I've been writing a blog to debunk a tv special saturated with woo, including a section about Hueyatlaco - which I've actually debunked before. The trouble is that the status of Hueyatlaco has shifted, making it harder to debunk.
Essentially Hueyatlaco is a 'kill site' of antiquity that has some rather wild dates associated with it. A tephrochronologist named Virginia Steen-McIntyre, who worked on the site as a graduate student, has made it a personal crusade to bring attention to the anomalous dating. She's an easy target for personal discrediting, hating evolution for religious reasons, but the information about the site isn't as easy to discredit as it was the last time I wrote about it.
A biostratigraphic researcher named Sam VanLandingham has now published a couple peer reviewed papers corroborating very old dates (with wide range of error) for the site and the old rebuttals from Steen-McIntyre's colleagues are no longer to be found online.
I spent yesterday evening looking around for some good information to discredit the dating and kept thinking about Steen-McIntyre's religions background when I finally decided that I was doing exactly what she is accusing the scientific community of doing to her work on that site - discounting it simply because it doesn't fit with the model of human migration rather than dealing with the dating directly.
So, can anyone help me with some solid information or academic analysis of the site?
Here is a list of archived information on the site - mostly from Steen-McIntyre
I don't know anything about geology or archeology, but using critical thinking it seems that the geological dating comes up accurate again and again; the suspect part is the tools, and how diverse they were, and from non-local materials, adding this to a personal crusade, it seems that they really could have been planted. This smells like Piltdown Man or the Crystal Skull.
If the archeological community aren't going all crazy over this, and it's mostly ignored, it seems reasonable to forget about the site, and the tools, because the whole situation is "suspect". It may not be possible to debunk geologically. The rocks may really be that old (~250,000) but the tools are not necessarily from those strata.
When there is only one piece of evidence that contradicts a massive amount of evidence, such as is this case, it is prudent to require extraordinary corroboration of the facts (all of the facts, not just the age of the rocks) before proceeding to dismantling all that it is known about Homo sapiens in the New World, and this involves not only geology and archeology, but genetic evidence as well.
No one ever accused her of planting the tools, however, and it doesn't seem that she was in any position to do so on the first go around. If I am understanding what I am reading, Sam VanLandingham and further established the in situ location of the tools as well as an old date for the site. Although this could be interpreted as Piltdown, it could also be interpreted as Taung Child (took decades to receive recognition because of Piltdown).
What if a small band left Africa 50 Ka (or more) and migrated to North America - splitting off from the Australian headed group in Southern China - and then died off? When did Neanderthals leave Africa? The only reason we have a decent fossil record of them is because they flourished. Maybe there will be an anomalous skeleton eventually found in Mexico.
The Wikipedia article says that a Mexican archaeologist thought the tools could have been planted (it doesn't say by whom). It is strange that the tools were not made from local rocks. The age of the rocks seems to be ~between 80K and 250K; this is so much further back than all the other evidence, including the genetic evidence, suggest for Homo sapiens in the Americas.
Here's what Wiki says:
In 1967, Jose L. Lorenzo of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia claimed that implements had been planted at the site by local laborers in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible to determine which artifacts were discovered in situ and which were planted. Irwin-Williams counter-argued that Lorenzo's claims were malicious and without merit. Furthermore, in 1969 Irwin-Williams cited statements of support from three prominent archeologists and anthropologists (Richard MacNeish, Hannah Marie Wormington and Frederick A. Peterson) who had each visited the site independently and attested to the integrity of the excavations and the professionalism of the group's methodology.
First dating publication
In mid-1969, Szabo, Malde and Irwin-Williams published their first paper about dating the excavation site. The stone tools were discovered in situ in a stratum that also contained animal remains. Radiocarbon dating of the animal remains produced an age of over 35,000 ybp. Uranium dating produced an age of 260,000 ybp, ± 60,000 years.
The authors admitted that they had no definitive explanation for the anomalous results. However, Malde suggested the tool-bearing strata had possibly been eroded by an ancient streambed, thus combining older and newer strata and complicating dating.
Of course, as you say, it is possible that there was a branch of humans that migrated earlier and then died off, the genetics of course only applies to people who made it to the present day, not dead branches. But in the absence of a skeleton, or other anomalous sites, this seems to be just an oddity for the moment. It seems to be one of those cases where suspending judgment is the prudent thing to do. I'm not an archaeologist, but there must be a reason why archaeologists are not rushing to revise all their knowledge of Homo sapiens migration into the Americas.
This controversy is now decades old, it's so hard to go back and figure out what happened at the excavations in the 1960s. It is interesting that the animal bones are ~35K and the rocks are 250K years old.There seems to simply be no explanation for the anomaly. the dating is complicated, as Wiki says, by the possible combination of older and new strata.
The first time I read this through there was a fairly solid report by one of the original investigators supporting the stream bed contamination hypothesis since the area is subject to flooding. There were also a lot of rebuttals to that report suggesting that the investigation by the American Geological Survey team ruled out that sort of disturbance. At the time it seemed that the main reason Steen-McIntyre became such a black sheep over the whole issue was because she was running around with a 2 million year old date. As it turns out, however, her claim is that the strata layer dated to 250,000 and the animal remains dated to 35,000 but that Irwan-Williams had given the team an ultimatum to go with an unsupported 20,000 year age.
The whole thing is quite a muck up from my perspective. I started out with a lovely video to debunk, full of all sorts of creationists and lay-speculators citing well debunked material, going so far as to even exaggerate the already hoaxed claims that it was touting. In the middle was this Steen-McIntyre woman whom I had already written a nice rebuttal about 2 or 3 years ago but now this Sam VanLandingham character jumps in with technical looking paperwork supporting an old date and undisturbed location for new tools.
I can still debunk the video quite well, but I would have preferred to have a solid body slam on Hueyatlaco in there. Now I'll have to wade through that more gently and it sort of takes some of the momentum out of my piece, :(
This link seems to list where they are published in old fashioned actual paper:
That makes three of us They all seem to be abstracts of the actual papers and not being familiar with the naming of American strata makes it hard for me to understand.