Oregon State University archaeologists have found a collection of projectile points that date from around 15,700 years ago.
At the Cooper’s Ferry site along the Salmon River in present-day Idaho, the researchers discovered 13 complete and several fragmented projectile points. They are 3,000 years older than the Clovis fluted points found across North America and 2,300 years older than the points previously discovered at the same location.
The Salmon River location is in traditional Nez Perce territory, which the tribe refers to as the historic settlement of Nipéhe. The federal Bureau of Land Management now owns the land in the public interest.
The points’ age is significant, but they are also significant because they resemble projectile points discovered in Japan‘s Hokkaido region between 16,000 and 20,000 years ago. The idea that the ice period inhabitants of Northeast Asia and North America had early genetic and cultural ties is strengthened by their presence in Idaho.
OSU anthropology professor Loren Davis stated: “The earliest peoples of North America possessed cultural knowledge that they used to survive and thrive over time. Some of this knowledge can be seen in the way people made stone tools, such as the projectile points found at the Cooper’s Ferry site.”
“By comparing these points with other sites of the same age and older, we can infer the spatial extents of social networks where this technological knowledge was shared between peoples.”
These thin projectile tips have a symmetrical beveled form when viewed from the front and two separate ends, one sharpened and one stemmed. Despite their diminutive size, they were devastating weapons, according to Davis, and they were probably tied to darts rather than arrows or spears.
“There’s an assumption that early projectile points had to be big to kill large game; however, smaller projectile points mounted on darts will penetrate deeply and cause tremendous internal damage. “You can hunt any animal we know about with weapons like these.” he added.
According to Davis, these findings add to the growing picture of early human existence in the Pacific Northwest. “Finding a site where people made pits and stored complete and broken projectile points nearly 16,000 years ago gives us valuable details about the lives of our region’s earliest inhabitants.”
According to the news of Heritage Daily, the recently found pits are a part of the wider Cooper’s Ferry record, which also includes a fire pit that dates back 14,200 years and a food-processing area with the remains of an extinct horse, both of which were previously reported by Davis and colleagues. In total, they located and mapped more than 65,000 artifacts, accurately documenting their positions to the next millimeter.
A financing arrangement between OSU and the BLM allowed for the discovery of the projectile points across several summers between 2012 and 2017. The site has been completely covered once all excavation work was finished. At the location, the BLM put up interpretive panels and a kiosk to explain the project.
Since the 1990s, Davis has been researching the Cooper’s Ferry site while working as an archaeologist for the BLM. He now collaborates with the BLM to send OSU graduate and undergraduate students to the site over the summer. The team collaborates closely with the Nez Perce tribe to share all results and to give native children field experiences.
Cover photo: Heritage Daily