'Tantalizing' Ancient Tool Found at Oregon Dig
Scraper may be oldest human artifact in the West
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2015 2:02 AM CST
The Rimrock Draw Rockshelter archaeological dig outside Riley, Ore.   (AP Photo/University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Patrick O'Grady)
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(Newser) – A small stone tool unearthed in eastern Oregon appears to be so ancient that the history of humans in the area may have to be rewritten, archaeologists say. The agate scraper found at a rock shelter was below a 15,800-year-old layer of ash from Mount St. Helens, making it potentially older than any other evidence of human occupation west of the Rocky Mountains, reports the AP. Analysis of the tool—which is made from orange agate not usually found in the area—revealed it had been used to butcher an animal believed to be the extinct buffalo species Bison antiquus, KTVZ reports.

University of Oregon archaeologist Patrick O'Grady says the team plans to keep excavating the site after the "tantalizing" find, which may be older than any other find predating the Clovis people once thought to be the first in North America, NBC News reports. University of Washington professor of archaeology Donald K. Grayson, however, predicts there will be a lot of skepticism about the find. "No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way," he tells the AP. "Until then, extreme skepticism is all they are going to get." (Experts believe they have found evidence of a long-lost civilization in the Honduran rainforest.)