Posted by: soniahs | June 23, 2011

First American Ice Age mammoth carving discovered in Florida

A recent fossil find in Florida seems to show the first- and actually only- Ice Age carving from the Americas depicting a mammoth (or a mastodon, a related type of Ice Age elephant). While many Ice Age carvings of mammoths and mastodons have been found in Europe and Africa, until this carving was found, no one had ever found one in the Americas.

The carving, on a bone that’s probably actually from a mammoth or mastodon, was discovered by a professional fossil collector at a site near Vero Beach, Florida. While this site is well-known as containing fossils of many Ice Age animals, no one had ever found anything like this before. Mammoths and mastodons went extinct in the Americas by about 13,000 years ago. So, assuming the artist actually encountered one of these animals (and given the type of bone the carving is on, that seems like a good assumption), this carving has to be at least that old.

Mammoth or mastodon carving from Vero Beach. (Image: Smithsonian Institution)

This discovery was actually made in 2009, but the question then was: Is it genuine? As this would be the first find of its type, the paleontologists at the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian Institution who were evaluating it would need to provide substantial evidence to prove this.

In an upcoming paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the researchers lay out the results of several tests, and come to the conclusion that the carving probably is genuine. If so, this is quite an important find.

Close-up of the carving. (Image: Smithsonian Institution)

If you get beyond the shallow and superficial image of Florida as a theme-park playground, this state actually has some depth- including quite a few important fossil and archaeological sites.

Fore more information on this discovery, go here. Here’s the reference to the upcoming paper, which is available online if you have institutional access (otherwise, it will cost you $30): Purdy, B.A., Jones, K.S., Mecholsky, J.J., Bourne, G., Hulbert, R.C., MacFadden, B.J., Church, K.L., Warren, M.W., Jorstad, T.F., Stanford, D.J., Wachowiak, M.J., Speakman, R.J. Earliest Art in the Americas: Incised Image of a Proboscidean on a Mineralized Extinct Animal Bone from Vero Beach, Florida, Journal of Archaeological Science (2011), doi: 10.1016/ j.jas.2011.05.022

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