Posts Tagged ‘Paisley Cave’

Horse Toe Bones and 14,000 Year Old Human Shit

May 22, 2017

The oldest known evidence of human presence in North America is some pieces of shit excavated from Paisley Cave, Oregon.  Carbon-dating of this feces indicates humans crapped in the cave about 14,350 calendar years ago.  The contents of these turds consists of bison, dog, bird, fish, grass, and sunflower seeds.  One study found the amount of cholesterol and phosphate in the crap points to an animal with a vegetarian rather than an omnivorous diet, and the authors of this paper don’t believe it is human manure.  They suggest the human DNA extracted from the specimens are a result of contamination from people mishandling it.  However, the contents were mostly animal matter, so I don’t understand how the naysayers who authored this paper can come to this conclusion.  Other scientists note the presence of wolf or fox DNA in the crap.  The scientists who are convinced the turds are human believe a wolf or fox pissed on the human shit after people left the latrine.  The turds contain human hair–perhaps the best evidence people were the shitters here.  Dried crap stuck to their ass crack hairs and the hair came off when they wiped with leaves.

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Horse toe bones were found in Paisley Cave along with 14,000 year old human feces.

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A 14,000 year old human turd found in Paisley Cave, Oregon.

Many vertebrate bones and human artifacts have been discovered in the cave.  (See: ).  Paleontologists studied the horse toe bones excavated near the human feces because they wanted to determine which species of horse co-existed with humans in this region then.  They believe with a >99% probability the toe bones belonged to an extinct species known as the Mexican horse (Equus conversidens). Most fossil material of this species has been found in Mexico, hence the name, but it likely occurred all across North America.  The Mexican horse was stocky and stilt-legged.

Paleontologists disagree over the number of horse species that lived in North America during the late Pleistocene.  Some believe there were 2 species, while others think there were more than 14 species.  Genetic evidence supports the proposed smaller number of species.

I have no doubt humans were responsible for the extinction of North American horses through overhunting and disruption of ecosystems.  When Europeans re-introduced horses to North America during the 16th century, horses went wild and thrived everywhere on the continent.  It seems unlikely an environmental change capable of causing horse extinctions occurred for such a short interval some time between 10,000 BP and 1500 AD.  Horses eat grass and coarse vegetation–plant material that never became scarce during any climate phase or change.  Climate change models of extinction don’t work at all for such an adaptable and widespread animal as the horse.

I remember when I first started studying the debate over megafauna extinction.  Opposition to human overkill as a cause of extinction centered around the flimsy argument that there was a lack of archaeological evidence of humans hunting horses in North America.  Since then, irrefutable proof humans hunted horses here has been unearthed at several sites.  Wally’s Beach in Alberta, Canada was the first site where archaeologists agreed evidence humans hunted horses was unmistakable. Bluefish Cave in the Yukon is located north of the former Cordilleran Ice Sheet.  Evidence humans hunted and ate Ice Age horses has also been discovered in this cave, and it dates to as early as 24,000 years ago.  Humans carried horse, caribou, elk, dall sheep, bison, and bird into the cave.  36,000 mammal bones have been excavated from this site.  Wolves, lions, and foxes, in addition to people are responsible for the bone accumulation.  And now, South American archaeologists believe a cave in Argentina holds evidence of human exploitation of horse.  Stone tools are found in association with human-modified bones of horse, hippidion (an exclusively South American species of horse), llama, toxodon, giant armadillo (Eutatus) and ground sloth (Megatherium and Glossotherium).

The evidence humans did hunt megafauna is mounting but will probably never convince old school archaeologists who (I believe) stubbornly refuse to admit they were wrong for so many years.


Bourgeon, L.; A. Burta, T. Higgins

“Earliest Human Presence in North America Dated to the Last Glacial Maximum: New Radio-carbon dates from Bluefish Cave, Yukon”

Plos One January 2017

McHorse, Brianna; Edward Davis, Eric Scott, Dennis Jenkins

“What Species of Horse was Coeval with North America’s Earliest Humans in the Paisley Caves?”

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology September 2016

Politis, Gustavo; M. Gutierrez, D. Rafus

“The Arrival of Homo Sapiens into the Southern Cone at 14,000 Years Ago”

Plos One September 2016

Sistiaga, A.; F. Berna, R. Laursen, P. Goldberg

“Steroidal Biomarker Analysis of a 14,000 Year Old Putative Human Coprolite from Paisley Cave”

Journal of Archaeological Science 2014


The Paisley Cave Pre-Clovis Site

October 29, 2010

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.


Pinson, Ariane

“Paisley Caves: What’s the scoop on the poop?”

Mammoth Trumpet 23 (4)  October 2010