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Historic Paisley Caves Are a National Treasure

Oct 06, 2014 11:46 AM EDT
Paisley caves
An expansive cave complex was recently deemed one of the most important archaeological sites in the United States.
(Photo : BLM Lakeview)

An expansive cave complex was recently deemed one of the most important archaeological sites in the United States.

The National Park Service added the Lake County cave complex to the National Register of Historic Places after experts discovered that the site boasts evidence of human occupation reaching back as far as 14,300 years ago. That's nearly 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to The Associated Press (AP).

Back in 2012, archaeological work in Oregon's Paisley Caves initially revealed evidence of Pleistocene occupation by humans in the early 1940s. However, it wasn't until 2002 that this idea could properly be confirmed and then elaborated on by work that stretch into 2011.

The results were detailed in the reputable journal Science.

"Through replicating data we were able to confirm the authenticity of what is the oldest direct evidence for humans in the Americas," co-author Michael "Michi" Hofreiter, a biologist at the University of York, said in statement. "The results of this study are exciting, because they show that the hypothesis that the Clovis people were the first Native Americans, which has been the prevailing idea for the last decades, is wrong. Now researchers need to come up with a new model for the settling of the Americas."

The Paisley Five Mile Point Caves are in the Summer Lake basin near Paisley, about 220 miles southeast of Eugene on the east side of the Cascade Range. The complex includes eight westward-facing caves, all wave-cut shelters, and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

"BLM is pleased to see the Paisley Five Mile Points officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places," Stan McDonald, a state archaeologist for Oregon and Washington for the BLM, told the Klamath Falls Herald and News. "The site's listing underscores the importance of Oregon's archaeological heritage to understanding the full breadth of the human experience."

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