We routinely identify animals by the feces they leave behind, but now this is being done with prehistoric man. DNA is being recovered from dried human excrement in order to identify where these prehistoric people came from. The dried excrement in Oregon’s Paisley Caves is the oldest found yet in the New World?dating to 14,300 years ago?and provides apparent genetic ties to Siberia or Asia. The Paisley Caves are located in the Summer Lake basin near Paisley, about 220 miles southeast of Eugene on the eastern side of the Cascade Range. The series of eight caves are westward-facing, wave-cut shelters on the highest shoreline of pluvial Lake Chewaucan, which rose and fell in periods of greater precipitation during the Pleistocene.

Archeologist Eske Willerslev says, “The Paisley Cave material represents, to the best of my knowledge, the oldest human DNA obtained from the Americas. Other [prehistoric] sites have been claimed, but no human DNA has been obtained, mostly because no human organic material had been recovered.” The DNA testing indicated that the feces belonged to Native Americans in genetic groups that are common in Siberia and east Asia.

Archeologist Dennis L. Jenkins says, “All six coprolites containing ancient DNA underwent additional testing at two independent labs. Three of the six also contained DNA similar to red fox, coyote or wolf.” This suggests that these early Americans ate the animals or that the animals urinated on the human feces during times of non-human habitation. We can learn a lot about the future by studying the past.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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