Underwater exploration near Florida's west coast seeks evidence of early Americans

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Washington, July 10 (ANI): An underwater exploration is seeking to find evidence of early Americans in an area 100-to-200 miles off Florida's west coast, now about 300 feet under water.

Last summer's pivotal underwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico led by Mercyhurst College archaeologist Dr. James Adovasio yielded evidence of inundated terrestrial sites that may well have supported human occupation more than 12,000 years ago, and paved the way for another expedition this July.

As part of their 2008 findings, the researchers located and mapped buried stream and river channels and identified in-filled sinkholes that could potentially help document the late Pleistocene landscape and contain artifacts and associated animal remains from early human occupations.

According to Adovasio, continued exploration will be geared toward assessing a human presence on the now submerged beaches and intersecting river channels.

"There's no doubt that early North American occupations are underwater, but it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," he said. "We have found the haystack; now we've got to find the needles," he added.

During July 23 - August 7, Adovasio will lead a team of scientists representing leading institutions from government and higher education to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they'll resume their search for evidence of early Americans in an area 100-to-200 miles off Florida's west coast, now about 300 feet under water.

The decision to take their expedition underwater in the first place stems from the premise that early Americans probably hugged the American coastline, congregating around freshwater rivers, before heading inland, according to Adovasio.

At that time, much of the world's water was confined to glaciers, causing ocean levels to be lower and exposing more of the continental shelf.

As the earth warmed and water levels rose, evidence of past settlements became submerged.

Dredging and storms have turned up artifacts on the Gulf Coast as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, but Adovasio said this is the first time a group of scientists has staked out a submerged piece of real estate suspected of containing preserved Ice Age beaches and systematically gone in search of early human occupations.

From the University of South Florida's research boat, the team will use remotely operated vehicles and remote sensing tools to explore the submerged sites.

In shallower depths, divers will inspect sites to collect artifacts and animal fossils and recover sediments for geological analysis and possible radiocarbon testing.

"Proof of past human habitation here would reinforce the disintegration of the once prevalent hypothesis about who the first Americans were, how they got here and when they arrived," said Adovasio. (ANI)

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