The museum's archaeological collections reach back to the arrival of the First Americans more than 14,000 years ago. Among these collections are thousands of artifacts from the Northern Great Basin—a region that straddles the high deserts of Oregon, Nevada, and California and is home to some of North America’s oldest cultural sites.
Our Great Basin holdings include the famous Fort Rock Sandals, which remain the world's oldest known footwear, as well as the Paisley Caves coprolites recovered by museum archaeologist Dennis Jenkins. Visit our Northern Great Basin Archaeological Perishables Catalog to learn more about this extraordinary collection.
Like the sandals and coprolites, many of the artifacts in our care come from museum field research conducted around Oregon. Since the 1930s, museum archaeologists have identified, recovered, and preserved thousands of artifacts from highway, dam, and other public works sites. Our Archaeology field schools and international field research projects also continually add to the archaeological collections. The state's most active archaeological research organization, the museum collaborates with Native American Tribes, state and federal agencies, and a variety of other stakeholders to protect Oregon's cultural resources and preserve a public record of its diverse histories.
- Find out more about archaeological curation at the museum.
- Learn about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
- Read about the museum's archaeological field research.