Nav: Home

Archaeologists uncover 13,000-year-old bones of ancient, extinct species of bison

May 11, 2016

In what is considered one of the oldest and most important archaeological digs in North America, scientists have uncovered what they believe are the bones of a 13,000- to 14,000-year-old ancient, extinct species of bison at the Old Vero Man Site in Vero Beach, Fla. Archaeologists from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute made this discovery just 10 feet below the ground's surface during the final stretch of the 2016 excavation efforts at the Vero Beach site.

The bone was found below a layer that contained material from the Pleistocene period when the last ice age was thought to have occurred. The archaeologists identified the bison using an upper molar, which is thought to be representative of a Bison antiquus, a direct ancestor of the American bison that roamed North America until it became extinct. Because bison was a grassland-adapted animal, nearly 100 percent of their bones disintegrated after death unless they were preserved in some way.

"This finding is especially significant because of the meticulous documentation that has been involved," said James M. Adovasio, Ph.D., principal investigator. "Along with the fact that bones like this have never been found on land as part of a calculated archaeological effort. Others like this have all been found underwater, in sinkholes or streams."

Bison antiquus, sometimes referred to as the "ancient bison," was the most common large herbivore of the North American continent for more than 10,000 years, and is a direct ancestor of the living American bison. They were approximately 8 feet tall, 15 feet long and weighed close to 3,500 pounds.

"We couldn't have asked for a better representative species from that era," said Andrew Hemmings, Ph.D., lead archaeologist. "We now know that people were here in Vero Beach at that time."

The bones of the ancient bison have been moved to FAU's Ancient DNA Lab at Harbor Branch for further research and examination. The lab was established in 2011 to investigate the population biology, genetic diversity and species composition of past ecosystems.

Scientists also found other bones at the site from small mammals, along with slivers of bones from large mammals that could have come from mammoth, mastodon, sloth or bison. Pieces of charcoal and the head of a fly were discovered earlier in this year's excavation, which began in late February.

The Old Man Vero Site was originally discovered in 1915 after construction efforts on a drainage canal exposed the well-preserved remains of late Pleistocene flora and fauna in association with human remains and artifacts.
-end-
The archaeological dig was led by Harbor Branch and FAU's Department of Anthropology within the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, in partnership with the Old Vero Man Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC).- FAU -

About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:

Founded in 1971, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research community of marine scientists, engineers, educators and other professionals focused on Ocean Science for a Better World. The institute drives innovation in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, ocean observing systems and marine education. For more information, visit http://www.fau.edu/hboi.

About Florida Atlantic University:


Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU's existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit http://www.fau.edu.

Florida Atlantic University

Related Ice Age Articles:

What causes an ice age to end?
Research by an international team helps to resolve some of the mystery of why ice ages end by establishing when they end.
New study results consistent with dog domestication during ice age
Analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth from a 28,500-year-old fossil site in the Czech Republic provides supporting evidence for two groups of canids -- one dog-like and the other wolf-like - with differing diets, which is consistent with the early domestication of dogs.
Did an extraterrestrial impact trigger the extinction of ice-age animals?
Based on research at White Pond near Elgin, South Carolina, University of South Carolina archaeologist Christopher Moore and 16 colleagues present new evidence of a controversial theory that suggests an extraterrestrial body crashing to Earth almost 13,000 years ago caused the extinction of many large animals and a probable population decline in early humans.
Dust in ice cores leads to new knowledge on the advancement of the ice before the ice age
Working with the ice core ReCap, drilled close to the coast in East Greenland, postdoc Marius Simonsen wondered why the dust particles from the interglacial period -- the warmer period of time between the ice ages -- were several times bigger than the dust particles from the ice age.
Ice-sheet variability during the last ice age from the perspective of marine sediment
By using marine sediment cores from Northwestern Australia, a Japanese team led by National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) and the University of Tokyo revealed that the global ice sheet during the last ice age had changed in shorter time scale than previously thought.
What triggered the 100,000-year Ice Age cycle?
A slowing of ocean circulation in the waters surrounding Antarctica drastically altered the strength and more than doubled the length of global ice ages following the mid-Pleistocene transition, a new study finds.
WVU researcher unearths an ice age in the African desert
A field trip to Namibia to study volcanic rocks led to an unexpected discovery by West Virginia University geologists Graham Andrews and Sarah Brown.
Scientists revealed how water fleas settled during the Ice Age
A new study shows that the roots used by three close species of microscopic Daphnia crustaceans to settle across the territory of Northern Eurasia differed greatly.
'True polar wander' may have caused ice age
Earth's latest ice age may have been caused by changes deep inside the planet.
Ice-age climate clues unearthed
A Rice University scientist leads an effort to improve climate models using paleoclimate proxies, indicators like chemical compounds in plants and microorganisms preserved in ancient lake sediments that hold rich data about past climate conditions on Earth.
More Ice Age News and Ice Age Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.