Oregon's Paisley Five Mile Point Caves are now included in the list of the National Register of Historic Places after researchers discovered it holds evidence of human occupation 14,300 years ago, or about 1,000 years earlier than the period associated with the Clovis people, who are believed to be the first humans settlers of the New World.
Researchers found artifacts that included Western Stemmed points and woven plant fiber cordage at the site along with fossilized feces that contain human DNA. A sandal had also been found in the cave complex, which is now on display at the Klamath County Museum. The sandal, which is about 8,000 to 9,000 years old, was excavated by University of Oregon archeologist Luther Cressman.
Dennis Jenkins, an archeologist from the University of Oregon, who led the excavation that found the fossilized human excrements otherwise known as coprolites said that the caves located near Paisley in south-central Oregon offered significant information about when the first human inhabitants settled in America.
Over 200 coprolites were radiocarbon dated revealing the existence of humans at the site predating the Clovis times challenging the theory that the Clovis Culture is America's first human inhabitants. The coprolites had been tested by several independent laboratories.
"Archaeologists have worked at the site since 1938," Jenkins said. "As we have used increasingly sophisticated scientific techniques in recent years, our understanding of the cultural and megafaunal remains at the site has grown dramatically."
Eske Willerslev, from the Centre for Ancient Genetics of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said that the materials found at the Paisley Cave have the oldest human DNA found in America pointing out that no human DNA has been discovered in other pre-Clovis sites that have been earlier reported.
Although it is not yet clear who these ancient inhabitants were, Jenkins theorizes that they may have come from Siberia or Eastern Africa. The archeologist also said that based on the analysis of the coprolites, these early Americans appeared to eat animals.
"We know something about what they were eating, which is something we can learn from coprolites," Jenkins said. "All six coprolites containing ancient DNA underwent additional testing at two independent labs. Three of the six also contained DNA similar to red fox, coyote or wolf."
Jenkins also said that it is possible that the animals urinated on the human excrements during periods when humans did not live in the area.