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RETURN TO FORT ROCK CAVE: ASSESSING THE SITE'S POTENTIAL TO CONTRIBUTE TO ONGOING DEBATES ABOUT HOW AND WHEN HUMANS COLONIZED THE GREAT BASIN

  • Thomas J. Connolly (a1), Judson Byrd Finley (a2), Geoffrey M. Smith (a3), Dennis L. Jenkins (a4), Pamela E. Endzweig (a4), Brian L. O'Neill (a4) and Paul W. Baxter (a4)...
Abstract

Oregon's Fort Rock Cave is iconic in respect to both the archaeology of the northern Great Basin and the history of debate about when the Great Basin was colonized. In 1938, Luther Cressman recovered dozens of sagebrush bark sandals from beneath Mt. Mazama ash that were later radiocarbon dated to between 10,500 and 9350 cal B.P. In 1970, Stephen Bedwell reported finding lithic tools associated with a date of more than 15,000 cal B.P., a date dismissed as unreasonably old by most researchers. Now, with evidence of a nearly 15,000-year-old occupation at the nearby Paisley Five Mile Point Caves, we returned to Fort Rock Cave to evaluate the validity of Bedwell's claim, assess the stratigraphic integrity of remaining deposits, and determine the potential for future work at the site. Here, we report the results of additional fieldwork at Fort Rock Cave undertaken in 2015 and 2016, which supports the early Holocene occupation, but does not confirm a pre–10,500 cal B.P. human presence.

La cueva de Fort Rock en Oregón es icónica por lo que representa para la arqueología de la parte norte de la Gran Cuenca y para la historia del debate sobre la primera ocupación de la Gran Cuenca. En 1938, Luther Cressman recuperó docenas de sandalias de corteza de artemisa debajo de una capa de cenizas del monte Mazama que fueron posteriormente fechadas por radiocarbono entre 10,500 y 9200 cal a.P. En 1970, Stephen Bedwell reportó haber encontrado herramientas líticas en asociación con una fecha de más de 15,000 cal. a.P., una fecha descartada como irrazonablemente antigua por la mayoría de los investigadores. Ahora, con evidencia de una ocupación de casi 15,000 años de antigüedad en las cercanas cinco cuevas de Paisley Five Mile Point, regresamos a la cueva de Fort Rock para evaluar la validez de las afirmaciones de Bedwell, evaluar la integridad estratigráfica de los depósitos restantes y determinar el potencial para investigaciones futuras en el lugar. Aquí presentamos los resultados de trabajo adicional en la cueva de Fort Rock llevado a cabo en 2015 y 2016. Estos apoyan la ocupación en el Holoceno temprano, pero no confirman una presencia humana antes de 10,500 cal a.P.

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(connolly@uoregon.edu, corresponding author)
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