Topic ID #2828 - posted 2/3/2008 3:52 PM

Topper Site

Charlie Hatchett

Topper artifacts:

Post ID#5509 - replied 2/3/2008 3:53 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Post ID#5510 - replied 2/3/2008 3:54 PM

Charlie Hatchett

More Topper Artifacts:

Post ID#5511 - replied 2/3/2008 3:55 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Post ID#5512 - replied 2/3/2008 3:56 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Post ID#5513 - replied 2/3/2008 3:59 PM

Charlie Hatchett

The Topper strata 2005

black dots: post-Clovis (Archaic and Woodland) Indian tools

blue dots: Clovis tools

red dots: preClovis artifacts

Post ID#5514 - replied 2/3/2008 4:02 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Post ID#5620 - replied 2/7/2008 12:48 AM

Charlie Hatchett

Topper is an archaeological site located along the Savannah River in Allendale County, South Carolina in the United States. It is noted as the location of controversial artifacts believed by some archaeologists to indicate human habitation of the New World as far back as 50,000 years ago.

Since the 1930s, the prevailing theory concerning the peopling of the New World is that the first human inhabitants were the Clovis people, who are thought to have appeared approximately 13,500 years ago. Artifacts of the Clovis people are found throughout most of the United States and as far south as Panama. The standard theory has been challenged in recent decades with the emergence of pre-Clovis sites such as Monte Verde and other possible pre-Clovis candidates such as Cactus Hill. To date, no consistent pre-Clovis cultural patterns have been established and the accuracy of these claims have been found controversial and unverified.

In 2004, Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology announced that radiocarbon dating of a bit of charcoal found in the Topper Site dated to approximately 50,000 years ago, or approximately 37,000 years before the Clovis people. Goodyear, who began excavating the Topper site in the 1980s, believes that the artifacts are stone tools, although other archaeologists dispute this conclusion, suggesting that the artifacts may be natural and not human-made. Other archaeologists have challenged the radiocarbon dating procedure of the Topper artifacts. Goodyear discovered the artifacts by digging 4 m deeper than the Clovis artifacts. Before discovering the oldest artifacts, he had discovered other artifacts that he claimed were tools dating around 16,000 years old, or about 3,000 years before Clovis. Until the recent challenges to the Clovis theory, it was unusual for archaeologists to dig deeper than the layer of the Clovis culture, on the grounds that no human artifacts would be found older than Clovis. To date, no other artifacts dating older than these claimed ones are older that the 13,500 year old Clovis culture.

Post ID#7716 - replied 5/19/2008 6:42 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Al Goodyear and the Secrets of the Ancient Americans

USC Professor Discovers 50,000 Year-Old Artifacts in S.C.


It was the summer of 1998, and University of South Carolina archaeologist Al Goodyear had a problem on his hands.

Fourteen years of digging at an ancient chert quarry outside Allendale had begun to bear fruit: At a site called Big Pine Tree, Goodyear was well on his way to establishing that a substantial Clovis population lived here. If you’ll recall your history lessons from high school, the Clovis people — named such because the first evidence of them was found at a site near Clovis, N.M. — were believed to be the first Americans who came into the North American continent across the Bering Sea land bridge from Asia some 13,000 years ago.

A volunteer carefully excavates a portion of the Topper site, being careful to leave artifacts exactly where they were discovered to catalog. Photo courtesy of USC

Now, thanks to a flood that had whipped the normally serene Savannah River into a frenzy, Goodyear had to move his team, filled with researchers and avid volunteers, away from the dig’s most prosperous site to a backup location identified years earlier — Topper, named after local man David Topper who first led Goodyear to the area in 1981.

Goodyear was less than thrilled about the move.

“We honestly had no place else to go,” Goodyear says. “Word was just beginning to get out about the site, interest was high and now we couldn’t dig where we wanted.

“Topper, which was higher up, was high and dry and was the only choice. I remember it broke my heart at the time to leave behind a site I thought was the best we’d find. I remember thinking ‘OK, I guess we have to go to Topper.’”

What his team found that year and every year since has made it, arguably, the most important archaeological site in North America, with radiocarbon dating verifying human habitation at around 50,000 years ago — the oldest ever found.

And the site isn’t just for archaeologists: It is open for a dig now through June 7, and volunteers can sign up to help by visiting The dig will focus on both the 50,000 year-old level and a massive new Clovis area discovered in 2004.

Because of Topper and a handful of other sites, in a matter of 10 years everything scholars thought they knew about who the first Americans were, where they came from and when was wrong. Not just by a little, but by nearly 40,000 years.

Topper is significant for other reasons, too: Evidence from the site, published late last year, also supports the idea that a comet exploded over the Great Lakes 12,900 years ago, scorching the entire Eastern Seaboard through massive wildfires that would have left Columbia nothing but ash and cinder and which led to the extinction of the woolly mammoth and displaced the entire Clovis population.

And the best part?

Topper isn’t anywhere near finished giving up its ancient secrets.


Chert: a sedimentary rock that flakes easily and can be worked to produce tools such as knives, arrows, axes and blades.

Clovis: The common name for a hunting people believed to have come to America via the Bering Sea land bridge around 13,000 years ago following large game.

Paleoindian: The name given to ancient Native Americans living roughly between 16,000 and 10,000 years ago following the end of the last Ice Age.

Solutrean Theory: A theory that Clovis peoples entered America not from Siberia but from Europe, making their way along the edge of the ice sheets chasing marine mammals and fish.

Younger-Dryas: A 1,300-year period beginning approximately 12,900 years ago in which the Northern Hemisphere underwent a dramatic, unexpected cooling period in which animals larger than 220 pounds died.

The Gospel of Clovis First

Back at Topper in 1998 — and with time running out on the summer’s dig — Goodyear had a decision to make. He remembered reading about a pre-Clovis site in Monte Verde, Chile, the year before in which evidence was found to substantiate a human presence around 14,500 years ago, and an odd thought popped in his head.

“I thought if all the experts had agreed on that date and people were in South America at that time, a thousand miles south and a thousand years before, how could they have not been here?” Goodyear says. “How could they miss a 20-million-year-old chert quarry on the Savannah River, which has always been about the same place it is now and has a relatively temperate climate like it does now?

“So I talked to my team about the Monte Verde find and asked them if they wanted to dig deeper than anyone had before in America to see what’s there. Of course, they don’t have to go to national meetings and defend results, so they were all like, “Yeah! Let’s do it! We’ll ruin your career!’

“To most people of my generation, saying you’re searching for something pre-Clovis is tantamount to saying you’re going looking for Elvis or E.T. It was that entrenched — it’s what I was taught myself and what I taught my students to believe. And lo and behold the first week we start finding artifacts.”

To understand why chert was so crucial to early man is simple: Its properties enable anyone, with a little training, to fashion razor-sharp stone blades to be used for axes, knives and arrows that were critical to human survival. Knives cut through animal skin to make clothes. Bigger tools are used to cut trees for fire and shelter. Spears are used to hunt the game they chased, including woolly mammoths. Smaller blades are used for everything from carving bone to tattooing flesh.

Simply put, without a chert supply, which is to say without tools, survival is nearly impossible. That’s what led Goodyear to the Allendale chert quarry to begin with — there’s just no way ancient peoples, especially in a warm climate with a river for food and transportation, could have missed the benefits of living near the Southeast’s largest exposed chert supply.

The roofed structure protects archaeologists and the dig from the heat and elements. It was built through donations from Clariant Corp., which owns the land, and many others. Clariant also donated the viewing platform so the public can watch the dig in progress. Photo courtesy of USC

“That was a big psychological time of change for me, those last few weeks of 1998,” Goodyear says. “We just kept finding more and more. As a Clovis-first person myself, I had to re-evaluate what I thought I knew against what I was holding in my hands. And once you accept that, all of a sudden everything that came before it is fair game, too.”

