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the Ancient Americas => the Ancient Americas => Topic started by: Bianca on February 19, 2009, 03:26:30 pm

Title: Florida Sinkhole Holds 12,000-Year_Old Clues To Early Americans
Post by: Bianca on February 19, 2009, 03:26:30 pm

Earlier this year, students working in a Florida sinkhole (inset) found the remains of a gourd that probably was used as a canteen by an ancient hunter about 8,000 or 9,000 years ago, according to researchers.

These remains and others found at the site come from the earliest known period of human activity in the Western Hemisphere, added the underwater archaeology team exploring the site.

Photograph courtesy
John Gifford;

inset photograph courtesy
Peter Masa

Title: Re: Florida Sinhole Holds 12,000-Year_Old Clues To Early Americans
Post by: Bianca on February 19, 2009, 03:42:01 pm

                              Sinkhole Holds 12,000-Year-Old Clues to Early Americans

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
February 18, 2009

Divers exploring a southern Florida sinkhole have uncovered clues to what life was like for some of America's first residents.

Led by University of Miami professor John Gifford, underwater archaeologists are exploring Little Salt Spring, 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of Sarasota.

Earlier this year, students working about 30 feet (9 meters) below the surface found the remains of a gourd that probably was used as a canteen by an ancient hunter about 8,000 or 9,000 years ago, according to Gifford.

Archaeologists have been recovering primitive relics from the spring since 1977, when divers found the remains of a large, now extinct tortoise and a sharpened stake that may have been used by a hungry hunter to kill the animal 12,000 years ago.

In 1986, Gifford and his colleagues recovered a skull with brain tissue from what he thinks was an ancient burial in shallow water near the spring. He continues to work with DNA samples to determine the date of the find.

Gifford and other archaeologists found more from the tortoise this past July, along with the slaughtered remains of a giant ground sloth.

The discovery of the sloth's bones, Gifford said, could indicate that Little Salt Spring was a sort of ancient butcher shop where hunters often killed their prey and prepared meat when this was dry land.

These remains come from the earliest known period of human activity in the Western Hemisphere, said Gifford, who has received funding for his work from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)

"This is a warehouse of environmental, natural, historical, and archaeological remains in a very, very well preserved environment," said Roger Smith, Florida's state underwater archaeologist.

"That's why it's a world-class site. I would call it a portal back into time."

(Watch a video about Ice Age people in Florida.)

Title: Re: Florida Sinhole Holds 12,000-Year_Old Clues To Early Americans
Post by: Bianca on February 19, 2009, 03:47:00 pm

The "Sinkhole State"

Sinkholes in Florida form when water from underground aquifers dissolves the porous limestone bedrock and pushes toward the surface. Eventually, the ground collapses into the water and an hourglass-shaped sinkhole is formed.

Florida has more springs than any other state in the U.S. Some are quite large, while others—such as Little Salt Spring—are smaller, at 243 feet (74 meters) wide. Because the spring water comes from underground, it stays at a constant temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).

When Little Salt Spring was formed during the last Ice Age, sea level was lower and what is now the Florida peninsula was much wider. Sources of freshwater were scarce. Ancient Native Americans came to the sinkhole to drink the water and perhaps find a meal.

"Florida was much drier than it is today," Gifford said. "Essentially, [little Salt Spring] was an oasis." Gifford and his divers worked last summer on a ledge about 90 feet (27 meters) below the surface where the stake and tortoise remains were found.

Title: Re: Florida Sinhole Holds 12,000-Year_Old Clues To Early Americans
Post by: Bianca on February 19, 2009, 03:49:58 pm

Ancient Environment

Gifford's divers will return to lower depths of Little Salt Spring soon, but will wait until their recent finds have been analyzed. They hope to eventually uncover evidence of campfires on the ledge. And because Little Salt Spring's waters contain little or no oxygen that would support bacteria that eats away at artifacts, it's possible they'll find near pristine items.

"There may be lots of stuff—basketry, woven fabrics, wooden implements—that you wouldn't otherwise find in an archaeological context," said Bruce Smith, curator of North American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Finding fragile wooden artifacts would "open a new window" of understanding how early Native Americans lived, Smith said. "You can really get excited by it."


