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North America’s Oldest Inhabitants Found in Texas

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Museums with illustrations of early North American human inhabitants often assert that the first peoples on the continent were the Clovis natives who lived during the Ice Age. But a handful of archaeological sites have shown evidence of human occupation found in soil layers that are below, and hence earlier than, Clovis remains.

However, museums have not jettisoned their “Clovis hunters were first” displays because the pre-Clovis evidence from these sites was not compelling enough. A new report in the journal Science may change that, opening the question of how and when North America was first inhabited.

Archaeologists from various universities have been excavating a site beside Buttermilk Creek west of Salado, Texas. In the past, the creek periodically overflowed, covering an inhabited site with clay-rich sediment. Careful sifting of this sediment has turned up over 15,000 stone artifacts, most of which are tiny chipped flakes left over from making tools. However, some of the obviously human artifacts were completed and show signs of use, including a chert knife rounded for use in scraping hides.

The team found evidence of the Clovis culture about halfway down the excavated layers, but then they found more stone tools buried below that. The artifacts were in layers that corresponded to a succession of peoples, with the most recent at the top.

Thus, the data would seem to indicate that people were living in Texas and in other North American locations before the Clovis peoples.

The soil layering and artifacts comprise straightforward evidence, but the dates assigned to the various layers contradict the Bible’s eyewitness accounts. In museums, Clovis peoples are typically assigned an age of 13,000 or so years ago. The putative pre-Clovis artifacts found in Texas were dated at up to 15,500 years ago. But according to the Bible, the whole world has only existed for about 6,000 years. How long ago did these people actually live?

It is apparent that an ice age followed the global Genesis Flood. During this period, which lasted about 500 years, massive glacial ice covered huge portions of continents in northern latitudes.1 Vast quantities of water from melting ice built up behind dams and were sometimes catastrophically drained, carving new landscapes like the Grand Canyon and the English Channel, and depositing new sediments like those in South Dakota’s Badlands and Wyoming’s Green River Formation. All this drainage added volume to the seas, which rose by over 300 feet compared to the level at the beginning of the Ice Age.

The Ice Age was also characterized by distinctive animals, such as saber-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths. Their fossils are found in deposits near the top of earth’s surface, above the larger regional-extending Flood deposits. Apparently, Ice Age animals, plants, and peoples were caught, buried, and fossilized by some of the residual ice-melt floods and other catastrophic Ice Age events.2

Clovis people remains, for example, have been found buried alongside those of wooly mammoths. Since the Flood occurred around 4,400 years ago according to chronological records in the Bible, the Ice Age probably lasted until 3,900 or so years before the present day. This time range frames the Ice Age remains, including Clovis and any pre-Clovis peoples. But this timing is apparently challenged by the “optically stimulated luminescence” (OSL) technique that was used to date soil crystals from the Texas site. The authors even reported that “the dates correlate in time and depth,” and that this correlation helps verify the ages they have assigned.3

However, the technique does not measure years, but electrons. The Science “News Focus” feature that summarized the research gave a false impression when it stated:

The team opted to use optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), a technique that measures the amount of light energy trapped in quartz and feldspar grains in the clay and dates the last time they were exposed to sunlight. The lowest tool-laden horizon dated to 15,500 years ago—more than 2 millennia before the first Clovis sites.4

According to the sentence structure, the “technique…dates the last time.” But in reality, the measured light-energized electron values have to be converted to dates, and this requires assumptions. For example, OSL assumes that the electrons have been losing energy at a constant rate since their last exposure to light, that no other process could add to or take away the measured energy in the intervening time, and that the data must adhere to the standard dates provided for the Ice Age, which according to the evolutionary model ended 10,000 years ago instead of 3,900.

No standard dating technique is immune to revision, and OSL is no exception. The history of disputes over the age of Australia’s oldest human remains, called Mungo Man, shows that OSL is fallible. In this case, carbon dating, uranium dating, stratigraphy, and thermoluminescence have all provided different “ages,” ranging from 28,000 to 63,000 years, for Mungo Man. The remains may have been authoritatively “dated” at 40,000 years old by evolution-only consensus—but not by direct measures.5

If these OSL-stamped evolutionary dates for the Texas deposits are reliable, then why would archaeologist Gary Haynes suggest that more dating is needed? According to Science, “Haynes isn’t sure the tools date to pre-Clovis times and would like radiocarbon dates to be certain.”4 The site didn’t have appropriate material for radiocarbon dating or the study authors would have used that technique.

Within hundreds of years of the end of the Flood, right amidst the Ice Age, Genesis recorded that the people of the earth had gathered themselves in one place, and that “the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.”6 Therefore, one would expect that people traveled from the Middle East to North America, which is within “all the earth.” The Bible indicates, and archaeology shows, that people pioneered this continent during the Ice Age.


  1. Vardiman, L. 2008. Rapid Surging of Glacial Ice Lobes. Acts & Facts. 37 (12): 6.
  2. Vardiman, L. 2003. Hypercanes Following the Genesis Flood. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. L. Ivey, Jr., ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 17-28.
  3. Waters, M. R. et al. 2011. The Buttermilk Creek Complex and the Origins of Clovis at the Debra L Friedkin Site, Texas. Science. 331 (6024): 1599-1603.
  4. Pringle, H. 2011. Texas Site Confirms Pre-Clovis Settlement of the Americas. Science. 331 (6024): 1512.
  5. Bowler, J. M. et al. 2003. New ages for human occupation and climatic change at Lake Mungo, Australia. Nature. 421 (6925): 837-840.
  6. Genesis 11:8.

Image credit: Copyright © 2011 AAAS. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

* Mr. Brian Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

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Adams’ Chart of History (Bound)

A vintage reproduction of this famous illustrated timeline of earth history first published in 1871.

The foldout chart features detailed, full-color drawings of various stages of history, from Adam and Eve to the late 19th century, with handwritten commentary throughout. Perfect for educational settings or Sunday School walls, it includes the descriptive booklet that was originally published with the chart. Follows James Ussher’s time-line from The Annals of the World (also in paperback), the inspiration for Adams’ monumental work.

About Institute for Creation Research

The central core of ICR's mission is scientific research, which formed the basis of our founding in 1970 by Dr. Henry M. Morris. A respected scientist in his own field of hydrology, which led to the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961, Dr. Morris saw clearly that good science—the proper handling and interpretation of scientific evidence—would demonstrate the veracity of the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood. For 40 years, ICR has been the leader in scientific research from a biblical perspective, conducting innovative laboratory and field research in the major disciplines of science, as well as in ancient biblical studies and graduate science education. ICR maintains laboratory facilities on its campus in Dallas, Texas. www.icr.org

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  • Howard Engel

    Where dose the existance of Dinasours fit in with the timelines given in this article. If the age of the earth is only 6000yrs. or even 16,000yrs?
    The Bible dose not even mention them in the scriptures.
    I am a firm and devout believer in the Bible but I don’t believe the Bible can be used for accurate discriptions of timelines. I believe many thousands of years existed before the time Man came on the scene.There is really no way of decifering how many years the earth existed before the time of the dinasours and Man. There is no record of Dinasours in the pre-flood era or after but we do know that they did exist from the fossil records.Remember, the Lord said that a thousand years is as a day to the lord which to me is just an example of timing according to the Bible. I don’t believe (one day)as in creation is literal. One day could have been many thousands of years between the creation-days. Of course this is just my thinking and always has been.

    • http://creationrevolution.com R.L. David Jolly

      Howard. Thank you for your comments and questions. I pray you will find this response to be adequate and informative.

      First of all, this article was pointing out the problems with the dating method used by the team studying the artifacts that were found at the Texas site. It rejected the 15, 500 year old date because of the biblical age of the earth being about 6,000 years old.

      Secondly, the Bible never mentioned dinosaurs because the word ‘dinosaur’ wasn’t coined until 1841. Prior to that time people used other terms such as dragon, serpent and monster. There are dragon legends the world over and many of them yield very similar descriptions to what we know as dinosaurs. For more information on dinosaurs and dragons and the Bible click on the link here; this will take you to a number of articles on our site that will answer your questions.

      Next your use of the 2 Peter 3:8 verse to question the accuracy of a literal young earth interpretation of Creation is not a valid use of this verse. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati provides an excellent response to this in his article 2 Peter 3:8—‘one day is like a thousand years’

      Lastly, I would like to ask you 2 questions which I have asked so many people over the years. Why is it that so many people question the length of a day in Genesis 1 & 2 but no where else in Scripture? Secondly, if you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, given to man so that man could know God, then why would God intentionally use ambiguous language to confuse us as in Genesis 1 and 2?

      The answer to the second question is that it defies God’s nature to mislead us on historical facts. Yes, He does use some language that is difficult to understand in places like Daniel and Revelation, but these instances are not historical narrative like what is found in Genesis. If God meant to convey an indefinite period of time or vast ages, there are plenty of Hebrew terms that He could have used. Instead, He used clear and concise terms to indicate six literal 24 hour days. I strongly suggest you read James Stambaugh’s article on the Days of Creation.

      The answer to the first question can only point to the belief in millions of years, a concept developed by men to help them deny our Creator God. By denying God they believe they will not have to be accountable to Him. Questioning the length of Creation is placing the ideas of fallible men over the words of an infallible God. We should never allow non-biblical beliefs to be the basis of understanding biblical truths.

      If you can’t accept God’s Word as being true and accurate in Genesis 1, then how can you believe the accuracy of the Gospel message of Jesus death on the Cross and resurrection? They are both historical narratives. If one is questioned for accuracy then all other similar narratives must also be questioned.

      If the historicity of Genesis 1-3 is not accurate, then the message of the Cross is also inaccurate and Christianity collapses. The reason for Jesus earthly life, death and resurrection is based upon the first three chapters of Genesis. Jesus quoted from this section of Genesis and considered it as true history. If it wasn’t true, then Jesus is a liar and He could not have been the Son of God and we have placed in our faith in a hollow promise.

      Many people do not comprehend the importance of the first chapters of Genesis and its foundation to the rest of the Bible. Sadly, a number of atheists do understand the foundational importance of Genesis which is why they work so hard to undermine it and cause so many Christians to question it. I beg you not to allow them to influence your understanding of Scripture. Start with God’s Word first and then look at the world around you, instead of looking at the world around you first and use that to interpret God’s Word.