What’s the surest signs that animals of the human species have been somewhere? They always seem to leave their shit lying around. Literally:
Exploring Paisley Caves in the Cascade Range of Oregon, archaeologists have found a scattering of human coprolites, or fossil feces. The specimens preserved 14,000-year-old human protein and DNA, which the discoverers said was the strongest evidence yet of the earliest people living in North America.
Other archaeologists agreed that the findings established more firmly than before the presence of people on the continent at least 1,000 years before the well-known Clovis people, previously thought to be the first Americans. Recent research at sites in Florida and Wisconsin also appears to support the earlier arrivals, and a campsite in Chile indicates migration deep into South America by 14,600 years ago. (New York Times, hat tip Boingboing)
The paper describing this has just been published in Science and is one more shot fired in a battle between the Clovis and pre-Clovis archaeologists. Until relatively recently the dominant narrative in the human settlement of the Americas was that it occurred some 12,000 to 13,000 years ago by a people known through the characteristic shapes of artifacts they left behind them. Discovery sites with artifact signs of human habitation apparently dated before that period have been made is places as geographically scattered as Florida and Chile, suggesting that if there was settlement earlier it was widespread. In other respects the new findings confirm the usual story, however. The mitochondrial DNA seems related to American Indian populations. The original settlers were still thought to be of East Asian origin, penetrating the Americas by a land bridge across the Bering straits.
Since no other artifacts were found in the cave, this appears to be an ancient bathroom. Kind of makes you think. You never know when your most humble act will have consequences far in the future.