Hunter-gatherers pursuing big game and likely accompanied by dogs were the first known human settlers of the American Southeast, stone tools and the remains of a butchered mastodon show.
The findings, reported in the journal Science Advances, provide intriguing clues about the migration paths of the earliest Americans, how they lived, and what led to the extinction 12,600 years ago of several large native mammals.
The stone tools and mastodon remains date to about 14,600 years ago and were discovered in a Florida river at a site near Tallahassee called Page-Ladson, which is now one of the oldest radiocarbon-dated sites in the Americas.
Photos: Faces of Our Ancestors
Navy Seal diver Buddy Page first spotted the underwater site on property owned by the Ladson family, hence the location's name. It predates the widespread Native American Clovis culture and is the same age as another pre-Clovis site, Monte Verde in Chile.
Florida and Chile are clearly a long way from Asia, where genetic testing suggests the first Americans came from via the Bering Land Bridge area of Alaska, but the researchers suggest a few possible migration routes.