Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas identified by human fecal biomarkers in coprolites from Paisley Caves, Oregon

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Science Advances  15 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 29, eaba6404
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba6404


When and how people first settled in the Americas is an ongoing area of research and debate. The earliest sites typically only contain lithic artifacts that cannot be directly dated. The lack of human skeletal remains in these early contexts means that alternative sources of evidence are needed. Coprolites, and the DNA contained within them, are one such source, but unresolved issues concerning ancient DNA taphonomy and potential for contamination make this approach problematic. Here, we use fecal lipid biomarkers to demonstrate unequivocally that three coprolites dated to pre-Clovis are human, raise questions over the reliance on DNA methods, and present a new radiocarbon date on basketry further supporting pre-Clovis human occupation.

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