Still buzzed from the pre-Clovis Topper findings, Goodyear wrote a letter, which he had done every year once work was finished, to all his volunteers thanking them for their efforts and letting them know what they’d found.

“And all I said to them was that for two weeks we dug deeper and found something under Clovis,” Goodyear says. “That’s all I said; I didn’t call up newspapers or anything. I just shared it with them.”

An eager volunteer, aware of research being done in Pennsylvania by archaeologist James Adovasio, faxed a copy of the letter to him. As fate would have it, Adovasio happened to be working with U.S. News & World Report writer Tom Petit for an upcoming cover story, and when Adovasio shared the information with Petit, the reporter wasted no time calling Goodyear.

“I told him what we found, and next thing I know we’re splashed all through the article,” Goodyear says. “Topper wasn’t a secret anymore.”

Dating the Evidence

Despite the growing evidence of artifacts, Goodyear knew if he was ever going to mollify critics, he needed precise dates no one could argue with. In 2000, Goodyear welcomed scientists from across the country to come and collect radiocarbon samples for dating as well as a geochronologist who specialized in using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) methods to date the soil itself. Their research confirmed the first solid pre-Clovis date at Topper to between 16,000 and 20,000 years ago.

“At that point, the big boys started getting interested that we had dates for 20,000 [years ago] that were done by some of the best people in the country,” Goodyear says. “Finally, we had that baseline we needed for the rest of the scientific community to examine.”

One of those scientists was Dennis Stanford. As curator of archaeology for the Smithsonian Institution, his word carries serious weight in the field.

“At the time, I was very interested in Al’s work,” Stanford says. “Al’s recognized as a good, solid archaeologist. He’s not a crackpot — when Al speaks, we tend to listen. I was quite pleased to hear that he was considering examining lower levels and had found something.
“But I also remember thinking that I was glad Al was doing it and not me. The Clovis-first model was the accepted thinking for close to a century, a 60-year deadlock mold, and we realized that what it was was a theory, not proof. And as proof started to come, I think people just couldn’t deny it any longer.

“So finally we have people agreeing that yes, a certain people did come over the land bridge. What we didn’t know is that it just so happens there were people already here when they did it. It made us all realize just how little we knew and know about America’s past.”

By 2002-03, Goodyear was set upon the task of accumulating evidence to support his earlier dates, though he continued digging ever downward. In 2003 he hit a white sand layer that was hard as concrete and, as he dug slowly deeper, began noticing what looked like artifacts sticking out of it. In 2004, The New York Times sent its top science writer, Pulitzer-prize winner John Noble Wilford, down to investigate, and that same year Goodyear found a layer of charcoal in it to date.

What came back, just like in 1998, blew him away yet again.

The typical Clovis spear point, evidence of a technology so effective in hunting it was the WMD of its day. Photo by Daryl P. Miller, S.C.I.A.A.

“I was hoping that dating would bring back numbers around 25,000 years ago,” Goodyear says. “That was a date people could probably swallow.

“But no, I have to get back dates of 50,000 years ago, which according to the dating and amount of error means that no matter what it’s at least 40,000, if not much more. I was in an awkward position. Here are artifacts we know are tools, here are the dates we know are accurate and here I go again, getting up there in front of creation, on CNN announcing a 50,000 date, the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America.

“Just as I had gotten people accustomed to 15-16,000, here I come again. I had a lot of people blanch at the 50,000, but I told them it was my opinion, take it or leave it, and people have done both.”

What most troubles people about Homo sapiens occupying South Carolina 50,000 years ago is, obviously, how did they get there? Commonly accepted dates have the first Homo sapiens coming out of Africa around 70,000 years ago, making their way as far east as Australia by 50,000 year ago. To have made the East Coast by that time means either they moved a lot more quickly than was believed possible, they left Africa earlier than previously thought or they came a different route altogether.

That’s where Stanford comes in. Since 1999, he has proposed a theory of coastal migration called the Solutrean Theory, which contends that early man made his way from Iberia, not Siberia, by following the ice across from Europe and Greenland to North America between 17,000 and 21,000 years ago.

