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Archaeologists return to controversial Vero site in Florida

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Author Topic: Archaeologists return to controversial Vero site in Florida  (Read 177 times)
Doc Samson
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« on: December 16, 2013, 12:21:59 am »

Archaeologists return to controversial Vero site in Florida

Article created on Saturday, December 14, 2013

Excavation of one of the most important Ice Age sites in North America – the Old Vero Man site in Vero Beach, Florida, 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).

Scientists believe the site, famous for the discovery of Vero Man in 1915, contains significant fossils and artefacts, including human remains at least 13,000 years old,  according to MAI director James Adovasio.
Century-old tiff

About a century ago, workers digging the main drainage canal in Vero Beach uncovered evidence of mastodons, sabre 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” – although later testing suggested the bones were actually that of a female.

An article in the Florida Herald explains that “the dig is as much about proving whether Vero Man lived during the Ice Age as it is about settling a century-old tiff between Dr. Elias Howard Sellards, Florida’s state geologist from 1907-1918, and Arles Hrdlicka, curator of the Physical Anthropology Department at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History from 1910-1940.”

“Sellards, who examined the site and the bones himself, determined that because the bones were found in the same stratum, or layer, of Earth as animals that went extinct in the late Ice Age — including mammoths, mastodons, giant sabre-toothed tigers and bear-sized sloths — the human remains must be at least that old. However, Hrdlicka disputed Sellards’ findings, saying the fossilized human bones (which have since been lost) were only a few thousand years old and were found in the same layer as the extinct animals because humans buried their dead.”
Threat to perceived wisdom

“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 any artefacts 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.
New answers

Adovasio, meanwhile, believes 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. MAI research archaeologist C. Andrew Hemmings, Ph.D., will co-direct the project and is an expert on the oldest Palaeoindian sites in the united States.

“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.

Source: Mercyhurst University

Header images: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Image: Sellards, Elias Howard, b. 1875 and human radius in place in the canal bank – Vero, Florida
More Information

    Recent Discoveries Attributed to Early Man in America By: Ales Hrdlicka
    How Vero Man Was Found – And Lost Again
    Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee

Cite this article

Mercyhurst University. Archaeologists return to controversial Vero site in Florida. Past Horizons. December 14, 2013, from
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