Florida State Underwater Archaeology
National Museum of Natural History: Bruce Smith
University of Miami: John Gifford

Title: Re: Florida Sinkhole Holds 12,000-Year_Old Clues To Early Americans
Post by: Bianca on July 22, 2009, 11:00:01 pm


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« on: June 27, 2007, 03:35:09 pm » Quote Modify 


Recently, evidence has come to light of a sophisticated human culture existing on Florida’s Gulf coast as early as 10,000 BC. Human remains dating back 7,000 years and tools and weapons dating back 12,000 years have been found over a period of many years at a now threatened site at Fort Myers. Current excavations being conducted by marine archaeologist John Gifford of the University of Miami hope to uncover evidence of the oldest humans in North America. However, archaeologists fear that they are fighting a losing battle as pollutants from ever encroaching urban development flood the site.

The finds are coming from a 75-yard-wide sinkhole that descends to a depth of 220 feet. Known as Little Salt Spring, it is located between Fort Myers and Sarasota, and was donated to the University in 1982 following the discovery of artefacts there during the 1970s. These were found to have been preserved in a good condition due to the unique nature of the water, which has been described as ‘brackish’ and ‘anoxic’, in that it has very little oxygen whatsoever.

Regular scuba dives have been made into the sinkhole by a team led by Gifford, who has argued against the artificial construction of the Bimini Road. They have removed objects such as tools and weapons from ledges, caves and basins placed at different levels of different time periods. Among the items found include a completely new type of wooden tool which has been named a ‘putter’, due to its resemblance to a golf club. Six of these tools have been found which are thought to be around 8,500 years ago. In addition to the ‘putters’, a weapon has been found similar to the boomerang of Australia, Egypt and Europe. This ‘nonreturning’ variant, as it has been described, is thought to be 9,000 years old and is perhaps the oldest example of this weapon so far discovered. More significantly, a form of atlatl, a kind of spear thrower well-known among Pre-Colombian cultures of Mexico such as the Aztecs, has also been retrieved from the sinkhole. There was also a bead made from a bird’s bone, which has been drilled and is thought to be around 8,500 years old.

One of the most interesting finds was the discovery on a ledge 85 feet down of a collapsed shell of an extinct species of land tortoise. It had been pierced through by a wooden stake which revealed a Carbon-14 date of 12,000 BP (before present). The whole thing was perfectly preserved, and now Gifford and his colleagues hope to find human remains of the same age on the same ledge. If this were to be the case, they would predate North America’s oldest accepted human remains, which are those of the greatly controversial Kennewick Man, which was found in Washington State around four years ago and is around 9,000 years old.

In addition to the artefacts, an ancient cemetery has been found in peat on the edge of the sinkhole. It has produced 7000-year-old human bones, some of which were ceremonially wrapped in grass.

In past ages Little Salt Spring was filled with fresh water which would have attracted peoples from far and wide. Yet as the sea-levels rose in the nearby Gulf of Mexico at the end of the last Ice Age, the waters would have become more and more salty, driving away settlers but preserving their artefacts through to the present day. Yet now the area is being encroached once more, and this time by modern habitation and recreational facilities. Housing estates, schools and golf courses threaten the equilibrium of the sinkhole because the water run off from this urban development is pouring pollutants into the sinkhole. Gifford is currently making a number of tests in the hope that he can preserve the quality of the water for future generations. (For further information check out the Miami Herald web site Thanks to David Southwell for bringing this story to my attention).

The importance of Little Salt Spring is to emphasise just how easy it would have been for this fairly sophisticated prehistoric culture to have ventured across the Florida Straight to the Bahamas, which I suggest was inhabited prior to a major natural catastrophe around 9000-8500 BC, and plausibly afterwards in areas which were finally reclaimed by the rising sea-level between approximately 8000 and 3000 BC. The Little Salt Spring material is clear evidence that some of the most advanced ancient Americans were in Florida at exactly the right time, and so could have constituted the memory of a former Bahaman culture - Plato’s Atlantean race. I look forward to further evidence of a human presence from the Little Salt Spring site.