“Boats were the key,” Stanford says. “People say, ‘Well, why aren’t we finding evidence of ancient boats and settlements?’ That’s because those coastal settlements are now under hundreds of feet of water because ancient sea levels were much lower. In the time period we’re talking about, the coasts were up to 60-70 miles out to sea from where they are now.

“Just a week or so ago we found out that some mastodon remains dredged up in the 1970s off the coast of Virginia had a bi-pointed projectile point embedded in it from material in North Carolina. People aren’t willing to imagine cavemen out on the sea in boats, but that’s just a crock of hooey. We know boats have been around from 40,000 to 60,000 years. They absolutely were, chasing oil-rich seals and mammals they needed to survive.

“The food was on the water, and that’s where the people went. We have to stop seeing the ocean and rivers as barriers. They weren’t barriers, they were highways.”

Goodyear likes Stanford’s coastal-migration theory, though Stanford admits that 50,000 years is “too early for our guys” coming from the Iberian Peninsula.

“The key is to figure out how they got here. We know that people were around 100,00 years ago, so there is a population that is available. But I’m glad that’s for others to figure out.”

Source:, supplemented with information from Al Goodyear and Dennis Stanford.

Topper Now: Comets, Clovis and Extinction

Allen West often visualizes the scene.

Clovis hunters, well established in places like Allendale, look up one morning to a scene few have ever witnessed. Flashing across the sky are streaks of fire, literally tearing the atmosphere apart. Then, a series of explosions so loud they could be heard for thousands of miles, followed closely after by a fireball that would have set most of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific on fire.

“To start with, people would have been able to see these objects coming for some time before they hit, just extremely bright,” says West, a geophysicist from Arizona who used the Topper site to help pioneer research that only in the last couple of years solved the ancient mystery of what caused a mass extinction in America approximately 12,900 years ago.

“It was most likely a fragmented comet, and it would have stretched across the sky for thousands of miles. Then, the explosions — it would have been like the atmosphere became a boiler. The only thing I can think of is to imagine what it’s like to be in a nuclear exchange, one explosion after another after another. It would have been a canopy of fire from horizon to horizon in all directions.”

Scientists have long known that for some reason, much of the flora and most of the large animals in North America — including the woolly mammoth — went extinct in a very short time. Many ascribed the die-off to overhunting by Clovis peoples, disease, abrupt climate change or a combination of the three.

West wasn’t buying it, and turned to what was known: Just as America was warming itself following the last Ice Age 13,000 years ago, a temperature reversal sparked a 1,000-year cold period, known as the Younger-Dryas interval. West believed only a comet or volcano could have initiated a nuclear winter-type effect, and no volcanic culprit fit the bill.

“We had reason to believe, markers, that showed us that it’s possible a comet exploded over the Great Lakes area around 12,900 years ago,” West says. “We knew that most every animal over 220 pounds died, and only animals less than 220 pounds lived.

“What we needed to find were sites that were at that established Clovis level and look for evidence of an impact. Only a few, like Topper, were active, so we went looking and got in touch with Al.”

Goodyear remembers the conversation well.

“Allen came down in 2005 and said he was looking for extraterrestrial markers here,” Goodyear says. “And it’s at a time after I’ve announced 50,000 years and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is all I need, someone really looking for E.T.’”

West recalls a similar exchange.

“Al is a friendly guy who is always willing to listen, and he listened politely but was skeptical,” West says. “But as we began to find markers in the form of nanodiamonds and magnetic microspherules, we all began to get excited. There is no other natural function that produces these things besides an extraterrestrial event.”

With evidence of both the explosion and mass fires, West, who also postulates that the popular “Carolina Bays” formations are related to this ancient event, got together with Goodyear to see whether and how Clovis people would have been impacted.

“Obviously, if it’s not good for animals over 220 pounds, it’s not going to be so hot for humans, either.”

That’s when Goodyear decided to look into it on his own.

