"The dates could actually be older," Goodyear says."Fifty-thousand should be a minimum age since there may be little detectable activity left." The dawn of modern homo sapiens occurred in Africa between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago.

Radiocarbon tests of carbonized plant remains where artifacts were unearthed last May along the Savannah River in Allendale County by University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr.

Albert Goodyear indicate that the sediments containing these artifacts are at least 50,000 years old, meaning that humans inhabited North American long before the last ice age.

He is also the founder and director of the Allendale Paleo Indian Expedition, a program that involves members of the public in helping to excavate Paleo American sites in the central Savannah River Valley of South Carolina.

Goodyear earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Florida (1968), his master's degree in anthropology from the University of Arkansas and his doctorate in anthropology from Arizona State University (1976).

The Topper excavation site is on the bank of the Savannah River on property owned by Clariant Corp., a chemical corporation headquartered near Basel, Switzerland.

He recovered numerous stone tool artifacts in soils that were later dated by an outside team of geologists to be 16,000 years old.

Using a backhoe and hand excavations, Goodyear's team dug through the Pleistocene terrace soil, some 4 meters below the ground surface.

Goodyear found a number of artifacts similar to the pre-Clovis forms he has excavated in recent years.

The absolute age is not known." The revelation of an even older date for Topper is expected to heighten speculation about when man got to the Western Hemisphere and add to the debate over other pre-Clovis sites in the Eastern United States such as Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Pa., and Cactus Hill, Va.