For many years, archaeologists and historians have attempted to identify the first people to reach and populate the Western hemisphere, including North America.
Beginning next week, the 20th annual Oregon Archaeology Celebration (OAC) series will examine several current theories on the matter through a sequence of presentations at Smith Rock State Park with the theme of "The Peopling of the Americas."
The presentations take place on Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m. throughout the month of October and are free and open to the public (a $5 Oregon State Parks day-use permit or annual permit is required to park at Smith Rock). Each presentation will run approximately an hour and a half in length and will include a question-and-answer period at the end.
On Friday, October 4th, Oregon State Parks resource specialist Paul Patton will discuss the "Solutrean hypothesis" proposed by archaeologist Dennis J. Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution. Stanford's research suggests that the first Americans came to North America from Europe approximately 20,000 years ago.
On October 11th, retired Oregon State archaeologist Leland Gilsen will exhibit a "Traveling Museum of Oregon Prehistory," showcasing the tools, weapons, and technological achievements of the First Americans.
Archaeologist Tom Connolly, Director of Research at the University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History and State Museum of Anthropology will present "The Sandals That Changed the World" on October 18th. His talk will describe how the archaeological record supports the most accepted current theory that the First Americans arrived in North America via a resource-rich offshore route from northern Asia called the "Kelp Highway."
The presentation series will conclude on October 25th with a talk by Wilson Wewa, Northern Paiute Elder and historian presenting "Since Time Immemorial." Wewa will explain how traditional legends, oral histories, and observations support the idea that Native Americans have always been here and did not originate elsewhere.
The Oregon Archaeology Celebration was created through a proclamation by the Governor of Oregon that set aside one month each year to celebrate and promote archaeology, cultural heritage, and history with a focus on Oregon. It represents a great opportunity for members of the public to discover the compelling and colorful history and heritage of the state.
Smith Rock State Park is located three miles north of Redmond and three miles east of Terrebonne off of Highway 97. More information and directions are available by going to www.oregonstateparks.org or calling 541-923-7551, ext. 21.