According to a report in Science Express published online on April 3, 2008, a field school from the University of Oregon found a preclovis site this past summer, containing the oldest human DNA yet discovered in the American continents. The site, Paisley 5 Mile Point Cave, is located in a perfect spot to support the Pre-Clovis Pacific coast migration theory of American colonization: in the hinterlands of what is Oregon today, upriver from the Pacific coast
along the Klamath River.
Students overlooking the spot where the 14,000 year old coprolites with human DNA were found in Cave 5, Paisley Caves (Oregon)
Photo Credit: Dennis Jenkins, Director, UO Northern Great Basin Archaeological Field School, Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Paisley 5 Mile Point Cave is one of four cave sites in the Paisley Caves complex located in south central Oregon. The Paisley Cave system was first investigated by Luther Cressman, back in the late 1930s. Cave 5 is more than 6 meters deep and 9 meters wide. Preservation in the cave is excellent, with extant perishable remains of bones, basketry, cordage, wooden pegs and human coprolites spanning the Late Pleistocene and Holocene periods.
The 2007 field school discovered a small rock-lined hearth some 2 meters below the modern surface. At that level was also discovered a large number of waterfowl, fish and large mammal bones, including extinct camel and horse. These have been dated between 12,750 and 14,290 calendar years before the present, and clearly represent a preClovis occupation.
Human coprolite from Paisley Cave 5 radiocarbon dated to 12,300 BC.
Photo Credit: courtesy of Dennis LeRoy Jenkins
Most astonishingly, human coprolites were discovered. These fossilized human feces were given extremely cautious study by scholars at multiple laboratories. The feces were found to contain genetic signatures of haplotypes Hg A and Hg B, which have been recognized as founding Native American mtDNA haplogroups. Organic material in the coprolites produced conventional AMS radiocarbon dates of ca 12,300 RCYBP, or about 1,000 years earlier than any accepted Clovis date.
Human remains from preclovis sites have not been discovered to date--in fact, the oldest human remains on the continent are early Archaic or Late Paleoindian skeletons, such as Spirit Cave, Windover Bog, the Buhl Burial and Kennewick Man, all about 9,000-10,000 years ago. The finds at Paisley Cave 5 are thus the earliest human DNA identified on the American continents to date, and go far to validate a Pre-Clovis occupation of America.
- Read more about Paisley Caves
Balter, Michael 2008. DNA From Fossil Feces Breaks Clovis Barrier. Science 320:37.
Gilbert, M. T. P., et al. 2008 DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America. Science Express April 3, 2008
See the Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project website for news about the 2008 fieldschool.
Note: On our bulletin board, Mark McConaughy kindly pointed out that the Arlington Springs human remains have recently been redated to between 10,900 and 13,500 calendar years BP: see the glossary entry for Arlington Springs for more info. Thanks, Mark!