Fourteen years ago, state archeologists discovered a site that proved humans lived in this area long before the Ice Age.
Dr. Albert Goodyear of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina continues to excavate what is known as the Topper Site on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River in Allendale County.
Goodyear says, “Topper is probably the oldest early human site that is taken seriously.”
Clovis is the name for the culture first considered the earliest on the continent. The Topper area features Clovis and pre-Clovis implements.
Because carbon dating is limited, Goodyear is trying to find other ways to date the flint-made implements they find. Topper’s humans date at least 20, 000 years back, and are more likely 50,000 years or more. That predates the most recent Ice Age, when glaciers came as far south as New England.
In this warmer part of southern North America, early mankind was attracted to a supply of flintstone on what became the Savannah River. The tools and they created and discarded are captured in layers of ancient soil.
In late April through early June of this year, Goodyear will lead a five-week expedition at the site, searching for relics from the earliest proven human tool-making on the North American continent.
During the early summer, the chemical company that owns the land lets Goodyear’s teams camp and work the sites that overlook the river.
In order to afford to do a five week-dig, Goodyear employs the help of whom he calls “donor volunteers.” An enthusiast can donate $488 a week to help retrieve artifacts that have gotten the world’s attention.
“One of the draws for the volunteers is that they are curious; it’s not an obvious answer,” explains Goodyear. “But there are things called paradigms in science and we’re clearly in a paradigm change. I certainly believe that Topper will play a major role in pushing the presence of the species way back, even much earlier than what we thought Clovis was.”
Up to 100 donor volunteers sign up to help a team of graduate students from universities across North America at in a wooded area in Allendale County. Archeologists and other scientists are kept busy the entire year scrutinizing the samples that are discovered.
This year’s expedition begins April 30.