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New artifacts suggest civilization in America began earlier than thought

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Dr. Clark Wernecke says 2.6 million artifacts have been discovered at the Gault Site in Central Texas.

"That's just an unheard of quantity," said Wernecke.

What's also surprising, the artifacts suggest people must have arrived somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago.

Wernecke said, "So, much earlier than we had originally thought."

"Very slow going," added Wernecke. "Every object larger than a dime, we get its exact depth, with a laser...It goes on with a permanent maker on a tag in a little baggie, then all that information goes on the outside of the bag. Everything is done two or three times because we can't afford to lose any information."

The years of dedication to meticulous digging is finally paying off.

"The first thing we found was engraved stones," said Wernecke. "The earliest ones that we have out here at Gault, which are at least 13,000 years old, are the earliest provenience art in the Americas. "We found a stone floor...and it has Clovis age or earlier artifacts scattered around it or on it and the scatter around it tells us that it had a structure on it. That's the earliest house in North America."

The Clovis Culture, dating back to about 13,000 years ago, is thought to be the first culture in America, but Dr. Clark says the artifacts disagree.

Wernecke said, "We know that people were here earlier, but we don't know much about them...We're getting a lot more things out that might help us finally be able to define what that earlier culture is, at least here in Central Texas."

The big discovery is that the group is far from primitive.

"Every one of the tools we dig up, I can still buy at Home Depot and Wal-Mart," added Wernecke.

They also survived the glaciers melting.

Wernecke said, "That's global's gonna happen again...Learning how people coped with dramatic changes in environment, can help us understand a lot more about the future."

In the future, you may instead hear of the Florence Culture being the earliest named culture in the Americas.

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