America's Oldest Projectiles Found in Idaho

Prateek Dasgupta
Projectiles found at the Cooper's Ferry site, believed to be 15700 years oldPhoto byOregon State University

Archaeologists at Oregon State University have made a significant discovery in Idaho: a collection of stone projectile points that are thousands of years older than any previously found in the Americas.

13 projectile points, which are razor sharp and range in size from approximately half an inch to two inches long, were carbon-14 dated to be from around 15,700 years ago. This is about 3,000 years older than the Clovis fluted points that have been found throughout North America, and 2,300 years older than the points previously discovered at the same site.

The projectile points were found at the Cooper's Ferry site, located along the Salmon River and on traditional Nez Perce land known as the ancient village of Nipéhe. The land is currently owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

In addition to the projectile points, the archaeologists also found simple flakes and pieces of bone at the site, indicating human presence around 16,000 years ago. But, the discovery of the projectile points reveals a more advanced level of technological expression and thought among the first Americans at that time.

The projectile points are also notable for their similarity to those found in Hokkaido, Japan, which date back to 16,000-20,000 years ago. This similarity adds further support to the hypothesis of early genetic and cultural connections between the ice age peoples of Northeast Asia and North America.

The discovery of these projectile points provides new insights into the technological capabilities and cultural practices of the earliest humans in the Americas.

The projectile points from Cooper's Ferry site are characterized by two distinct ends, one sharpened and one stemmed, as well as a symmetrical beveled shape when viewed head-on. They were likely attached to darts rather than arrows or spears, and despite their small size, they were deadly weapons.

The archaeologists believe that these slender projectile points were used to hunt a wide range of animals, as they were able to cause significant internal damage when mounted on darts and would penetrate deeply.

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- Loren Davis, Anthropology Professor, Oregon State University

The Cooper's Ferry site has proven to be a rich source of information about the lives of the earliest inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the projectile points, the archaeologists have also found a 14,200-year-old fire pit and a food-processing area containing the remains of an extinct horse at the site.

In total, they have identified and mapped over 65,000 items, recording their locations with millimeter precision for accurate documentation.

Humans may have arrived in the Americas much before we think. If you found this story informative make sure to learn about the Ice Age footprints which challenge traditional dates of human migration to North America.

Want to read the best local stories about the human past for free?

Sign up for the Newsbreak app using my referral link.

If you want to share local news and contribute to the Newsbreak community as a side hustle, sign up using my referral link.

Comments / 1

Published by

As a writer, lost civilizations and human progress fascinate me. My goal on News Break is to spark people's interest in the past, archaeology, natural history, and the history of scientific inquiry.


More from Prateek Dasgupta

Comments / 0