

Scientists also uncovered bones that seem to be from dogs, suggesting that the hunter-gatherers either had them as companions or competition for meat.

How the humans reached Florida, however, is still a mystery. For decades, the so-called Clovis people were widely regarded as the first to reach the Americas. But several recent findings, including this one, prove that other humans may have settled in earlier than them.

The Guardian reported that the ancient humans may have traveled by boat via the Columbia river, sailed on the Mississippi river and made their way to Florida through the Gulf Coast.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances and adds further complexity to the migration paths of the ancient humans.

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