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13 October 2003
8,000-year-old skeleton found in Florida

The young man whose bones were unearthed by a crew digging peat roamed Central Florida (USA) at about the time Egyptians were figuring out hieroglyphics, a state expert has said. The mostly intact skeleton that was found on a cattle ranch in southern Osceola County belonged to a native in his late teens to early 20s and is at least 4,000 to 8,000 years old, said state archaeologist David Dickel.
     The peat-digging crew at Hayman's 711 Ranch, about 45 miles south of St. Cloud, feared the worst when their backhoe took a bite of earth and came up with a skeleton. The foreman called the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. Realizing the bones were too old to be party to a crime, investigators notified archaeologists at the University of Florida. Experts at the C.A. Pound Human Identification Lab at UF shut down the operation, noting that the remains were buried a few feet below the surface, preserved by saturated muck.
     They studied the pelvis and cranium to determine age and sex. The teeth were ground down, consistent with hard food eaten by American Indians, lab director Dr. Anthony Falsetti said.
     That ancient American lived in the driest area of a wet state, in a clan of mostly kin, Dickel said. The clan broke into small groups to hunt but returned to the larger society for events such as religious ceremonies. His diet had only 20 items but none of it processed: grain instead of bread, hunks of cooked meat instead of prepared burgers and plenty of seafood and vegetables.
     "This man lived a fairly complex life," Dickel said of the man who, like about four others from the era found in Central Florida over the years, had been carefully buried in a bog. Now identified scientifically as 10-B-03, was unclear initially when the skeleton was estimated to be at least 1,800 years old. Turns out it was were far older.
     The remains are now in the Gainesville lab suspended in water. Without it, 10-B-03 would literally explode as he dried out, cracking and crumbling into the dust. To show dignity for the long-ago departed, archaeologists will not photograph the bones, and he will not receive a nickname.
     Scientists may do little more than test the items removed with the remains. An animal bone, fashioned into a pin that was so common Dickel called it "the screwdriver of its day," could be carbon-dated to get a more precise idea of when he lived.

Source: Orlando Sentinel (12 October 2003)

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