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Oregon Historical Photo: Roaring Springs Cave, 1938

OPB | Aug. 11, 2014 midnight

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University of Oregon archaeological crew at Roaring Springs Cave, 1938. Students paid to join grueling expeditions in Southeastern Oregon, where the work was dirty and tedious in desert heat and billowing dust. 

University of Oregon archaeological crew at Roaring Springs Cave, 1938. Students paid to join grueling expeditions in Southeastern Oregon, where the work was dirty and tedious in desert heat and billowing dust. 

The Oregon Historical Society. Manuscripts/Accession #24587

Every week, Oregon Experience shares a photo highlighting the state’s diverse, exciting history. All photos are courtesy of The Oregon Historical Society.

More than 70 years ago, University of Oregon archaeologist Dr. Luther Cressman and his students excavated ancient caves in Southeastern Oregon. Their groundbreaking discoveries included 10,000-year-old sagebrush sandals, weapons, tools and basketry.

Cressman concluded that humans had arrived on the continent thousands of years earlier than previously thought. Many in the scientific and academic establishment dismissed his controversial findings, but he persevered with his research for decades.

Starting in 2002, U of O archaeologists undertook fresh digs in the caves Cressman had explored. They found DNA samples dated at 14,600 years, confirming this as the earliest verified site of human habitation in the Americas — before written language, the Egyptian pyramids or the first-known wheel.

To learn more about ancient archaeological discoveries around the state, watch the Oregon Experience documentary “Luther Cressman, Quest for First People.”

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