Author of the Month

The First American: The Suppressed Story of the People Who Discovered the New World
By Christopher Hardaker

The First American by Christopher Hardaker (New Page Books) was released in June and is available in all fine bookshops and through

The Discoveries

This is the story of a remarkable art piece discovered in 1959 by an equally remarkable man at the Valsequillo Reservoir outside the city of Puebla, about 75 miles south of Mexico City. Juan Armenta Camacho stunned the world with his discovery of a mineralized elephant pelvis with engravings of elephants, big cats, and other extinct animals.

The engravings had been made when the bone was still fresh, still "green." Whoever made these engravings actually saw those animals, and probably even ate and prayed to them. The most amazing critter of them all was smack dab in the middle of the thing. A four-tusked gomphothere, an ancestor of the mastodon, and extinct in the U.S. for over a million years.

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But in Central Mexico, these mythical beasts lived among mammoths and mastodons. And humans. This was absolutely amazing. Other engraved pieces were also found. Nobody in the Americas had ever seen anything like this before. They were all mineralized! It was totally new in every meaning of the word, except for their age which could be very old.

Harvard archaeologist Cynthia Irwin-Williams and Juan Armenta Camacho, with direct support from Harvard and the Smithsonian, found another 80-90 mammoth and mastodon bone sites around the perimeter of the reservoir in 1962. Then they excavated three sites on the Tetela Peninsula. All had artifacts next to mineralized bones that were left behind after butchering,

The sites themselves were laid out pretty much how the hunters left them. The features were covered by successive layers of sands and silts deposited by a very slow creek, and were laid out in the same positions as they were originally buried. In the business of paleo-archaeology, it is called primary deposition, and in this respect, Valsequillo was pure gold.

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