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19 July 2011
Prehistoric Indian relics discovered during oil spill cleanup

Cleanup after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has turned up dozens of sites on the Caminada Headland, south of New Orleans, where archaeologists are finding human and animal bones, pottery and primitive weapons left behind by prehistoric Indian settlements - clues about the Gulf Coast's mound dwellers more than 1,300 years ago.
     "There is some pioneering archaeological work going on as a result of the oil spill," said Larry Murphy, lead archeologist. He said uncovering the sites represents "a great leap in cumulative knowledge" about Native Americans in coastal Louisiana (USA), who have been less studied than their counterparts in other regions.
     Louisiana's state archaeologist, Charles McGimsey, said the extent of the oil damage to artefacts isn't known, but he doesn't expect it to be disastrous. Oil has contaminated some artefacts, and can interfere with radiocarbon dating - a primary technique for determining the age of an object.
     Archaeologists say the sites date to around 700 CE - well before the earliest known European contact in the 1500s.
     So far, archeologists have limited their examination scouring the beaches at low tides. They have found deer antlers that probably were used as spear heads, decorated pieces of pottery and gar fish scales that might have been used as darts. Human bones have been reburied in keeping with the wishes of the Chitimacha tribe, which has links to the ancient settlements.

Edited from Orlando Sentinel (16 July 2011)

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