Page-Ladson prehistory site

Page-Ladson prehistory site

The Page-Ladson prehistory site is a deep hole in the bed of the Aucilla River (between Jefferson and Taylor Counties in the Big Bend region of Florida) that has stratified deposits of late Pleistocene and early Holocene animal bones and human artifacts reaching back to about 14,500 to 12,500 years before the present. The earliest dates for artifacts recovered from the site are between 1,000 and 1,500 years before the advent of the Clovis cultureref|pre-Clovis.

At the height of the last ice age (the Wisconsin glaciation), the sea level was up to 100 meters lower than at present. Most of Florida is a thick limestone platform, with typical Karst topography. As limestone is porous, salt water penetrates the lower part of the Florida platform, and fresh water floats on top of the salt water. With the lowered sea level of the ice age, the fresh water table in Florida was also lowered, leaving most of Florida much drier than it is at present. The only reliable sources of fresh water at elevations that are currently above sea level were sinkholes and the deeper parts of river beds. The Page-Ladson site was one of those watering holes, located in a ravine that is now the bed of the river.

The lower part of the Aucilla River is partly underground, surfacing for short stretches and then disappearing again. The Page-Ladson site is located in one of the above ground sections, known as Half-Mile Run (although it is closer to one mile long). Other sites on the Aucilla River are also yielding paleontological and archaeological finds, all as part of a long-running Aucilla River Prehistory Projectref|ARPP.

Starting in 1959, Dick Ohmes and other scuba divers began retrieving artifacts and pleistocene animal bones with butcher marks from the lower reaches of the Aucilla River. A team led by archaeologist James Dunbar and paleontologist S. David Webb began a survey of Half-Mile Run in 1983. A former U.S. Navy Seal, Buddy Page, showed them a site where he had found elephant bones. A twenty-inch deep test pit yielded elephant bones, bone tools and chips from tool making. Radiocarbon dating of organic material from the pit yielded dates from 13,000 to 11,700 years Before Present. The owners of the land surrounding Half-Mile Run, the Ladson family, granted permission to the team to access and camp along Half-Mile Run. The Site was therefore named Page-Ladson.

Excavation of the Page-Ladson site spanned the period from 1984 until 1997. As the project progressed, the team developed new methods of recording the stratigraphic placement of all material in an underwater environment.

The lowest strata in Page-Ladson is late Pleistocene. In includes mastodon, mammoth, horse and ground sloth, palaeolama bones and "straw mats" of chopped vegetation (leaves, bark and wood) of relatively uniform length. The length of the chopped vegetation is consistent with the spacing between cusps on mastodon teeth, and the "straw mats" have been interpreted as equivalent to the layers of trampled elephant dung found around water holes in Africa. Elephant steroids have been identified in the "digesta" deposits at Page-Ladson and Latvis-Simpson (a 32,000 year old mastodon site farther south in the Aucilla). Some of the bones from this level show apparent human-made cut marks, particularly a complete mastodon tusk. Ivory spear points (often called "foreshafts") are found more frequently in the Aucilla River than everywhere else in North America combined. Samples from the "straw mat" level have yielded radiocarbon dates from 13,130 +/- 200 to 11,770 +/- 90 years Before Present. The "straw mat" level is covered by a layer of mud that did not contain any bones of extinct animals.

In 1996 an Early Archaic Bolen habitation level was found. At least three hearths were identified, and various stone points, scrapers, adzes and gouges were found, as well as antler points used to press flakes off the stone tools. Three wooden stakes were found upright in the ground, and a cypress log that had been burned on the top side and hollowed out. Radiocarbon dating yielded dates around 10,000 years Before Present. The site was well-preserved because it had been flooded by a rise in the river level within a hundred years after the site was occupied.

See also

* List of fossil sites "(with link directory)"


*Brown, Robin C. 1994. "Florida's First People". Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-032-8
* [ The pre-Clovis occupation of Florida: The Page-Ladson and Wakulla Springs Lodge Data] - retrieved March 5 2006
* [ Aucilla River Prehistory Project] - retrieved March 5 2006
* [ Page/Ladson site update] - retrieved March 5 2006
* [ Report of the 1999 Field Operations - PaleoAucilla Prehistory Project] - retrieved March 6 2006
* [ Aucilla River Paleoindian Site] - retrieved March 12 2006

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