For this week’s blog entry I’m going to step away from southeastern North America and discuss a fascinating site in south central Oregon. The Paisley Cave site collectively includes 8 different caves and rock shelters created when waves from an ancient Pleistocene Lake (Lake Chewaucan) eroded hollows into the upland bedrock about 17,000 years ago. By 14,500 years ago weather patterns changed, becoming drier, and the lake receded away from the caves for a distance of about a mile. But the climate here was still wetter than that of today, and the environment consisted of conifer woodland, meadow, and lakeside marsh; unlike the sagebrush desert which is now the primary type of ecotone at this location. The caves were ideal shelters for Paleo-Indians, and the surrounding area provided abundant rock (obsidian) for tool-making, and a plentiful supply of big game, small game, waterfowl, fish, and edible wild plant foods.
Most of the caves contain evidence of early Holocene (~9,000o BP)occupation–charcoal from human-lit fires, basketry, and interesting tools such as wooden pegs and sagebrush rope. But a cave known as Cave number 5 yielded evidence of pre-Clovis material including obsidian projectile points, debitage (the leftover flakes from stone tool processing), and scrapers, all associated with bones of megafauna–a camel ankle bone, the jaw bone of an extinct goat (Harrington’s Mountain goat? Oreamnos harringtoni), bison bones, and two long bones that looked like they were broken for the marrow. There is one spot in this cave that’s been interpeted as a possible hearth, a “a bowl-shaped depression with a rock lined base,” where a burned horse bone was discovered. Moreover, very old processed grass fiber and muscle sinew were found in the cave. Most importantly, however, was the fossilized human feces carbon dated to 14,290 calender years BP which predates the Clovis era (13,200-12,500 BP).
DNA testing of the feces indicates these people descended from Siberians, meaning they were Asiatic, like native Americans. An analysis of their fecal content showed they ate bison, dog, squirrel, bird, fish, wild sunflower seeds, and grass.
The Topper site near Allendale, South Carolina (which I visited a couple of years ago) yields tools in soils dating to before Clovis also.
Archaeologists and crew excavating the pre-Clovis trench at the Topper Site in Allendale, South Carolina. The people there were very nice to me when I visited two years ago.
Tools found in the Aucilla River in Florida also date to slightly before the Clovis era. I theorize small bands of humans began crossing Beringia and migrating across North America before the LGM (28,000-15,000 BP) when glaciers would’ve blocked their passage. The reason evidence is lacking is because they were so few in number and so scattered they left little proof.
“Paisley Caves: What’s the scoop on the poop?”
Mammoth Trumpet 23 (4) October 2010