Archaeologists recently discovered what might be the oldest site in America once occupied by humans, and it’s right here in Oregon. Evidence suggests people were butchering away in the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter over 18,000 years ago.
It was a friendly little spot with an overhanging rock ledge to shelter under and a nearby stream termed “permanent” although it dried up about ten thousand years later, so you know—when it comes to real estate, as in anything else, caveat emptor. Anyway, thanks to such a prolonged transfer of generational wealth, Native Americans are now the most financially secure demographic in the country.
Ha ha! Nuh-uh! They were doing fine for the first 18,000 years until a couple hundred years ago, when apparently they lost it all in a casino.
What the archaeologists found were a few stone tools, serrated for hiding and cutting meat, and they found some sort of proteins on one of the tools, which they further surmised came from a large extinct buffalo, the Bison antiquus—“Buffy” to her friends, Aquarius, liked quiet nights in the mud wallow and long walks along the prairie.
Amazing predators were around then, dire wolves and saber-toothed cats, and they petered out about when the large herbivores they depended on pre-petered them. The Bison antiquus—renowned for its two long horns and two adjacent U’s—dwindled into our smaller modern bison, and those had a pretty good run until about two hundred years ago—huh!—when a bunch of white people murdered almost all of them in order to eliminate the species the remaining Native Americans depended on, so they’d go away. That would have done a number on the dire wolves too if we still had any.
The first Bison antiquus fossil was found in the 1850s in a place called Big Bone, Kentucky, at the site of the current Big Bone Lick Park. Big Bone was named after all the big bones found there. Whoever named it Big Bone Lick swears up and down he was referring to a salt lick in the vicinity, so it’s his word against just about everybody else’s.
At Rimrock Draw, they’ve found camel teeth also, buried under a layer of Mt. St. Helens ash. Which goes a long way to explain why we don’t have camels here today, because that sucker is still going off. It’s just as well, though, because camels are mean, although somewhat less so without their teeth.
Modern science is amazing. You can’t get away with anything anymore. Our Rimrock forebears might never have figured out which one of them got away with taking the big divot out of the Sunday roast in the middle of the night 18000 years ago, but it’s only a matter of time before an archaeologist does. You can’t flick a booger anymore without some scientist tracing it back to you.
Archaeology has come a long way. They found the famous bog body Tolland Man so well preserved, clothes and cap and noose and all, that you could probably still pick a zit on him, but this kind of prehistoric forensics is even more impressive. The researchers are modest about it. Of course they were able to trace 18000-year-old molecules off a stone tool because it was perfectly preserved in a layer of volcanic ash—two thousand years later. Hello! That doesn’t take much of the shine off the achievement, in my opinion.
We’re amazingly good at looking into the past. Actually, we’re pretty damn good about looking into the future too, but we’re not very good at taking that information into account for policy purposes. We’re about to engineer the destruction of the life forms even imperialists depend on and the results are predictable, but I guess there’s nothing we plan to do about it.