Archaeology department's expertise sought at Old Vero site

Executive Director of the Archaeological Institute James M. Adovasio, Ph.D., and the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI) are helping to create an excavation strategy for the Old Vero Man site in Vero Beach, Fla.

They are working alongside the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC) on this project, which could potentially yield one of the most significant Ice Age sites in North America.

The MAI was contacted last year regarding the excavation at Vero. To prepare, Mercyhurst received sediment core samples to analyze.

“The sediment cores allow us to gather information about the site which will help us determine where to excavate,” noted MAI Lab Director Anne Marjenin “Essentially, the cores give us a preview of the site.”

To take full advantage of the amount of time given for an excavation, Marjenin noted the team is “considering enclosing the site in a portable structure which would protect the excavation and allow the excavators to work even during inclement weather.”

Initial excavations of the site, though limited, were performed at the site in 1915 and 1916. The notable part of this site is that human remains were found, potentially alongside small and large Ice Age animals, as well as plants of the period. This association could date the human remains at about 13,000 to 14,000 years old.

Such sites are rare in North America, so their validity is disputed among archaeologists. The Meadowcroft Rockshelter, which is situated in southwestern Pennsylvania, is one such site. Dr. Adovasio has been a principal investigator of Meadowcroft, which is still considered to contain some of the oldest evidence of humans in eastern North America.

Marjenin also noted that excavation of Vero will be difficult, as the site is only several miles off the east coast of Florida and contains very sandy sediment.

“We will employ the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute excavation methodology during the project, but may also need to use some additional techniques and equipment,” Marjenin said.

Though fundraising and donations are needed for the partnership to start excavating, it is projected to begin in December. The project archaeologist for OVIASC is C. Andrew Hemmings, a researcher and faculty member of Mercyhurst University.