Fall 2018: By Tamara Jager Stewart.

For millennia, humans have flocked to the lush region now known as the Aucilla River drainage in north-central Florida. Some twenty miles to the west, an underground river emanates an upwelling and forms the Wakulla River. The upwelling, known as Wakulla Springs, contains the remains of countless Pleistocene animals drawn to the freshwater springs. These waterways also include pre-Clovis sites dating back some 14,500 years, such as the mastodon kill and scavenge site known as Page-Ladson. Back then the water table was sometimes near the modern level and sometimes much lower. Therefore, many ancient sites in the area were at times inundated while others were dry land or wetland surfaces.

“Older underwater sites may represent inundated components that were originally terrestrial, and younger components may represent the remnants of later nearshore cultural activity after sea levels rose to near present levels about 6,000 years ago,” said archaeologist James Dunbar, who discovered the Page-Ladson site in the early 1990s. Dunbar has continued intensive research of Paleo-Indians sites in the river drainage ever since, and in 2012 he helped found the non-profit Aucilla Research Institute (ARI), which is dedicated to archaeological and earth sciences research as well as public education and outreach.

Numerous mastodon and Paleo-Indian discoveries in the area have intrigued researchers such as Dunbar, who believe these sites are likely associated and show the antiquity and continuity of human use of the area. He and his ARI crew, assisted by volunteers, started working at the Wakulla Springs Lodge site ten years ago.

Excerpt, Read our Fall 2018 Sneak Peak: 15,000 Year-Old Pre-Clovis at Wakulla Springs

More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018.

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