NEWLY DATED TOOL HELPS ILLUMINATE A CHAPTER OF OREGON’S PAST
In summer 2019, students at the museum’s Connley Caves archaeology field school made an extraordinary find: a complete concave base projectile point located within some of the site’s earliest cultural deposits. Radiocarbon dates from materials above it suggested that the point could be well over 12,000 years old—making it one of the oldest such points ever uncovered.
The students gathered associated charcoal samples and museum archaeologists submitted them for radiocarbon dating late last summer. The results, which arrived in early December, date the point to about 12,700 years ago.
Museum archaeologist Richie Rosencrance, who has been part of the Connley Caves field school excavations for the last five years, said that the find is quite unique. “This type of tool—sometimes referred to as a Great Basin concave base point—has never before turned up in a reliable, buried context like this one. Finally, we have a firmly established date.”
A specialist in the stone tool technologies of Oregon’s Great Basin, Rosencrance said that the point represents a missing piece of a puzzle. “It falls into a time period that’s represented by very few dated sites, and it provides us with a new look at early spear technology.”
Future studies, now in the planning stages, will compare the point to more established tool assemblages from the region.
“We hope these studies will give us a clearer picture of the point’s place in Oregon’s cultural history,” Rosencrance said.
—Kristin Strommer, Museum Communications