The multimedia scoop on prehistoric poop

Earlier this month, Science published a paper (widely covered in the media) describing the extraction of ancient human DNA from fossilized feces (coprolites) found in a cave in Oregon. The findings tend to support the so-called "pre-Clovis" hypothesis for the peopling of the Americas (I had the privilege of writing Science's news story on the paper.) My friend Rick Pettigrew of The Archaeology Channel writes to say that this very worthwhile Web site has posted a video about the discovery, as he describes below. Check it out.

Friends and colleagues: Whether Clovis Culture at 13,000 cal. B.P. represents the first human migrants to the Americas has been hotly debated for decades, but a new discovery from Oregon appears to document the human presence firmly a full millennium before Clovis. The archaeologist who recovered the new evidence tells the story directly from the find-site at Paisley Caves in Finding Pre-Clovis Humans in the Oregon High Desert: An Interview with Dennis Jenkins, the latest video feature on our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel (

In this interview, conducted at Paisley Five Mile Point Caves on June 13, 2007, by Rick Pettigrew of ALI, Dr. Dennis Jenkins describes the remarkable discovery of human DNA in coprolites dated between 14,000 and 15,000 calibrated years ago. This evidence, reported in the 3 April 2008, issue of the journal Science, strongly supports the proposition that human migrants to North America arrived at least 1000 years before the widespread Clovis complex appeared. The data also support the conclusion that the first human population originated in northeast Asia. Dr. Jenkins, standing in the very spot where his field school team recovered the evidence, relates why and how the excavation was carried out, explains the significance of the find and shares his personal reflections on making a momentous discovery. Images woven into the interview show the environment surrounding the caves and the student archaeologists comprising the field crew.

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Richard M. Pettigrew, Ph.D., RPA
President and Executive Director
Archaeological Legacy Institute

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