OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

FLOODING WATERS MAY PROVE TREASURE TROVE FOR ARCHAEOLOGISTS

02/21/1996

CORVALLIS - Flood waters from raging rivers around the Pacific Northwest are threatening a variety of fish and animals, but they may provide scientists with fresh insights into critters who lived thousands of years ago.

The recent flooding - in many areas, the worst in 30 years or longer - is eroding streambanks throughout western Oregon and Washington, experts say.

And that may give archaeologists a new peek at the past.

"Following major flooding events, the remains of Ice Age mammals are often exposed, from mastodons and mammoths to saber tooth cats," said Rob Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Oregon State University. "Right after flood waters subside is a good time to discover new sites."

The OSU center has an ongoing project to identify and document sites with Ice Age remains as part of its effort to locate the earliest humans to inhabit the Americas.

Bonnichsen asks that anyone who finds old bones poking out of a newly exposed riverbank call the Center for the Study of the First Americans at 541-737-4595. Of particular interest, he said, are tributaries of the Willamette River system.

"Some of the best sites we've discovered have come from tips from farmers and home owners with property on small creeks or rivers feeding into the Willamette," he said.