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Archaeologists to excavate Ice Age site in Florida with early human remains

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Archaeologists are set to excavate anew a controversial site in Florida over 13,000 years old that may indicate mankind has been in North America longer than is accepted by mainstream scholarship. The site at Vero Beach was ignored for years because of this suggestion of antiquity, which contradicts modern theses within academia. The back story of this site's discovery in 1915 and its effect on academia of the time is one of intrigue, worthy of an "Indiana Jones" film.

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Vero News relates that the excavation in Florida is significant "because it is one of only two documented sites in the Western Hemisphere where human remains have been found along side those of megafauna now extinct." The site is discussed in a report by Mercyhurst University, which states that the human remains at Vero Beach are "at least 13,000 years old" and were found with the remains of extinct animals from the Pleistocene period, which ended about 11,700 years ago.

Regarding the site's new excavation, the publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeology magazine, reports:

Controversial Ice Age Site to be Excavated

ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA—A team led by Mercyhurst University archaeologist James Adovasio will excavate a site in Vero Beach, Florida, that is one of North America's most controversial. In 1915, workers dredging a canal in Vero Beach unearthed a trove of bones belonging to extinct Ice Age animals such as saber tooth cats, ground sloths, and mammoths. Among those remains were a human skull, and dozens of other human bones that could have belonged to a man who lived 13,000 years ago. Dubbed "Vero Man," the remains became a flashpoint in the debate over the antiquity of humans in the New World.

"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," said Adovasio. He and his team will apply modern, scientific techniques to the Vero Beach site, which has excellent preservation of Ice Age plant and animal remains. (Emphasis added.)

The discovery

The discovery of these fossilized remains was made in 1914, by workers digging a drainage canal in what is now Vero Beach who uncovered "mastodons, saber tooth cats, ground sloths, mammoths and other fossils, as well as human remains." These latter included a skull and 44 bones, called "Vero Man" but now believed to have belonged to two individuals, one of whom may have been female.

The controversy

The story of man's arrival in America is contentious, with a widely accepted theory claiming only one migration across a frozen Bering Sea land bridge ("Beringia") some 13,000 years ago. Other theories assert multiple ingresses both over land and across the Pacific and Atlantic, possibly many thousands of years earlier.

"Vero Man" adds to the controversy, in this case "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." As archaeologist Dr. James Adovasio relates:

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.

Adovasio excavated the equally controversial Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania, possibly inhabited by humans beginning around 19,000 years ago, a date excluded by the single-migration Beringia theory. His new project at Vero will include analysis of "soil layers, bone fragments, seeds, pollen and other materials," using "current analytical techniques."

Human arrival in the Americas

The Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee ("OVIASC") website states that "Vero has the most important Ice Age archaeological site in North America with the oldest human remains ever found with Ice Age animals." Another controversial site in Monte Verde, Brazil, may possess the earliest human remains in South America, suggested to date back some 30,000 years.

OVIASC also includes a history of humanity's spread according to various versions of the "Out of Africa" theory, purportedly validated by modern DNA studies:

According to the fossil record, anatomically modern humans appeared just under 200,000 years ago. Shortly after their coming out party the earth entered a long glacial period that lasted some 77,000 years. The human population that had grown to over 10,000 was cut down to a near extinction level of less than 1,000. This small group of humans appeared to have hunkered down at the southern end of Africa and survived until conditions improved enough for them to go forth and populate the entire planet....

Humans had started extending their claim on this planet from about 123,000 years ago, but they still had to battle continual cycles of warming and cooling. While the last Ice Age has not officially ended, the periods of glacial ice coverage have come and gone several times. The last glacial period started around 70,000 years ago and peaked about 18,000 years ago. The warmer times that separate glacial periods within an Ice Age are known as interglacial periods. Currently we are in an interglacial period called the Holocene epoch, which began about 12,000 to 15,000 years ago with the melting of the glacial ice that covered the Northern Hemisphere. At the start of the Holocene epoch and maybe before, humans found their way to North America and then down to Florida. Even during the peak glacial ice coverage of North America, Vero Beach Florida was relatively warm or at least it was free of Ice.

The arrival of humans in Florida has been ascribed to migration both from Beringia and, controversially, from Europe across Greenland down the coast, following prey. Recounting the mainstream beliefs a century ago, the OVIASC report remarks: "Either way, these trips were originally believed to have started no more than 6,000 years ago."

The original state geologist who worked on the site, Dr Elias Howard Sellards (1875-1961), "believed the humans lived side by side with the extinct Late Ice Age mammals, which puts them as living in Vero, Florida, over 14,000 years ago." This notion was unacceptable to the reigning theory that man's presence in the Americas occurred a mere 4,000-6,000 years ago. The claim indicating antiquity thus was rebutted with the criticism that the human bones' discovery was "unscientific" and that the find represented an intrusion from later burials.

Says University of Florida professor Dr. Barbara Purdy:

Scientists who disputed the age of the human remains in the early 20th century just did not want to believe that people were in the Western Hemisphere that early.

However, new DNA testing "is even suggesting a much earlier migration by at least another 10,000 years," a fact that "would easily allow for humans in Florida 14,000 years ago."

Moreover, researchers already have "analyzed samples from 24 human bones and 48 animal fossils in the Florida Museum's collections and determined the specimens were all from the late Pleistocene epoch about 13,000 years ago," per Science Daily.

Mammoth carving

Interest in the Vero site was renewed in 2009, when local amateur fossil hunter James Kenedy discovered a bone with a mammoth carving nearby, possibly dating to 13,000 years ago. This artwork is reminiscent of that found in Europe, as related by Wikipedia:

In 2009 scientists announced the discovery of a carving of a mammoth or mastodon on a piece of bone found north of Vero Beach (the general area in which Vero Man was found). The carving may be the oldest art found in the Americas. Scientists studying the carving noted similarities with Pleistocene art in Europe. Art historian Barbara Olins has compared the Vero mammoth carving to "Franco-Cantabrian" drawings and engravings of mammoths. She notes that the San of southern Africa developed a realistic style of depicting animals similar to the "Franco-Cantabrian" style, indicating that an independent development of such a style in North America is possible.

Bones lost

With all the shuffling around during a 30-year period following their discovery, the original bones evidently were lost in 1945; thus the need for a new excavation to find other fossils. The situation is urgent, because there is a plan to build a water-treatment plant on the site, burying it in concrete. The OVIASC is requesting donations to fund the dig and create a permanent display. The OVIASC is also asking for volunteers to help excavate the site anew.

Further Reading

Early North Americans Lived With Extinct Giant Beasts, Study Shows

Florida Fossil Hunter Gets Credit For Big Find

Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee

Mercyhurst to excavate pivotal Ice Age site in Vero Beach



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