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Aucilla River Paleoindian Site Volume 50 Number 2, March/April 1997

[image]Researchers examine artifacts arranged as they were found at the submerged site. (Ray M. Carson/University of Florida) [LARGER IMAGE]

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

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America