Laguna Woman, found in Laguna Beach in 1933 by Howard Wilson, are the Oldest human remains in the western hemisphere. At 17,000 years old, Laguna Woman is the first American.


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It's Official...
17,000 Years Old!

The Laguna Skull is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere!
The news rocks the American Anthropological community!

Willard F. LibbyDr. Willard Libby, Dean of the UCLA Geophysics Lab was awarded The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1960. "for his method to use carbon-14 for age determination in archaeology, geology, geophysics, and other branches of science".

The Laguna skull was brought to him by Dr. Louis Leakey and Dr. Rainer Burger, the head of Anthropology Department at UCLA. Together the three scientists applied the most rigorous testing possible to the Laguna Skull to determine once and for all it's actual age.

Anything that lives on earth breaths. You do, I do, a bacteria does. The air contains many elements that become part of a living organism as it breaths. including a large amount of the stable element Carbon 12 (C-12), with a small percentage of the unstable isotope Carbon 14 (C-14). All during our lives we take in the same proportion of C-12 to C-14, but when you die, no more C-14 is taken in, and it begins to slowly decay over time into the stable isotope C-12. It takes about 60,000 years for all of the C-14 to decay into C-12. By measuring the amount of C-14 left in the bones or in other organic materials, scientists can calculate how long the organism has been dead. Carbon-14 dating has become the most sensitive and reliable method for dating recent archaeological finds, and today it is the standard tool used by research labs worldwide.

Working carefully and deliberately, the three scientists ran their sensitive tests for many days at the UCLA Geophysics Lab. About 20 percent of the skull would have to be crushed up and burned for a testing sample, so the area at the back of the skull was chosen to leave as much of the skull intact as possible for future study. The entire small leg bone fragment found along with skull was destroyed for testing also, but the results were worth the loss.

The results finally confirmed what many had suspected. The skull was old... very old.

Carbon 14 Lab results
Read the official RadioCarbon report!
Click on image for full-size

At 17,000 years old, they were the oldest human remains ever found in the entire Western Hemisphere. Nearly twice as old as anything previously known. The Laguna Skull is the FIRST American!

At the same time, a number of sensitive and precise measurements of the skull's various morphological features made by Dr. Berger also changed how the world thought of the skull. Using very precise measurements, the sex of the skull could be positively stated.

Dr. Berger also now announced to the world that the skull was not "Laguna Man" as everyone had thought, but "Laguna Woman"!

At last, scientists had the truth, and it rocked the world of Anthropology. Entire careers had rested upon theories of when people had first entered the New World, and now most of those theories crumbled.

The generally accepted theory was that early man had entered the Americas by walking across a land bridge between Asia and the American continent that was exposed when the sea level fell when much of the water in the oceans were locked up in the great glaciers that covered the land during the last ice age. This land bridge was formed across what is now the Bering Straits. According to the best physical evidence at that time, the date of mans' entrance into the Americas was around 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Elaborate and well reasoned theories supporting this belief fell with a resounding crash. Here before them was proof that the migration ( if it actually happened the way scientists imagined ) had occurred much earlier then any one thought possible. Twice as early!

But even more astounding, the Laguna Woman is probably far older then this official date.

The many years of human handling had added much "fresh" C14 to the skull. The "younger" seashells imbedded in the bone, along with recent organic material and minerals that had leeched into the skull all conspired to make the skull date younger then it actually was.

Dr. Louis Leakey was convinced that if the skull had not been so contaminated with fresh C14, that it's actual age would have proved to be between 30 to 40,000 years old! Stunning!

This startling news set off intense archeological interest in looking for more bone fragments that might still be in the same area where the skull was found so many years ago on St. Anns Street.

Now the hunt was on again!


 

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© 1986 - 2010 Steve Turnbull
last updated February 22, 2014