18,200-year-old artifact may have been sourced from John Day area

By on Friday, February 9th, 2024 in Eastern/Southeast Oregon News More Top Stories

JOHN DAY – A, 18,200-year-old stone tool found at the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in Harney County may be the oldest known tool made by humans in North America, and scientists say the stone material itself may have been sourced from the John Day area. In 2023, following some crucial lab work, it was determined that the tool had direct association with matter from Pleistocene-era mammals like camelids, bison, an extinct ancestor of the modern horse, and mountain sheep. The lab work also helped them more accurately date the specimen.

In a recent Coffee Time episode on KJDY, Burns BLM District Archaeologist Dave Holst told listeners that Pat O’Grady, a U of O Archaeologist who now works at the Burns BLM, believes the chalcedony material the tool is made from may have originated out of Grant County, or nearby:

“They’re dating camel teeth, which is actually associated with cultural material. The interesting thing is that some of that cultural material is actually below those teeth.

I know last year, when you did the show, you had a picture on there which is a chalcedony artifact—which is a little different from the obsidian, and they typically can source that obsidian here through hydration analysis. Most of that, they figured, has come from the [Harney Basin] area. This artifact that’s very, very deep is made out of chalcedony. They call it Orange Peel Chalcedony, and one of the interesting things for you listeners over there in John Day, that links that area specifically to this, is—Pat thinks that the source of that chalcedony may be from over in that John Day area.”

Holst said that if anyone knows of Orange Peel Chalcedony sources in the John Day area, the Burns BLM team would be interested to know more.

Listen to the full podcast here: