All Hands on Deck 

Forthcoming Paisley Caves book is a group effort

By Kristin Strommer
Director of Communications and Marketing
Museum of Natural and Cultural History 

Oregon’s high desert has been a focus of the museum’s archaeological research since the 1930s, when Luther Cressman famously recovered dozens of ancient sandals from Fort Rock Cave. In the ensuing decades, mounting evidence from the region’s dry cave and rockshelter sites has put Oregon on the map as home to some of North America’s oldest cultural sites.

Dennis Jenkins teaching during a field excursion to the Paisley Caves

Dennis Jenkins teaching during a 2015 field excursion

At the Paisley Caves, a high desert site in Oregon’s Summer Lake basin, museum archaeologist Dennis Jenkins has been leading field investigations for nearly 20 years. It was there that he uncovered a set of roughly 1800 coprolites—desiccated feces—between 2002 and 2011. Some of the specimens were radiocarbon dated to around 14,000 years ago, then later confirmed as human feces through ancient DNA and biochemical analysis—making them the oldest directly-dated human remains in the Western Hemisphere.

Now on sabbatical, Jenkins is heading up an effort to produce a book that presents multidisciplinary perspectives on the Paisley Caves. Slated for publication later this year or early next, the book will include more than 20 coauthors, six of whom are MNCH staff members. Anthropological Collections director Pam Endzweig, who has extensively studied Cressman’s fieldnotes, correspondence, and fieldwork films, contributed an opening chapter about his early work at the site, while Archaeological Research director Tom Connolly and Anthropological Collections manager Elizabeth Kallenbach collaborated on a chapter describing Paisley Caves basketry, cordage, and other perishable artifacts. Museum paleobiologist Edward Davis and colleagues present analyses of megafaunal and small mammal remains uncovered at the site, and Jenkins and Connolly join executive director Jon Erlandson in a final chapter exploring the implications of Paisley Caves research for North American archaeology as a whole. Stay tuned for a publication announcement!

Multiple Warp sandals from Cressman excavation, left to right; ca. 1010 years old, 1050 years old, 1520 years old

Multiple warp sandals from Luther Cressman’s excavations at the Paisley Caves. Left to right: ca. 1010 years old, 1050 years old, and 1520 years old.

You help make it happen.

We’d like to thank the individuals and organizations who have so generously supported the Paisley Caves book project. From research in the field and lab all the way to the editing desk, your gifts have helped make this important work possible.

Archaeological Society of Central Oregon

Jay and Teresa Bowerman

Al and Claire Depenbrock

Nancy Slight-Gibney and Robert Gibney

Ann and Gary Glaze

Geraldine Gorney

Art and Sue Hurley

Martha Hurley

Sacramento Archaeological Society

James Tysell

The project also received key funding from the Bureau of Land Management and the museum’s Paleoindian Research Endowment.

Learn more about ways to support the museum’s research and education mission.

Header image: MNCH field investigation at the Paisley Caves circa 2000. Photo by Alton Strupp.


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