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The scale of the thing is what makes it astonishing, spread over three cave systems — known as Camilo Mina, Monkey Dust, and Sagitario — a few kilometres from the present day Caribbean coastline. This ochre mine was, as the authors describe, a “regional-scale activity that was sustained over multiple generations.”
The cave is thought to have been dry from the Last Glacial Maximum more than 20,000 years ago, to when it flooded, perhaps as recently as 8,000 years ago.
Humans were already well established in North America, having come perhaps 14,000 years ago from the north. In 2018, the discovery of two infants ceremonially buried in Alaska 11,500 years ago was held up as further evidence for the theory that humans, after becoming anatomically modern in Africa and spreading across Asia, slowly and fitfully migrated from Siberia via Alaska into all of the Americas, some via Pacific coastal waters, others through inland routes depending on glacial activity.