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New Evidence for Early Prehistoric Oregon Population

OPB | July 13, 2012 9:06 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 11:45 p.m.

A team of archaeologists at the University of Oregon have found new evidence of a prehistoric human population in North America, based in Paisley, Oregon. Their evidence: a spear point.

Trying to pin down the earliest prehistoric culture in North America is a difficult task, but the archeological establishment says it’s the Clovis culture. There is strong debate about the factuality of that claim, but despite the skepticism, there has yet to be strong enough evidence to displace the “Clovis-first” theory.

The new findings discovered by the University of Oregon professors may not be strong enough to prove an earlier culture than the Clovis, but lead researcher Dennis Jenkins says it proves there was a contemporary, separate tradition from the Clovis, called the “Western Stemmed Tradition.”

So little is preserved from these early North American humans that the distinction comes down to a difference in spear-tip technology, which Jenkins points out, is not insignificant. Traditions like weapon-making were handed down from generation to generation.

Almost everything we know about these early populations comes from their spear points. Even their names, “Clovis,” and “Western Stemmed,” refer to the stone spear points. For a sense of the differences in technology compare these Clovis spear points to the Western Stemmed points above:

Clovis Spearpoints

Credit: Bill Whittaker

What questions do you have about the people that lived here 13000 years ago?

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