Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans

Date:
September 1, 2009
Source:
Mercyhurst College
Summary:
In an expedition for submerged evidence of early Americans off Florida's Gulf Coast, archaeologists traced two ancient river systems in what they believe is the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done. They also identified chert, a stone used by prehistoric peoples in toolmaking, at three sites. Scientists believe they are on the threshold of delivering evidence of human habitation along those inundated rivers.

In one of the more dramatic moments of an underwater archaeological survey co-led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist James Adovasio along Florida’s Gulf Coast this summer, Andy Hemmings stood on an inundated river’s edge where man hasn't set foot in more than 13,000 years.

Donning full scuba gear, Hemmings stood in 130 feet of water on a peninsula at the intersection of two ancient rivers nearly 100 miles offshore from Tampa. The last time humans could have stood in that spot, mammoth and mastodon roamed the terrain.

“The successful tracking of the St. Marks-Aucilla River and the Suwannee River, between 50 and 150 kilometers respectively, represents what we believe to be the most extensive delineation of submerged prehistoric river systems ever done anywhere in the world,” Adovasio said.

Another pivotal find is the identification of chert at three dive sites along the river systems; chert is a superior quality fine-grained stone used by prehistoric peoples to make tools.

“There is no doubt,” Adovasio said, “that we have found the haystacks and are one step closer to uncovering the archaeological needles;” in effect, narrowing the search for evidence of early Americans in the now submerged Inner Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.

Hemmings, one of the leading Paleoindian underwater archaeologists in North America, agreed. “My feeling is, given a little time to probe the sediments with a dredge, we will quickly find human artifacts.”

The signature expedition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research began in the summer of 2008 when a distinguished group of scientists led by Mercyhurst’s Adovasio and Hemmings identified and mapped buried river channels that could potentially help document the late Pleistocene landscape. This year’s mission, undertaken July 23 to Aug. 5, further traced the river systems along whose beaches prehistoric people may have populated and identified raw materials that they may have used in tool making.

The mission also has advanced underwater understanding and research methodology exponentially, Adovasio said.

“We have developed protocols for exploring deep water, which is both time and labor intensive, as well as expensive, unlike anything done before,” he said.

From the Weatherbird II, flagship of the Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg, researchers electronically mapped the modern sea floor with a side scan sonar device and created images of the layered sediments below the seafloor surface with a sub-bottom profiler. Using GPS technology, the team selected dive locations based on an understanding of what the surface should look like, and what was hidden below that surface adjacent to the old river channels.

On the peninsula where the relict Suwannee River intersects another ancient system, divers were able to collect a 1m sediment core but were unable to complete a lengthier search for human artifacts because the water neared 130 feet, the maximum depth level for this year’s dive. The team plans to return to this spot next year, increasing the divers’ depth level certification to 165 feet and using a dredge to lift the silt away and see if there is an archaeological site at this confluence.

“Proof of past human habitation here would reinforce the disintegration of the once prevalent hypothesis about who the first Americans were, how they got here and when they arrived,” said Adovasio, who rose to fame 30 years ago while excavating the Meadowcroft Rockshelter near Pittsburgh, Pa. Besides primary funding from NOAA, this summer’s work was supported by the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Gault School of Archaeological Research, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Institute of Oceanography, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, among others. Students from Mercyhurst, Harvard, the University of Michigan and Texas A & M were also part of the research group.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Mercyhurst College. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Mercyhurst College. "Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090831131402.htm>.
Mercyhurst College. (2009, September 1). Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090831131402.htm
Mercyhurst College. "Underwater Expedition Delivers Key Findings In Search For Evidence Of Early Americans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090831131402.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) — Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins