Effect Measure

The future is always a crap shoot

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.


  1. #1 pauls lane
    April 7, 2008

    sometimes that ‘most humble act’ is a wonderful, glorious experience and makes your day! so why shouldn’t you want to preserve it for generations to come to awe??

  2. #2 Shannon
    April 7, 2008

    This isn’t the first time coprolite’s have widened our understanding of man, dinosaurs or, mastodons for that matter. I’m glad there are people out there who aren’t so squeamish they can’t pick up shit when it is under their noses. It is interesting ancient people used the cave as a toilet. Did they think it made them safer from predators? Was it some kind of cultural taboo? Or, was it simply, ‘if I go into the cave I want to be left alone’. LOL Opens the door to all kinds of scatological humor.

    pauls lane
    sometimes that ‘most humble act’ is a wonderful, glorious experience and makes your day! so why shouldn’t you want to preserve it for generations to come to awe??

    Dude, you need to get out more.

  3. #3 neil
    April 7, 2008

    Isn’t this another shot fired between free-thinkers and young earth creationists.

    (I should be careful so as no to bite my tongue..,)

  4. #4 neil
    April 7, 2008

    And speaking of picking up ancient shit when it’s under their noses..,

    There’s a branch of archaelogical science that uses an interesting technique to determine what ancient peoples ATE.

    It involves boiling water, and an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon.

    I won’t go into so much detail except to say it DOES involve the NOSE.


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