Research Spotlight

 

DATING ANCIENT FOOTWEAR 

Fort Rock Sandals
Though long identified as a pair, only one of the famous Fort Rock Sandals has been radiocarbon dated—until now. Photo: Jack Liu

The 10,000-year-old Fort Rock sandals in our collections are among the museum’s best-known artifacts. But many people don’t know that a number of additional sandals were uncovered at Fort Rock Cave. Reporting in 1940, museum archaeologist Luther Cressman cited between 75 and 100 sandals or sandal fragments. As part of a larger project to directly date woven artifacts from Oregon Native American sites, ten of these sandals have been radiocarbon dated, yielding ages between 8,875 and 10,440 calendar years. 

While these dates illuminate the age range of the sandal cache as a whole, questions remain about exactly when and where the sandals were deposited, and whether any of the artifacts—including those pictured here—represent actual pairs.  

To answer some of these questions, we have set out to radiocarbon date all of the Fort Rock sandals in our collections—a project supported by the museum’s Paleoindian Endowment. Twelve new samples have been submitted for analysis, and we look forward to reporting the results when they arrive later this year. Stay tuned!

—Pam Endzweig, Anthropological Collections

 

 

 

 

NEXT: Museums as Instruments of Change

Learn more about the Great Basin sandal collection.

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