A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Florida's Aucilla River is yielding evidence of
the adaptability of Paleoindians to their changing environment at the end
of the Pleistocene, 10,000 years ago. For a decade, researchers from the
Florida Museum of Natural History have been excavating the Page-Ladson site,
and this past fall they uncovered the ground surface of a Paleoindian habitation
at a depth of 15 feet.
Radiocarbon dates place the beginning
of the occupation at ca. 10,000 years ago. At the time, the site, now only
five miles from the Gulf Coast near Tallahassee, was nearly 100 miles inland,
and Florida's landscape resembled Africa's savannahs. Within 100 years,
however, rising water at the end of the last glaciation flooded the site,
sealing it with deposits that contain shells of freshwater molluscs.
Among the flaked stone tools
are side- and corner-notched points, scrapers, adzes, and gouges made of
locally available flint and chert. Also found were antler flakers used in
manufacturing stone tools. Local limestone was crafted into spherical bola
stones that would have been attached to leather cords and hurled at small
game animals to entangle them.
"There has never been such
a collection of worked wood dating so early," said University of Florida
archaeologist Mark Muniz. The next younger site with wood preservation occurs
at Windover, Florida, nearly 2,000 years later. Three wooden stakes were
found upright where they had been driven into the ground. No canoe has been
discovered, however, contrary to a New York Times report. A cypress
log found at the site is burned on its upper surface and hollowed out, but
it is not a canoe and its function remains uncertain.
There are at least three hearths.
Faunal remains indicate that whitetail deer, turtles, and fish were consumed
at the site. According to Brinnen Carter, who is analyzing the Page-Ladson
material, "This is our clearest window on how people lived in Florida
during the transition from dry glacial conditions with megafauna to wet
interglacial conditions with no really large game animals."--MARK ROSE