Florida Ice Age Site with Early Human Remains to be Excavated

A woolly mammoth reconstruction in the Royal BC Museum, CanadaFlying Puffin, Wikimedia.org

A woolly mammoth reconstruction in the Royal BC Museum, CanadaFlying Puffin, Wikimedia.org

Excavation of one of the most important Ice Age sites in North America – the Old Vero Man site in Vero Beach, Fla. – is expected to begin in January 2014, thanks to a new collaboration between the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI) at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC).

On Monday, Dec. 2, Mercyhurst President Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D., MAI Director James Adovasio, Ph.D., and retired Mercyhurst Trustee William Sennett will be in Vero Beach to sign an agreement with OVIASC, a citizens group directed by Randy Old, and put the official stamp of approval on the pending excavation. Members of city and county government and the Indian River Farms Water Control District also will be on hand to witness the culmination of years of renewed local interest in the site, first discovered 100 years ago.

vero-beach-bonesScientists believe the Old Vero Man site, famous for the discovery of Vero Man in 1915, contains significant fossils and artifacts, including human remains at least 13,000 years old, along with the remains of extinct animals, according to Adovasio. Adovasio and MAI research archaeologist C. Andrew Hemmings, Ph.D., will direct the project. They will be assisted by Mercyhurst alumni Anne Marjenin, director of the Archaeology Processing Lab at Mercyhurst, who will serve as chief field assistant; and Ben Wells, who is pursuing graduate studies at the University of West Florida. A number of Mercyhurst archaeology students will participate in the historic dig as well.

vero-beach-site

About a century ago, workers digging the main drainage canal in Vero Beach uncovered evidence of mastodons, saber tooth cats, ground sloths, mammoths and other fossils, as well as human remains. The discovery of parts of a skull and 44 bones of a human skeleton became known as “Vero Man.”

As is often the case in the scientific debate over early Americans, the Old Vero Man site is steeped in controversy, largely centered on whether the human remains in Vero were of a more recent age than the extinct animal bones due to mixing of geological layers. The Vero site remains in the literature on early American inhabitants, but its status is unresolved.

“From the beginning, Vero was one of the more infamous archaeological sites in North America because it was seen as such a threat to the then perceived wisdom that no humans had lived here during the last Ice Age,” Adovasio said. “Like Meadowcroft and Monte Verde, it was the subject of vitriolic abuse by the alleged experts at the time. Largely because of that abuse and the less than rigorous field methods, Vero went off the radar. But, because of the phenomenal preservation of Ice Age plant and animal materials at that site, this new excavation will serve to illuminate a time frame in the American Southeast that no other site can, with or without human associations. Whatever information is in there, we are going to get it.”

After analysis at Mercyhurst, it is anticipated that artifacts will return to Vero Beach for display, according to OVIASC’s Randy Old. OVIASC hopes to create a State of Florida-approved repository in Indian River County for that purpose.

A fossilized bone with a mastodon or mammoth carved into it was discovered by amateur fossil hunter and local resident James Kennedy. The artifact is "one of the oldest pieces of prehistoric art in the Western Hemisphere." Adapted from Chip Clark/Journal of Archaeological Science

A fossilized bone with a mastodon or mammoth carved into it was discovered by amateur fossil hunter and local resident James Kennedy. The artifact is “one of the oldest pieces of prehistoric art in the Western Hemisphere.” Adapted from Chip Clark/Journal of Archaeological Science

Adovasio and Hemmings, meanwhile, believe the pending excavation will bring new answers to questions about the controversial site. Adovasio is known for his meticulous excavation of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, widely recognized as the earliest well-dated archaeological site in North America, with evidence of human habitation dating to ca. 16,000 years ago. Hemmings, an expert on the oldest Paleoindian sites in the U.S., received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida and has worked on submerged and other ancient sites across Florida. The pair brings not only a wealth of expertise, but some of the latest methods used in modern scientific excavations for which the MAI is renowned.

“The new excavation in Vero will bring current analytical techniques to the soil layers, bone fragments, seeds, pollen and other materials discovered, and more complete and perhaps new answers to the questions of who were the people found there and how they lived and died,” Old said.

Courtesy Mercyhurst University

Did A Massive Solar Proton Event Fry The Earth

Close to the end of the last ice age there was a sudden disappearance of many mammalian species which some paleontologists say was the most severe since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In North America 95 percent of the megafauna became extinct, these being predominantly mammals having body weights greater than 25 to 50 kilograms. But even small animals were affected, as in the disappearance of 10 genera of birds.

Although North America was most affected, it had a severe impact also in Europe, Siberia, and South America. The cause of the extinction has long remained a mystery. Theories that have been put forth have ranged from overkill by North American paleolithic hunters to the impact of a large comet or swarm of meteors. But all have been shown to have serious flaws.

