Skip to comments.Archaeologist Talks About Oregon's Early Natives
Posted on 04/13/2004 4:52:32 PM PDT by blam
Page Updated: Monday, April 12, 2004 1:28 PM PDT
Archaeologist talks about Oregon's early natives
Dr. Dennis Jenkins believes the entire Sumner Lake Basin was once filled with water up to state Highway 31. Contributed Photo
By Daniel Schreiber, Staff Writer
Were humans present 12,000 years ago in the Great Basin region of Oregon when buffalo, non-Spanish horses and even camels roamed the landscape?
This, the central question of University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins' series of digs, is what researchers have been trying to determine since the 1930s.
In 1938, Luther Cressman, the first to explore the region, discovered preserved 9,000-year-old shredded sage sandals at Fort Rock Cave in south central Oregon. Until radiocarbon dating verified his find, his belief was that humans had occupied the area a maximum of 4,000 years ago.
On the heels of that research, Jenkins has uncovered evidence from Paisley Caves, a 5-mile ridge near the Summer Lake Basin about 100 miles from Cressman's sandal discovery, suggesting humans existed even earlier in the region. According to Jenkins, this prehistoric community used complex hunting and domestic tools to establish sustainable living.
He presented his findings Saturday in the Myrtlewood Room of the Coos Bay Public Library, where 25 people turned up to hear him state his case.
"Cressman believed to death that whoever lived out in the Oregon desert were basket weavers," Jenkins said. "He thought that they could not live there without this technology to transport water and food."
According to Jenkins, this technology existed no more than 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, hence Cressman's belief. But because Crater Lake and probably other water basins were formed by the eruption of Mount Mazama 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, and archaeological digs have revealed evidence of human life below that distinct level of ash strata, Jenkins believes that humans could have survived in an earlier climate, with large grazing mammals and lush vegetation.
Jenkins believes that the caves were formed after the water level of Summer Lake gradually dropped and wave action formed the remaining Paisley Caves, consisting primarily of basalt after the waves drew softer rock away from the ridge. In these caves, Jenkins found both human artifacts and animal bones radiocarbon dated to the same time period, 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.
Jenkins also found evidence of hearths, holes for fire, in the caves. He found evidence of hearth smoke in a strata level below the Mount Mazama ash level.
"This tells me that no hearth existed after the volcanic eruption," he said.
Jenkins theorizes there was a wet period in the Great Basin 12,000 years ago and this is what allowed human and animal life to flourish in the region. But what was the interaction between humans and animals?
Jenkins said his research suggests the animal species became extinct abruptly and that was a result of the cave dwellers' hunting. Bones with sharp slaughter marks were found in the caves near human artifacts.
"With our (human) brains and adaptability, we would eat anything that doesn't kill us," he said.
Further evidence of an advanced human species came on a 2003 dig when one of Jenkins' team found a small piece of string with separated fibers twisted back together. The string, made of what Jenkins believes to be Indian hemp, was radiocarbon dated to 12,750 years ago and remains the oldest artifact ever to be found in the Great Basin.
"It looks like it could have been made right here in town," Jenkins said.
Jenkins' findings tend to prove his theories of prehistoric life in Oregon but he is still searching for further evidence with help from DNA analysis at Oxford University in England.
"I need to find a camel who was stabbed in the eye, survived, and the bone grew around the weapon, leaving no question that man and these animals existed here simultaneously," he said.
What an odd image.
Kennewick Man had an arrow head stuck in his hip bone that had bone growing around it. It would have been ulcerated and oozing all the time, ugh.
Who Knows, could be
Just updating the GGG information, not sending a general distribution.
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Hmmmm. 2008 bump?
:’) Renfield sent a new link to a update to another topic mentioning Dennis what’s his name. :’) Found this with Google, and noticed there wasn’t anything current.