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12,000 - 14,000 Epic Carving On Fossil Bone Found In Vero Beach, Florida

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Author Topic: 12,000 - 14,000 Epic Carving On Fossil Bone Found In Vero Beach, Florida  (Read 534 times)
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« on: June 05, 2009, 09:50:03 am »

                                                          What experts say

Dr. Kevin S. Jones, chairperson of the University of Florida Department of Materials Science and Engineering:

“I am quite convinced this carving is genuine. Nothing we know here indicates anything other than great age for both the bone and the drawing. The image is hard to see and does not stand out, the way you think it might if it had been created for that purpose. But more importantly the coloration, the degradation of the image, and wear patterns inside and outside the cut surfaces are completely consistent. I feel along with my colleagues J.J. Mecholsky and Gerald Borne, who have also worked on it, that this image is very ancient. The results we got from the Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy analysis of the surface conducted in a scanning electron microscope eliminate any possibility a polymer coating was used to make the inside and outside of the cuts look the same. I am very comfortable saying that this bone and its image are both very old.”

Dr. Michael W. Warren, forensic anthropologist and Director of the C.A.Pound Human Identification Laboratory at University of Florida:

“In my line of work, we try to be quite conservative in our statements. I worked on this image in the bone with our cut mark specialist Dr. Laurel Freas. What you see in this image are cut marks eroded over a very long period of time. There are no distinct edges and they are worn and eroded in a manner not only consistent with a long process but exposure to water. The appearance is of gradual alteration has been going on a very long time. It was exciting for us to work on this because it became more and more clear that it was an authentic image of great age.”

James Kennedy: ‘I’ve always been good at finding things’

James Kennedy’s first fossil might have jumped up and bit him, as the saying goes, but for the old cement mixing tub he was floating in, down a canal just north of downtown Vero Beach.

He was sixteen years old, and taking a break in a day of fishing. Suddenly, the bottom of the tub hit a bump. The boy hopped out to investigate. Where the tub had scraped, a large, layered tooth of a mammoth, rock- hard, with a surface of serpentine folds, emerged from the sandy water.

Kennedy could hardly imagine what his wet hands held: a piece of the very body of a massive Ice Age mammal, a beast that had trumpeted and thundered up some prehistoric precursor to nearby US 1. For James Kennedy it was a revelation, and the beginning of a ceaseless quest.

The cement tub is long gone, but Kennedy has never stopped searching, digging in canals, riverbanks, and old streambeds across the geologically unique landscapes of Florida, among the richest fossil beds in the country.

The arid scrub-covered ridge along Old Dixie Highway and US 1, visible between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, was once an ancient shoreline, one of several left in Florida where the rising and falling tides caused by ice sheets far away left crests of higher ground. But it is the rare watering holes of fresh water that mammals — including people — congregated near, undulating old stream beds often just four to eight feet beneath the surface today, where many remains still lie.

James Kennedy, 39, was born and raised in Vero. Through a tight-knit network of supporters of his passion, he has persevered as doggedly as anyone in a field of highly trained specialists. With books and computer, pamphlet and lecture, he has learned about the lost past of ancient Florida.

And he has more than that. He has instincts, maybe even a sixth sense of how people and animals got around here in Vero a very long time ago.

Amateur fossil hunters like James Kennedy have always been important in the discovery of valuable artifacts. “Sue”, the gigantic Tyrannosaurus now at the Chicago Field Musuem, was found by an amateur, Sue Hendrikson. Locally, lore has it that much of a mastodon sits in a middle-class Vero home, unearthed from a local site, and million-dollar homes sit on fossil beds where many a bone or spearhead has turned up in swales and ditches.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen,” says Kennedy, sitting at his work table littered with bones, books, and tools. Plastic cigarette lighters and an ashtray sit next to a spear point and several fossil vertebrae.

From his finds he has learned to imagine, and reconstruct scenarios of prehistory.

“Up on one of the northern rivers, there is a place with a bluff and a big hole underwater where a whole bunch, and I mean a big bunch, of mammoth and mastodon bones are,”

he says. “It looks clear to me checking out some of those bones, they might have been driven there and slaughtered by people long ago, just like a butcher room for a kitchen”.

Kennedy has been resourceful when money was hard to come by for supplies. He seems to retain good friends; some are earnest and eager to help.

“Everybody that knows me knows how much I love this stuff,” he says. “I know a private land owner who’s let me dig around on his property where there are quite a few fossils. He gave me a birthday present of permission to dig over there. People just know that is what I love to do.”

While researchers often use calibrated brass sifters, Kennedy’s tools are ambitious if makeshift methods to aid in his searches.

“I’ve made myself all sorts of sifters, wire screen sifters and things like that, to help look for bones,” Kennedy says. “I wanted to control the water pressure,” he said. “So I took a small water pump, and a three-horse-power engine, some PVC pipe, and wire, and a garden hose, and I made this thing to wash away sand.”

Sometimes a site draws him back again and again, like a superstition makes a child skip over cracks.

“I get an itch to go, and I go,” he says. “I’ve been to some places a hundred times in a year.”

“I’ve always been good at finding things, all my life,” he says. “I have a sort of instinct, a kind of gut feeling about whether or not something is going to turn up.”

He toys with a cardboard box of bone pieces and giant sharks teeth he has pulled out of a drawer. Kennedy lives in a quiet area of South Vero near his mother. It is from her, some say, that he inherited a keen insight to the past and future.

James Kennedy claims to have his own cataloguing methods that allow him to keep track of his many digs and finds.

He was not prepared for the news that greeted him in Gainesville about the extreme rarity of the carved elephant image.

Nor was his friend, Gene Roddenberry, a local attorney with a long, deep interest in Vero’s history, who had driven Kennedy and the etched bone up to Gainesville and Dr. Barbara Purdy for initial analysis.

The result could not have been more reassuring. Purdy and the UF scientists were in full discovery mode, excited and anxious to apply all the methods of current science to confirm or deny the extreme rarity of the drawing and its possible enormous significance.

The news of just how rare their find appeared to be left Kennedy and Roddenberry completely agog.

“I was in shock,” said Kennedy. “I mean, I just had no idea how few things like that there are. Gene was with me and we started talking about it, the magnitude of it. And Gene is very well-spoken,” said Kennedy. “But he almost started stuttering. We were both in shock.”
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