“I went back and re-examined our South Carolina paleopoint database, and found that Clovis points dropped off significantly after that date until the advent of what we call the Redstone people,” Goodyear says. “It was about a four-to-one drop-off, which doesn’t make sense just because it had gotten cold. It was suspicious. These are people who have survived ice ages, and yet I found similar, if not even more drastic drop-offs in points in North Carolina and Virginia. I kind of timidly laid those facts out there to them and they were able to use it.”
With that information, West could begin to argue that the event absolutely took its toll on Clovis, either wiping them out or driving them off for some thousand years.

“That was solely Al Goodyear that led us to that,” West says. “Lo and behold he found it, and that was really because Topper is such a fantastic Clovis site besides its pre-Clovis value.
“Al’s reputation has been essential; he’s been one of our great team members. We had 26 co-authors for the paper, each of whom brought something essential, and Topper was key for us because it’s so well known and investigated.”

Goodyear can’t say for sure what Topper has in store, only that it isn’t nearly as excavated as it could be.

“Topper is like a box of chocolates, as Forest Gump says,” Goodyear says. “You never know what you’re going to get out of it.

“The idea that we could have found stuff at 50,000 years, that blew my mind. It’s now a matter of collecting more artifacts; it’ll be a while before we’re able to overwhelm people.

“As someone who was Clovis-first, to find and accept not just pre-Clovis but pre- pre- pre-Clovis, that’s something else. It’s a stretch to get people to realize that there once were woolly mammoths walking down Main Street, that there were people walking around here 50,000 years ago, but it’s true.

“Though it took the Savannah River to chase me to Topper, I’m glad it worked out how it did. I’ve learned not to say that Topper has finished giving up its secrets.”

Post ID#12930 - replied 2/15/2009 9:17 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Title: Geoarchaeological Investigations at the Topper and Big Pine Sites, Allendale County, Central Savannah River, South Carolina
Authors: Michael R. Waters, Steven L. Forman, Thomas W. Stafford
Jr., John Foss

I’ll preface this review of Waters et al. (2009) by saying there is not a lot new here. Much of this information has been released informally via various media outlets. But now at least we have a peer-reviewed paper acknowledging the info that has been released informally.

“…Two dates, >50,300 14C yr B.P. (UCIAMS-11682) and >51,700 14C yr B.P. (UCIAMS-11683) were obtained on reduced woody plant remains from a low-relief, thin, lenticular accumulation of physically well preserved plant material within the fluvial sands of unit 1. Goodyear defined this as feature 91 and suggested that this may represent a hearth-like feature (Goodyear, 2005b). Although the plant remains were black, there is no evidence the plant material had been combusted or that the plant fossils had been emplaced secondarily into the fluvial sands. The organic-carbon rich lens was lithologically conformable vertically and horizontally with enclosing stream channel sands, there was no evidence of heat-caused oxidation (hematite development) in sand immediately below the organic matter, and the plant remains were soft, retained excellent cellular structure, and reacted immediately and strongly with weak KOH used during the radiocarbon pretreatment process…”

So no hearth in the > 50kya strata according Waters et al.

“…The age of the deposition is unknown, but the infinite radiocarbon ages from this unit indicate that deposition occurred before 55,000 yr. B.P. A period of floodplain stability and soil formation followed the deposition of fine-grained overbank deposits (unit 1b). This was followed by a period of fluvial scouring when the soil developed on unit 1b was truncated. Sometime after this erosional period, colluvium (unit 2a) accumulated locally next to the channel edge and the alluvial sands were deposited (unit 2b) across most of the site. These sediments appear to have been deposited in arcuate channels, potentially part of a braided stream system. Swales at the top of this unit are filled with fine-grained overbank deposits (unit 2c) and represent the last episode of fluvial deposition at the site. Luminescence dating suggests that fluvial deposition ceased around 15,000 yr B.P. At this point, the river downcut and abandoned the floodplain, creating Terrace 2…”

This indicates that the proposed, younger preClovis artifacts can be no younger than 15kya.

