Every once in a while we can use a reminder that we’re not the first civilization to occupy this place. I’m talking about this continent, and I’m not talking about recent history but many thousands of years ago.The reminder came in the current edition of Oregon Quarterly, the magazine published by the University of Oregon. It reiterates the news about the latest findings at the Paisley Caves, news that came out last summer with publication of an article in Science magazine. Basically, the news was that researchers from the university had demonstrated conclusively that people were at the caves in south-central Oregon at least 14,000 years ago. They also proved that theirs was a culture different from that known as Clovis, which had been documented in New Mexico and was dated at about the same era or a little later. What this confirms is that humans populated North America not all at once but in waves, one after the other. A find of stone tools in Texas, also different from Clovis, backs up this point. The prevailing theory is that the people came from northern Asia via the Alaskan land bridge toward the end of the last ice age, some down the middle of the continent and others along the coast, perhaps by boat.
A thousand years. Think of how long that is. Two thousand years ago, the Romans flourished around the Mediterranean, and other cultures held forth in Central America. But people were in Oregon 12 thousand years before that. We can’t even imagine the enormous skills and intelligence it must have taken to survive and thrive in prehistoric times. But we can be sure that while different, the people’s talents were more than equal to our own. (hh)