The Mastodon in the Room
Play • 30 min

Humans may have been in North America much earlier than previously thought. Here’s the evidence: chipped rocks, crushed mastodon bones, and reliable dates showing the remains are 130,000 years old. Is that enough to rewrite the history? SAPIENS co-hosts Chip Colwell and Jen Shannon talk to Steven and Kathleen Holen, archaeologists and co-authors of a controversial discovery. And they further evaluate the claims with the help of anthropologist Todd Braje.

Steven Holen and Kathleen Holen are co-directors of the Center for American Paleolithic Research. Steven’s publications include series on Great Plains Paleoindian Archaeology and Ice Age Humans in the Americas. (He co-edited both series with Kathleen.) Steven and Kathleen were co-authors of the Nature article “A 130,000-Year-Old Archaeological Site in Southern California, USA,” published in April 2017.

Todd Braje is a professor of anthropological archaeology. He has published two books and a co-edited volume. His most recent book is Shellfish for the Celestial Empire: The Rise and Fall of Commercial Abalone Fishing in California. Braje also serves as co-editor of The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology.

For SAPIENS’ original coverage of the mastodon site discovery, check out the news article “Broken Bones Could Rewrite Story of the First Americans.”

This episode of Sapiens was produced by Cat Jaffee, edited by Matthew Simonson, and hosted by Chip Colwell and Jen Shannon, with help from Esteban Gomez.

Sapiens producer Arielle Milkman, producer Paul Karolyi, and House of Pod intern Lucy Soucek provided additional support.

Fact checking is by Christine Weeber, illustration is by David Williams, and all music is composed and produced by Matthew Simonson.

Sapiens is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This is an editorially independent podcast funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and produced by House of Pod.


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