Paleoamerican Odyssey

By Kelly E. Graf; Caroline V. Ketron et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 28
Geochronology, Archaeological Context,
and DNA at the Paisley Caves

Dennis L. Jenkins1, Loren G. Davis2, Thomas W. Stafford, Jr.3, Paula F. Campos3,
Thomas J. Connolly1, Linda Scott Cummings4, Michael Hofreiter5, Bryan Hockett6,
Katelyn McDonough1, Ian Luthe1, Patrick W. O’Grady1, Karl J. Reinhard7, Mark E. Swisher1,
Frances White8, Bonnie Yates9, Robert M. Yohe II10, Chad Yost4, Eske Willerslev3

ABSTRACT

The Paisley Caves are the most widely accepted (by professional archaeologists) pre-Clovis site in North
America. This is primarily because the directly radiocarbon-dated artifacts found with extinct megafaunal
remains (horse, camel, llama, mammoth/mastodon, reindeer, and American lion) are human coprolites from
which ancient DNA (Pleistocene haplogroups A2 and B2) has been extracted and verified in blind tests by re-
searchers at independent genetics laboratories. This paper brings together the most current data to address
the questions: What are the stratigraphic context and reliability of late-Pleistocene cultural and paleonto-
logical remains at the site? What are the cultural and paleontological constituents in the Pleistocene strata?
Were they contemporaneous and culturally associated? Is the human DNA evidence reliable?

Geoarchaeological analyses of site sediments indicate the often highly organic deposits are remark-
ably stable. The site sediments have not been churned up despite the occasional presence of identifiable
rodent holes. The only identifiable Pleistocene/early-Holocene lithic technology is the Western Stemmed
Tradition extending back to at least the Clovis-era. Chronological control is provided by 203 radiocarbon
dates ranging in age from ca. 16,000 cal yr BP to Historic contact. The pre-Clovis DNA evidence is sound. Site
occupants were broad-range foragers eating plants, animals, and insects throughout the occupations.

Keywords: Geochronology, Geoarchaeology, DNA, Coprolite, Western Stemmed, Pre-Clovis


Introduction

There remains little debate about the pre-Clovis status of the Monte Verde site in Chile. The site has been accepted outright by roughly 70% of professional archaeologists, with another 20% abstaining from either totally accepting or rejecting its pre-Clovis validity, and only 10% rejecting it outright (Wheat 2012). With a professional acceptance rate of 43%, the Paisley Caves site in Oregon is currently the most widely accepted pre-Clovis site in North America (Wheat 2012). While a substantial number of other pre-Clovis candidates have been

1 Museum of Natural and Cultural History, 1224-University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 97403-1224.

2 Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, 238 Waldo Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331.

3 Centre for Geogenetics, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5-7, DK – 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark.

4 Paleo Research Institute, 2675 Youngfield St., Golden, CO 80401-2240.

5 Department of Biology, University of York, York, Y010 5DD, UK.

6 Bureau of Land Management, Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502.

7 School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NB 68583-0987.

8 Department of Anthropology, 308 Condon Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 97403.

9 230 Sweetbrier Dr., Talent, OR 97540.

10 Department of Anthropology, California State University, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311. Corresponding author: e-mail: 1djenkins@uoregon.edu

-485-

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