These Are Some of the Oldest Weapons in the Americas

A recent discovery at the Cooper’s Ferry archeological site in Idaho has yielded findings that predate all previously known weapons in the Americas by thousands of years.

In a report published this December in Science Advances, lead researcher Loren G. Davis and his team out of Oregon State University analyzed the discovery of a large tool assemblage comprising of 13 “razor sharp” projectile points. The objects, which were likely attached to darts, date to approximately 15,700 years ago.

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This is a significant discovery, as it predates the Clovis fluted points found across North America by about 3,000 years. The proliferation of Clovis points — more than 10,000 specimens discovered across some 1,500 dig sites between Venezuela and Texas — has called their status as the oldest weapons into question over the last decade of archeology in the Americas, but they remain an industry standard as a verified example of prehistoric tool use in the field.

Overview of Area B excavations at the Cooper’s Ferry site during the summer of 2017

The Cooper Ferry points also date to the end of Marine Isotope Stage 2, when glaciers had closed off an interior land route into the Americas — meaning they are from a wholly separate culture than the Clovis points, not disseminated upwards from origins in South America.

Loren’s team posits that these points resemble pre-Jomon Late Upper Paleolithic tools from the northwestern Pacific Rim, dating to between 20,000 and 19,000 years ago, and that some of the first technological traditions in the Americas may have been born there.

The finding amends the previously accepted timeline of pointed weapon development and casts new light on prehistoric humans in the region.

“From a scientific point of view, these discoveries add very important details about what the archaeological record of the earliest peoples of the Americas looks like,” Davis said in a statement released by OSU. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We think that people were here in the Americas 16,000 years ago;’ it’s another thing to measure it by finding well-made artifacts they left behind.”


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