Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2014

That was until a few months ago when Mercyhurst began what Adovasio describes as the most extensive Paleoindian excavation currently under way in all of North America. “As a result of what we have been doing there since January, we fnally understand the complexities of the Vero site from a geological perspective, which is something Sellards could not at the time,” Adovasio said. “He was trying to defne the circumstances of a human presence on a landscape he didn’t understand. We are reasonably certain that we will prove Sellards right.” If so, the excavation could well defne Vero’s rightful place in the archaeological record, which is exactly the hope of a determined group of citizens responsible for bringing Adovasio and his team to Vero. Headed by Randy Old and such luminaries as former Deputy CIA Director Richard Kerr, the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC) has forged a unique town-and-gown partnership with Mercyhurst. “They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of this project and have expressed an interest in extending the work for another decade,” Adovasio said. OVIASC’s fnancial support is augmented by an outpouring of community pride, bringing the Vero public together in meaningful ways to protect, promote and interpret this unique archaeological site in their own backyard. Citizens have volunteered by the hundreds to help with the dig. Still others have delivered bountiful supplies of homemade mufns, cookies and other assorted snacks for the workers. In turn, Mercyhurst responded by posting a billboard on nearby I-95 declaring: “WE DIG VERO BEACH. Thanks for letting us be part of your history.” Meanwhile, working as part of the team are Mercyhurst research archaeologist C. Andrew Hemmings, Ph.D. , who is managing the day- to-day activities with support from Mercyhurst alumna Anne Marjenin , director of the Archaeology Processing Lab at Mercyhurst, as chief feld assistant; and Frank Vento, Ph.D. , feld director. Mercyhurst alumni Mike Way , Sarah Heuer , Zach Nason and Ben Wells are also lending their expertise to the historic dig along with current students Michelle Farley , Jamie Badams and Lauren Urana . For more on the history of the Old Vero Man site, visit . For more about the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, visit .

’ Scientists are using drones to capture high-res aerial images of the target-rich environment while Mercyhurst University archaeologists are using automated laser devices to map the site, according to principal excavator James Adovasio, Ph.D. , director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI), who achieved world acclaim as an archaeologist in the 1970s with his excavation of Pennsylvanias Meadowcroft Rockshelter. ‘Hurst team digs into history of Vero Man By Debbie Morton From robotic aerial vehicles to advances in laser technology, new tools are transforming the study of one of the most important Ice Age sites in North America – the Old Vero Man site in Vero Beach, Fla. Widely known for its cutting-edge excavation protocols, the MAI is letting the future be its guide to exploring the past and what Florida was like at the end of the last Ice Age. As of this publication’s deadline, scientists had excavated to the prehistoric ter- minal Ice Age land surface, about 10,000 years old, where signifcant Ice Age material was discovered about a century ago. At that time, workers digging the main drainage canal in Vero Beach uncovered evidence of mastodons, saber tooth cats, ground sloths, mammoths and other fossils, as well as human remains. The discovery of parts of a skull and 44 bones of a human skeleton became known as “Vero Man.” A controversy ensued over whether the human presence was of a more recent age than the extinct animal bones due to possible mixing of geological layers. “At a time when the conventional wisdom was that no humans were in the New World prior to the Holocene (about 10,500 radiocarbon years ago), the frst serious challenge came from E.H. Sellards’ excavations at Vero,” Adovasio said. “Sellards claimed an asso- ciation between human remains and Ice Age mammals, which, if correct, would have totally refuted the then accepted gospel. As with Meadowcroft and Monte Verde in modern times, the Vero excavations were attacked almost immediately by the leading scholars of the period.” Largely because of that abuse and the less-than-rigorous feld methods at the time, Vero went of the radar.


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