Will new excavation solve mysteries of Old Vero Man site?
A major excavation is due to begin soon in Vero Beach, Florida at the site where Old Vero Man was discovered, the remains of a male human believed to be at least 13,000 years old. Scientists from the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI) and the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC) believe the new excavation with unearth a significant archaeological find – they are hoping to uncover a plethora or fossils and artefacts, including additional human remains, as well as the remains of extinct prehistoric animals.
The Old Vero Man was first discovered in 1915 during work on a drainage canal in Vero Beach. Evidence of extinct animals such as mastodons, saber-tooth cats, ground sloths, mammoths and other fossils were discovered, along with the now-famous human remains, which included skull fragments and 44 bones of a human skeleton. These bones became known as the “Vero Man”, although later testing suggested the original bones were from a female.
The finding caused huge controversy at the time of discovery. In 1916, geologist Dr E.H. Sellards found more human bones in the strata and testing revealed that some of the bones were male and some female. It was at this time that the finds were published and Dr Sellards claimed the humans lived side by side with the extinct Late Ice Age mammals, which put them as living in Vero Florida over 14,000 years ago. This defied the conventional wisdom of that day which stated humans were in North America no further back than 6,000 years ago.
Ales Hrdlicka, anthropologist and curator of the Physical Anthropology department at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, fiercely opposed Dr Sellards, claiming that the way the bones were recovered was ‘unscientific’ and that the remains were only a few thousand years old, which was well within the bounds of the euro-centric view of the day which held that humans were not in North America before 4,000 years ago.
Later DNA testing revealed that Vero Man was in fact much older. Dating has approximated the remains at 13,000 years old, however, this was done some time ago and the bones have since been lost. There is therefore a need to test new fossil remains.
While the Vero site is still regarded as one of the most significant archaeological finds in North America concerning early American inhabitants, questions about the site still remain largely unanswered. In 2009 scientists announced the discovery of a carving of a mammoth or mastodon on a piece of bone found near Vero Beach. The carving may be the oldest art found in the Americas. Scientists studying the carving noted similarities with Pleistocene art in Europe. However, the predominant theory is that the first inhabitants of America arrived via Siberia, not Europe.
Dr James Adovasio, principal excavator, explained in a recent press release that Vero Man “was the subject of vitriolic abuse by the alleged experts at the time. Largely because of that abuse and the less than rigorous field methods, Vero went off the radar. But, because of the phenomenal preservation of Ice Age plant and animal materials at that site, this new excavation will serve to illuminate a time frame in the American Southeast that no other site can, with or without human associations. Whatever information is in there, we are going to get it.”
The new excavation will utilise latest technology and analytical techniques applied to the soil layers, bone fragments, seeds, pollen and other materials discovered. It is hoped that the more complete testing will provide new answers to questions of who the people were and how they lived and died.