Science

U of O Archaeologist Finds Evidence Of Humans In Oregon 14,000 Years Ago

OPB | April 4, 2008 2:25 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:16 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Rob Manning

cavesA University of Oregon scientist is responsible for a potential breakthrough in the understanding of when humans first arrived in North America, and particularly, the Pacific Northwest. Research co-authored by U of O Archaeologist Dennis Jenkins appearing in the journal Science indicates that humans visited southern Oregon's Paisley Caves, 14,000 years ago. Jenkins discovered fossilized excrement that he sent overseas to be inspected. He says the genetic expert he sent the samples to wasright away.

Jenkins: He said ‘well, how old do you think these are?’ And I said ‘well, they could be over 12,000 years, radio carbon years, why?’. ‘We’re getting native American DNA.’ And I said ‘wait a minute, how do you know that it’s Native American?’.”

The geneticist pointed to specific Native American markers in the samples. But it took Jenkins years to rule out the possibility that the samples were contaminated more recently than 12,000 radio carbon years ago - or 14,000 calendar years ago. The U-of-O scientist says the DNA evidence should help understand how people came to North America, thousands of years ago. But he says details about the Oregon cave dweller beyond the genetic evidence are still sketchy.

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