Mercyhurst Vero dig commences today

Vero students

On Monday, Jan. 6, the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI) begins a new excavation at the Old Vero Man Site in Vero Beach, Fla., which is widely recognized as one of the more controversial Ice Age sites in North America.

Headed by MAI Director James Adovasio, Ph.D, and Mercyhurst research archaeologist C. Andrew Hemmings, Ph.D., the project is expected to take around five months. Hemmings is charged with managing the day-to-day activities at the site, with support from Mercyhurst alumni Anne Marjenin, director of the Archaeology Processing Lab at Mercyhurst, who will serve as chief field assistant; and Ben Wells, who is pursuing graduate studies at the University of West Florida. A number of Mercyhurst archaeology students are participating in the historic dig, the result of a partnership between Mercyhurst University and the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC), a Florida nonprofit citizens group.

Scientists believe the Old Vero Man site, famous for the discovery of Vero Man in 1915, contains significant fossils and artifacts, including human remains at least 13,000 years old, along with the remains of extinct animals, according to Adovasio, who is well known for his work at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and exemplary research protocols.

About a century ago, 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.”

As is often the case in the scientific debate over early Americans, the Old Vero Man site is steeped in controversy, largely centered on whether the human remains in Vero were of a more recent age than the extinct animal bones due to mixing of geological layers. The Vero site remains in the literature on early American inhabitants, but its status is unresolved.

Renewed interest in the site by a variety of scientists resulted in the formation of OVIASC, which sought funds for the new excavation. Agreements between OVIASC and Mercyhurst, the City of Vero Beach, and the Farms Water Control district were reached in 2013 for a new excavation at the site during the dry season of 2014.

Excavated materials will go to Mercyhurst, whose extensive laboratory facilities are among the best in the United States for analyzing archaeological remains.

PHOTO: (L-R) Mercyhurst juniors Zach Nason and Michelle Farley, senior Jamie Badams, 2013 alumnus Mike Way, and senior Lauren Urana.
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