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Mammoth hunting scene

First humans in Florida lived alongside giant animals


Recent research has confirmed an old theory that the first humans in Florida lived alongside giant animals that have since become extinct. A geologist made the proposal a century ago following the discovery of numerous fossils at Vero Beach in the early 1900s, but this theory was met with resistance until it was recently proven by bone analysis.

Findings in 2014 at the most extensive prehistoric excavation in North America, the Old Man Vero site, show that humans and late Pleistocene animals, some of them gigantic, lived contemporaneously in the same vicinity. The latest evidence confirms a 2012 study of bones at the Vero site.

Archaeologists from Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute didn’t find actual human remains in the dig’s first round in 2014. However, they did find artifacts they identified as burned fragments of bone, some with cut marks, which could only be the work of human beings, the institute’s director, James Adovasio, told PastHorizons: Adventures in Archaeology.

Illustration of mammoth or mastodon tusk with marks presumed to have been made by humans found by E. H. Sellard at Vero man site in 1916

Illustration of mammoth or mastodon tusk with marks presumed to have been made by humans found by E. H. Sellard at Vero man site in 1916 (Wikimedia Commons)

E.H. Sellards, Florida’s geologist in the early 1900s theorized the giant animals, now extinct, and humans lived there at the same time. His theory met resistance until it was confirmed by bone analysis in 2012. Workers found human skull bones there in 1915, which have come to be known as ‘Vero Man’.

It’s taken more than 100 years, but we now know that Sellards was right,” Advovasio said. He added that new technology and rigorous excavation protocols enabled investigators to proceed with a precise understanding of the site’s geology. Sellards did not have such technology.

National Geographic published a report showing humans first settled the Americas beginning 15,500 years ago and were in Florida 14,400 years ago. National Geographic says archaeological evidence and a genome sequencing of an ancient Native American show humans were here earlier than 13,000 years ago, which had been theorized relatively recently.

When people finally arrived in the Americas, they co-existed with what are called megafauna and megaflora, huge plants and animals that died out 10,000 to 13,000 years ago. Some people have speculated the first people here hunted them to extinction, but this has not been confirmed. Other scientists say climate change, a disease carried to the Americas by humans or a comet may have killed the megafauna.

Artist's conception of Pleistocene Vero man and cave bear Arctodus. In Fossil Mammals of Florida by Stanley J. Olsen, Florida Geological Survey Special Publication No. 6, 1959

Artist's conception of Pleistocene Vero man and cave bear Arctodus. In Fossil Mammals of Florida by Stanley J. Olsen, Florida Geological Survey Special Publication No. 6, 1959 (Wikimedia Commons)

Pleistocene animals in North America then, though not all necessarily present in Florida, included giant sloths; short-faced bears up to 12 feet (3.66 meters) tall; dire wolves 25 percent heavier than modern wolves; 9-foot (2.75-meter) saber-tooth salmon; the American lion; 1,000-pound (454 kilograms) saber-tooth cats; tapirs; peccaries; giant condors and other birds now extinct; at least two species of bison, one of which could weigh more than 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms); oxen; llamas; horses; mastodons; giant armadillos; giant tortoises; Miracinonyx, or American cheetahs that are not true cheetahs; and 14 species of pronghorn, of which 13 are extinct.

“In 1913,” said, “construction of a drainage canal turned up fossils in Vero Beach, Fla., about 90 miles north of West Palm Beach. When geologists followed up, they unearthed the bones of all sorts of ancient animals that lived during the last Ice Age, including jaguars, capybaras, bison, peccaries, mastodons and other creatures, large and small. Alongside the animal bones in the same layer of soil lay human skeletons.”

There had been controversy about whether people in Florida and Pleistocene animals lived at the same time, but analysis of bones by a University of Florida paleontologist in 2012 showed they did indeed live contemporaneously there, said.

Studies have shown that in Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Ohio and elsewhere, people also lived alongside mammoths, mastodons, and other massive mammals more than 10,000 years ago, Kenneth Tankersley, an archaeological geologist at the University of Cincinnati, told

Stone Age man and saber-tooth cat

Stone Age man and saber-tooth cat. Source: BigStockPhoto

The Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute dug at Vero Beach from January to May 2014 at the invitation of the Old Vero Man Ice Age Sites Committee. They began just in time because the local government is planning to build a stormwater treatment facility on the site, using 200 tons of concrete. New archaeological excavations will start in early 2015.

Archaeologists and students will concentrate their second round in a buried soil layer dating back 19,000 years. Adovasio said if they find evidence of humans in that layer, it would be the earliest in the Americas yet.

The scientists hope future investigations will show how humans, animals and plant populations interrelated at Vero. Adovasio said they hope to distinguish lifestyles of the folks who might have lived at Vero in terms of how much they match or don’t match other behavioral models from other sites,” he told PastHorizons.

Mercyhurst Archaeological Insitute will work with Florida Atlantic University scientists to analyze ancient DNA found at the site. The idea is to better understand life forms in Florida at the end of the last Ice Age.

Featured image: Mammoth hunting scene [Credit: Indian River Community Foundation]

By Mark Miller



rbflooringinstall's picture

It makes sense to me. The bible talks about man walking along side behemoth and laviathan, which I believe are a Mastadon and a Pleisiasaur (sp?).

Peace and Love,


Steve Byrd's picture

If the theory of Pangea is ever proven to be so the they may have already been here. I’m no archeologist nor do I know the date Pangea supposidly broke apart but it makes sense if ther dates line up. It’s hard for me to buy all these dates I hear of over fifty or one hundred thousand years. Even those dates are hard for me to buy. All I know is             that it would be hard to prove anything so old, or so I heard anyway.

One of the things that I find interesting about all of us who post comments in this site is; one really does not know who each of us are. Our level or training, education, understanding. Have we been through the institutionalized education system, are we self educated. To what degree/level, etc etc. Do we just have information which we regurgitate, are we knowledgeable, are we wise?

As to your referral to the ‘faux scientists (faux- made in imitation, artificial), as to your referral to genuflect-“ lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect”. Personally I am not imitating anyone of anything. Nor do I KOW TOW to anyone or anything, either in worship or respect.

Not everyone requires that little piece of paper we all like to frame and put on the wall that tells everyone that ;’Look, I have gone through the system, there for IAM more informed and educated then you. There for IAM more intelligent and knowledgeable then you and don’t you dare question what I/WE say’, or as you mention “those who have gone the route of the indoctrination religious dogma of current high church ..”

AS yourself many of us are well formed about a number of things. We are very capable of thinking for ourselves. We are very capable of putting various sources of information and knowledge together and formulating our own ideas, theories etc.

Anything is possible, nothing impossible. There is always the POTENTIAL OF.

In regards to your idea, theory or as you say ‘makes more sense of going east’ from North America instead of from Asia to North America. I am curious as to the why(?) it makes more sense. Could you please expand on your theory?

Currently with our level of understanding and knowledge it ‘makes more sense’ that the route of travel was from Asia to North America either by land or sea or both with the passage of time. Also there seems to be the potential possibility that we humans had other routes to North America other then the Asian route.

Anything is possible providing one keeps an open mind. Further, any and all ideas or theories are just that. Ideas and theories based on?

oh, the religious dogma of current high-church anthropology. Gotta love the faux-scientists that genuflect to this decade's THEORIES. What actual HARD evidence is there for the Bering strait migration from Asia to Alaska? NONE. don't cite DNA as that means only that some Asians are related to or DESCENDED from American natives. makes more sense going west, not east.

To believe that early humans could not build boats and colonize along the coast as they traveled is blind to what humans have always done.


Mark Miller's picture


Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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