[code:1:]“…Below the Clovis horizon, Goodyear (2005a) reports the presence of what he believes are pre-Clovis artifacts. This “Topper assemblage” is buried within units 2b and 1. The stratigraphic position of the “Topper assemblage” indicates an antiquity older than Clovis, but how much older remains unresolved…”[/code:1:]

Except not younger than 15kya.

“…Stratigraphic relationships show that a moderately-well developed paleosol (Bw horizon) formed in colluvial deposits (unit 3a) that lie between the Clovis horizon and the “Topper assemblage” that reflect a few hundreds to a few thousands of years of deposition and pedogenesis. Two OSL ages, 14,400 + 1200 yr B.P. (UIC-763) and 15,200 + 1500 yr B.P. (UIC-764), are from the top of unit 2b and provide a provisional minimum age for the proposed pre-Clovis material. The base of this sand remains undated…”

"…Even older “Topper assemblage” material has been reported in the older unit 1a and 1b sediments and are associated with dates of >50,000 14C yr B.P…”

“…The “Topper assemblage”, consisting of a smashed core and microlithic industry (Goodyear 2005a), is typologically and technologically unique among New World archaeological sites. Goodyear (2005a) believes that spalls and flakes were modified into small unifacial tools and bend-break tools that were used to work wood and other organic materials. The human origin of the “Topper assemblage” has not yet been unequivocally demonstrated. Alternatively, the pieces making up the “Topper assemblage” could have been produced naturally as a result of thermal fracturing (forest fires and freeze-thaw cycles) or physical fracturing during stream transport. Finally, the “Topper assemblage” is highly diachronous, occurring in sediments ranging in age from >50,000 to 15,000 yr B.P. It is unusual that there was no lithic technological change for ca. 35,000 years…”

Is it? Acheulean? Mousterian?

Also, it seems only one category of artifacts are being addressed by Waters et al. How about the proposed core tools, large flake tools and microblade cores:

“…The timing of the first change from meandering to braided is unknown, with only dates in excess of 50,000 yr B.P. being reported from the upper portion of the deposits of the first meandering stream package. This study of the terraces at the Topper site yielded similar minimum limiting ages (>55,000 yr B.P.) for the initial meander period. Leigh and others (2004) have suggested that the shift from meandering to a braided stream regime occurred in other streams in the Southeast possibly as early as 70,000 yr B.P. and as late at 30,000 yr B.P., though this age span may reflect precision limits on radiocarbon dating…”

This discounts the proposed physical fracturing during stream transport:

“…The shortest distance; that is, a straight channel, results in the highest energy per unit of length, disrupting the banks more, creating more sediment and aggrading the stream. The presence of meanders allows the stream to adjust the length to an equilibrium energy per unit length in which the stream carries away all the sediment that it produces…”

“…Meandering streams develop in relatively flat areas, such as a floodplain, and where sediment consists primarily of fine sands, silts, and muds…”

Can somebody please show me specimens derived from thermal fracturing, or fracturing due to stream transport, that exhibit the characteristics of these specimens:

Lets be fair: the specimens should come from Piacenzian strata or older. ;) I’ve never once had someone demonstrate this to me, whether the control specimens be Topper or Calico. Special pleading?

“…A meandering pattern has characterized the Savannah River and other southeast streams from 14,000 – 16,000 B.P. to present…”

“…The period of downcutting and return to meandering conditions is linked with another abrupt vegetation and climate change along the central Savannah River at about 16,000 yr B.P. (Leigh 2008). The previous boreal vegetation was rapidly replaced with a temperate-wet forest of mixed deciduous trees and a climate that was warmer and wetter than the previous climate and that of today (Watts, 1980; Jackson et al., 2000). This switch to mesic and warmer conditions and concomitant vegetation change resulted in lower sediment yields and lower, more uniform stream discharge that favored meandering stream environments (Leigh et al., 2004; Leigh, 2006, 2008)…”

Post ID#12951 - replied 2/16/2009 5:39 PM

Charlie Hatchett

Hang on....nope, just the sound of a pin dropping. :lol:

Post ID#12953 - replied 2/16/2009 11:02 PM


Lurker warning....lurker warning.....


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