|19 August 2007
9,000-year-old artifacts found in Florida
After thousands of years underwater, a handful of North Port's (Florida, USA) history resurfaced in a Ziploc bag. Steve Koski, an archaeologist at Little Salt Spring Research Facility, was swimming with his teammate John Gifford 40 feet underwater when Gifford, research director for Miami University, chiseled away at a piece of wood the team believes to be at least 9,000 years old.
Both men spent 30 minutes in the spring taking two samples from a log nearly 3 meters long. One will determine the age of the wood and the other the species. Pointing to a wooden stake a little more than a foot in length resting in a plastic container filled with spring water, Koski picks it up and examines the pointed tip. "This small wooden stake took 48 minutes to excavate and bring to the surface. Its tip was the only thing sticking out of the sandy clay sediment. Can you believe it's estimated to be 10,500 years old?" he asked. "With this and other findings, we can look at the distribution of the stakes identified and perhaps see why they were carved and what their function might have been."
Little Salt Spring is a 250-foot-deep sinkhole on 112.5 acres of property owned by the University of Miami since 1982. The hourglass-shaped spring was first discovered as an archaeological site in 1959 by local divers. "There is evidence of visitation and occupation from 12,500-6,000 years ago," Koski said. Working on the slope of the 78-meter basin-like depression, Koski and other University of Miami divers are trying to uncover evidence of previous life. "We have discovered a wide range of preserved organic materials including wooden stakes, textile fragments (delite), deer remains and bone tools.
In June 2005, Dr. John Gifford of the University of Miami/Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a group of graduate students discovered two Archaic artifacts, estimated to be 7,000 years old. One was a greenstone pendant and the other was believed to be part of a spear-thrower. Last year, Gifford and his colleagues and students also unearthed two stakes and brought one of the two to the surface, which they estimated was at least 10,000 years old. "Since 2004, we have found eight wooden stakes and recovered four of the eight. We have removed two of them for radiocarbon dating and we're leaving the other ones," Koski said.
Because funding is so limited, researchers are able to perform excavations only once or twice a year, so only 5 percent of the spring has really been explored. "This is the only opportunity in the U.S. for college students to do fieldwork in prehistoric underwater excavation," Gifford said. "We have so much potential to make this site one of the best archaeological facilities, but the funding just isn't there." For more information on group tours or volunteer opportunities, call Steven Koski at 941-423-0835.
Source: Sun-Herald (15 August 2007)
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