Saturday, April 7, 2018



Yukon scene with close-up of
bone with cut marks inset.
Public Domain.

I have long been interested in the possibility as to whether any rock art exists created in Beringia by the first immigrants to North America. I can see no reason why they would not have created rock art, pretty much everybody else did in prehistoric North America.

Close-up of bone fragment
with cut marks.,
Public Domain.

Now, materials recovered from the Bluefish Caves in the Yukon between 1977 and 1987, by archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars have belatedly provided evidence that humans had arrived in North America 24,000 years ago. (Boissoneault 2017) "At the time Cinq-Mars and his team concluded that the Bluefish Caves showed evidence of occasional human use as much as 30,000 years ago." (Eamer 2017) - In part 1 I will present the early date, and in part 2 I will add some speculations about the rock art.

Fragment of horse mandible
from Bluefish Caves,
Public Domain.

Naturally, Cinq-Mars' early dates raised considerable controversy and disagreement, after all, back then we all knew that the Clovis people of 13,000 years ago were the first inhabitants of North America.

"The discord surrounding Cinq-Mars' discovery resulted in a portion of the collection never being thoroughly analyzed and researchers eventually lost interest. But now, 40 years after Cinq-Mars' initial discovery, it seems the archaeologist has been vindicated. Canadian scientists Lauriane Bourgeon and Ariane Burke, assisted by University of Oxford professor Thomas Higham, conducted a two-year re-analysis of the bones found in the Bluefish Caves, poring over 36,000 bone fragments held in a collection at the Canadian Museum of History and studying fragments that hadn't previously been taphonomically classified. After doing a thorough classification of the markings on the bones as made by natural forces or humans, they conducted radiocarbon dating of those they deemed to have been marked by humans. The earliest bone to show distinct human-made marks - a horse jaw, sawed by a stone tool that indicates the hunter was attempting to remove the tongue - dates to 24,000 years ago." (Boissoneault 2017)

Diagram of placement of the
horse mandible fragment,,
Public Domain.

"Recent genetic studies suggest that some ancient people rode out the hostile conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum in isolation in the relatively hospitable Beringia - a continent, now mostly underwater, that once spanned from Siberia to Canada's Mackenzie River - before moving deeper into North America when conditions improved. Archaeological evidence of their presence has been elusive, but the butchered bones of the Bluefish Caves might provide that missing link." (Eamer 2017) So if the cut marks are interpreted correctly, and if the radiocarbon dates are correct, people were in North America as far back as 24,000 years ago.

Tools from Bluefish Caves,,
Public Domain.

The results of Cinq-Mars' excavation also provide evidence supporting the Beringia Standstill Hypothesis, the theory that during the last glacial maximum a population remained standing still in Beringia, cut off from moving further south by glaciation. "John Hoffecker, an archaeologist and human paleoecologist at the University of Colorado and proponent of the Beringia standstill hypothesis, agrees that the cut-marked bones are strong evidence of early human occupation. But what stunned him, he says, was a comment - taken from Cinq-Mars's original, unpublished notes - that stone tools were found in the lowest and oldest cave deposits. "As soon as I saw the information, I realized that there is a pretty solid case for the Last Glacial Maximum occupation 24,000 years ago."" (Eamer 2017)

But this is RockArtBlog - what does this have to do with rock art? Well, we know people make rock art, and people from 24,000 years ago might well have made rock art too. As Eamer stated above, Beringia is now "mostly underwater" but, in the portions remaining available to us there is the possibility of rock art as old as 24,000 years. What a find that would be, what might it look like? - To Be Continued.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Eamer, Claire
2017 Archaeological Find Puts Humans in North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought, January 13, 2017,

Boissoneault, Lorraine,
2017 North America 10,000 Years Earlier Than We Thought,

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