Findings excite archaeologists, volunteers
By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- The first archaeological dig in Vero Beach in nearly 100 years has been closed for the year, but the findings have locals and archaeologists excited about reopening the area early next year.
The "Old Vero Man" site, located in Vero Beach near the main relief canal and the railroad tracks, has turned up artifacts and other signs of early inhabitants in the Vero Beach region, which is exactly what the archaeologists from Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute in Erie, Pa., were hoping to find.
While no large discoveries, such as bones, were reported this year, the teams from Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute were enthusiastic and already looking forward to next year.
"The big conclusion is we learned we're in the right place," said Randy Old, chairman of the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee, a local nonprofit group dedicated to preserving and excavate the Ice Age site.
"We couldn't be happier," he said.
"We've come down on what we're calling a campsite. We're finding evidence of inhabitants, chips of stone and we're finding plants and bugs that tell us about the weather. It's very meticulous and slow work. It's detective work, really. We're looking for little pieces to put together the story of what was here long ago," Mr. Old said.
The dig was officially closed during Memorial Day weekend and the dig site was covered back up with dirt. The site is too close to the main relief canal to risk being compromised should a hurricane or other storm pass through this summer, Mr. Old said.
The archaeological dig began in January with large digging equipment moving large sections of earth, known as overburden, away from the dig site to allow quicker access to the deeper, undisturbed layers of earth thought to be 13,000 years old and containing clues about the weather conditions and the people in the area during that time.
"We haven't dated everything yet and it's a large site and we're not sure the extent of it, but it's a very important site for early man. It could be the most important site in the southeastern U.S.," Mr. Old said.
Over the course of the five month dig, 12 archaeologists worked six days a week, usually 12 hours days carefully looking through the layers for clues about the people that lived here thousands of years ago.
They were assisted with many volunteers, more than 200, who were trained to screen the dirt that was brought up from the site, some local and some from Mercyhurst University, Mr. Old said.
"In spite of the tedious and strenuous work, we have had a successful season. This was Mercyhurst's first time to work here in Florida and it's been an exemplary time. They are the right people to do this. I suspect we'll be here digging for 10 to 15 years," Mr. Old said.
For more information about the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee or the archeological dig, visit www.oviasc.org.