Archaeologists find new evidence in Southern Oregon that suggests human habitation 18,000 years ago

New evidence suggests humans were in Oregon more than 18,000 years ago.

Photo Courtesy of Becky Raines / University of Oregon

By Ella Hutcherson (Jefferson Public Radio)

Archaeologists have new evidence suggesting that humans occupied Oregon more than 18,000 years ago. This makes it one of the oldest known sites of human occupation in North America.

A 2023 radiocarbon dating analysis was made based on findings at the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter near Burns, Oregon. The University of Oregon Archaeological Field School has been excavating at the site, which features a shallow overhang in an otherwise open environment. The field school has been working in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management since 2011.

UO staff archaeologist Patrick O’Grady said in 2012 the team found telling objects — camel tooth enamel fragments and a human-made tool — deep in the rock shelter, buried underneath the ash of a Mt. St. Helens eruption from over 15,000 years ago.

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