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.


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

Saluda River artifacts going on display

COLUMBIA — Fans of the Saluda River now have a new place to learn about the area’s Native American history.

Officials from South Carolina Electric & Gas and the Saluda Shoals Park are holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday to open a new display at the Saluda Shoals Environmental Education Center in Columbia. The center will show off archaeological artifacts found on the river’s bank in recent years.

Organizers say more than 37,000 artifacts have been found at a site near an abandoned tree house along the Saluda. Some tools found there are said to be among the oldest found in the U.S.

Local dig produces the ‘Holy Grail’ of archaeology

Staff writer
One little arrowhead has caused quite a stir among local amateur
archaeologists. But one arrowhead is all it took to turn Ebberts Spring Site 36FR367,
two miles south of Greencastle, from a typical archaeological dig into a
super site.

The artifact, which can be hidden in the palm of your hand, is a paleo
point ˜ a stone point from a spear used during the Paleo-Indianperiod
from 10,000 to 8000 B.C., just after the last ice age. It’s identifiable
from later styles of points by the groove chipped into each side. These
grooves helped in slipping the stone into a split wood shaft.
It’s a rare find, said Doug Stine, president of Cumberland Valley
Chapter 27 Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Inc.
“A paleo point is the Holy Grail of archaeology,” he said.
The point was found last fall while the chapter’s members, all but one
of them avocational archaeologists, were excavating nine inches deep in
the lawn of the Colonial era home at Ebberts Spring. At this layer, they
were finding artifacts from 1000 B.C. and earlier.
Stine had just unearthed an exceptional artifact and wandered over to
where Melissa Spatz, a Gettysburg teacher, was looking intently at the
ground. The two had a friendly competition going and Stine wanted to
“Are you OK?” he asked as she sat there, staring at her work site. There
lay the paleo point.
“In one instant,” he said, “we went from a 9,000-year-old archeological
dig to an 11,000-year-old super site.”
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission reports that this type
of point is an uncommon find, due to a low population density during the
relatively short Paleo-Indian period. All it takes for a site to be
listed as a paleo dig is one artifact from the Paleo period. The site is
named a super site when it includes artifacts from all four levels of
past civilization (see chart).
Other items found at Ebberts Spring, besides masses of points from the
Archaic and Woodland periods, are clay pipes, stone tools and pottery,
including a nearly complete bowl that’s associated with burials in the
mid-Woodland period. More recent artifacts such as buttons, jars and old
coins were found in the top layers of dirt.
While some excavation at the site had been ongoing for years, the dig
started in earnest in 2003 after the property owner, also a chapter
member, mentioned how many arrowheads he’d find each year while digging
his gardens. Workers dug near the spring and were overwhelmed by the
sheer number and variety of items uncovered.
Stine charted a grid of 5-foot-by-5-foot squares and numbered each one.
Digging only 3 inches deep at a time, teams of workers dug and recorded
their finds by section. Layer by layer, items were carefully collected
and stored. In winter, they clean, sort and catalog all their finds,
using the old two-story springhouse as a makeshift office.
Ron Powell, the site supervisor and a retired engineer, is convinced
this was a permanent community for many ages of civilization.
“The spring produces 650 gallons of water a minute,” he explained. “This
is what drew people here for 11,000 years.”
More recently, he said, this area was the crossroads of two great Indian
trails, the Virginia Trail and the Georgetown Road.
“At least a remnant of people from different groups stayed here all
year,” he said. “It would have been occupied through fall and winter,
until they moved down to the Potomac each spring to fish.”
Powell also found post hole patterns that match the size and shape of a
sweat lodge, a building where young men would go for ritual cleansing
and healing.
“We found a hearth with pottery the right size and shape,” he said.
Stine said the site itself is a unique dig. Doug McClearen, a chief
officer with the state’s Bureau of Historic Preservation, told Stine
that Ebberts Spring is the only Pennsylvania site in the Great Valley
region that’s been dug near a spring. The Great Valley, of which
Cumberland Valley is a portion, runs from New York to the Tennessee
River valleys.
The rare find at Ebberts Spring is still not widely known. This spring,
Stine plans to publicize it in the society’s magazine, Pennsylvania

Copyright ©2006 Public Opinion.

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Florida bone engraving oldest artwork in Americas

A 15-inch-long prehistoric bone fragment found near Vero Beach, Florida contains a crude engraving of a mammoth or mastodon on it. Tests so far have shown it to be genuine. If so, it appears to be “the oldest, most spectacular and rare work of art in the Americas,” wrote Dr. Barbara Purdy, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, in a report to other scientists.

The only comparable images are found in European cave paintings, she said in an interview. The bone contains “the unmistakable incising of an ancient proboscidean (elephant),” she said. An excerpt from a recent article:

Local amateur fossil collector James Kennedy appears to have made an unprecedented archaeological discovery that might help confirm a human presence here up to 13,000 years ago.

Kennedy found the brown and tan bone two years ago and put it under his sink. About two months ago, he took it out for cleaning and spotted unusual lines. He had been considering selling it at a flea market.

Instead, he showed it to a fellow collector, William Roddenberry of Vero Beach, who was amazed. They took it to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville for examination.

When Kennedy learned it was so historically valuable, he said, “It blew me away. I was absolutely baffled.”

Read the full article: “Bone appears to date human presence in Treasure Coast back 13,000 years

Ancient remnants found on bank of Saluda River

Bill Green has supervised exploration of more than 250 potentially historic sites around the Southeast.

And he knew the group working atop a bluff along the lower Saluda River was onto something special.

Over eight months, each shovelful of dirt revealed new finds — arrowheads, spear points, eating tools, pottery shards, dwelling posts, a hearth — with eventually more than 35,000 artifacts recovered.

Some items are estimated to be as much as 13,500 years old.

The site, about a mile below the Lake Murray dams, apparently was a longtime meeting and trading spot for migrant tribes, many of whose names and culture are unknown, local archaeologists say.

The finds — tools, eating implements and weapons, among other things — should provide multiple clues about ancient life, archaeologists say.

The site was discovered in 2006 as part of a federally required search of parcels with possible historic significance. That search was among the things required of South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. as part of a review of its lake operations.

South Florida Museum

Museum features many exhibits covering Native American prehistory in Florida beginning with the paleoindian time period. Also houses the world-renowned Montague Tallant Collection of Florida artifacts. Known as one of the premier collections of Florida aboriginal artifacts, the collection includes pottery, shell tools, lithics, beads, gold, silver, and other metals dating from the PaleoIndian period to the arrival of the Spanish explorers.

Is also home to a mastodon skeleton unearthed in the Aucilla River south of Tallahassee, Florida. This is the largest mastadon skeleton ever found in North America.

Back to Map of Florida Indian Sites

Internal Links:
Lost Worlds: Florida

Ancient Civilizations of Florida

External Links:
Le Moyne’s Florida Indians @ TheNewWorld.us

South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida @ TravelingAround.com (+video)

South Florida Museum