Now, Starburst Foundation researcher Dr. Paul LaViolette has found evidence that this mysterious die-off may have had a solar flare cause. In his paper published this week in the journal Radiocarbon, LaViolette concludes that a super sized solar proton event (SPE) impacted the earth about 12,900 years ago (12,837+/- 10 calendar years BP).*

He notes that this date roughly coincides with that of the Rancholabrean termination, a time boundary beyond which the numbers of extinct megafaunal remains are found to sharply decline. Read the full story here.

Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened by New Evidence Located in Ohio, Indiana

Was the course of life on the planet altered 12,900 years ago by a giant comet exploding over Canada? New evidence found by UC Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley and colleagues suggests the answer is affirmative.

Date: 7/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

Geological evidence found in Ohio and Indiana in recent weeks is strengthening the case to attribute what happened 12,900 years ago in North America — when the end of the last Ice Age unexpectedly turned into a phase of extinction for animals and humans – to a cataclysmic comet or asteroid explosion over top of Canada.

comet/asteroid theory advanced by Arizona-based geophysicist Allen West in the past two years says that an object from space exploded just above the earth’s surface at that time over modern-day Canada, sparking a massive shock wave and heat-generating event that set large parts of the northern hemisphere ablaze, setting the stage for the extinctions.

Now University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, working in conjunction with Allen West and Indiana Geological Society Research Scientist Nelson R. Schaffer, has verified evidence from sites in Ohio and Indiana – including, locally, Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio and Brown County in Indiana – that offers the strongest support yet for the exploding comet/asteroid theory.

Samples of diamonds, gold and silver that have been found in the region have been conclusively sourced through X-ray diffractometry in the lab of UC Professor of Geology Warren Huff back to the diamond fields region of Canada.

The only plausible scenario available now for explaining their presence this far south is the kind of cataclysmic explosive event described by West’s theory. “We believe this is the strongest evidence yet indicating a comet impact in that time period,” says Tankersley.

Ironically, Tankersley had gone into the field with West believing he might be able to disprove West’s theory.

Tankersley was familiar through years of work in this area with the diamonds, gold and silver deposits, which at one point could be found in such abundance in this region that the Hopewell Indians who lived here about 2,000 years ago engaged in trade in these items.

Prevailing thought said that these deposits, which are found at a soil depth consistent with the time frame of the comet/asteroid event, had been brought south from the Great Lakes region by glaciers.

“My smoking gun to disprove (West) was going to be the gold, silver and diamonds,” Tankersley says. “But what I didn’t know at that point was a conclusion he had reached that he had not yet made public – that the likely point of impact for the comet wasn’t just anywhere over Canada, but located over Canada’s diamond-bearing fields. Instead of becoming the basis for rejecting his hypothesis, these items became the very best evidence to support it.”

Additional sourcing work is being done at the sites looking for iridium, micro-meteorites and nano-diamonds that bear the markers of the diamond-field region, which also should have been blasted by the impact into this region.

Much of the work is being done in Sheriden Cave in north-central Ohio’s Wyandot County, a rich repository of material dating back to the Ice Age.

Tankersley first came into contact with West and Schaffer when they were invited guests for interdisciplinary colloquia presented by UC’s Department of Geology this spring.

West presented on his theory that a large comet or asteroid, believed to be more than a mile in diameter, exploded just above the earth at a time when the last Ice Age appeared to be drawing to a close.

The timing attached to this theory of about 12,900 years ago is consistent with the known disappearances in North America of the wooly mammoth population and the first distinct human society to inhabit the continent, known as the Clovis civilization. At that time, climatic history suggests the Ice Age should have been drawing to a close, but a rapid change known as the Younger Dryas event, instead ushered in another 1,300 years of glacial conditions. A cataclysmic explosion consistent with West’s theory would have the potential to create the kind of atmospheric turmoil necessary to produce such conditions.

“The kind of evidence we are finding does suggest that climate change at the end of the last Ice Age was the result of a catastrophic event,” Tankersley says.

Currently, Tankersley can be seen in a new documentary airing on the National Geographic channel. The film“Asteroids” is part of that network’s “Naked Science” series.

The new discoveries made working with West and Schaffer will be incorporated into two more specials that Tankersley is currently involved with – one for the PBS series “Nova” and a second for the History Channel that will be filming Tankersley and his UC students in the field this summer. Another documentary, this one being produced by the Discovery Channel and the British public television network Channel 4, will also be following Tankersley and his students later this summer.

As more data continues to be compiled, Tankersley, West and Schaffer will be publishing about this newest twist in the search to explain the history of our planet and its climate.

Climate change is a favorite topic for Tankersley. “The ultimate importance of this kind of work is showing that we can’t control everything,” he says. “Our planet has been hit by asteroids many times throughout its history, and when that happens, it does produce climate change.”

http://www.uc.edu/News/NR.aspx?ID=8625