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In 1938, archaeologist Luther S. Cressman and a team of University of Oregon students uncovered seventy-five sagebrush sandals at Fort Rock Cave in Lake County, Oregon. Through radio-carbon dating and extensive research, Cressman determined that the sandals were more than 9,000 years old. In further excavations of the Fort Rock area during the 1960s, Cressman and University of Oregon graduate student Stephen Bedwell found evidence of tools and campfire remains from as far back as 11,000 to 13,000 years ago. These archeological discoveries were important evidence in efforts to establish how long people have inhabited Oregon’s Great Basin. The Fort Rock sandals were covered in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mt. Mazama, 7000 years ago, an event that may have contributed to a climate change that made the Fort Rock area more arid. In June 1963, at the Fort Rock excavation site, Cressman read the celebratory dedication that designated Fort Rock Cave as a National Historic Landmark. In 1998, Gordon W. Wanek, a businessman from the LaPine/Bend area who owned the land around Fort Rock, donated his claim to The Archaeological Conservancy. Luther Cressman died in 1994 at the age of 96.
Cressman, Luther S. The Sandal and the Cave: The Indians of Oregon. Corvallis, Oreg., 1981.
Aikens, C. Melvin. Archaeology of Oregon, 3rd ed. Portland, Oreg., 1993.
Bedwell, Stephen F. and Luther S. Cressman. “1971 Fort Rock Report: Prehistory and Environment of the Pluvial Fort Rock Lake Area of South-Central Oregon.” In Great Basin Anthropological Conference 1970: Selected Papers, edited by C. Melvin Aikens. Eugene, Oreg., 1971.
Written by Kathy Tucker, © Oregon Historical Society, 2002.