Friday, January 20, 2006


Major Find In Sarasota County Natural Spring


By Maila Rible
January 17, 2006

Scientists have found artifacts in Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County that date back 12,000 years.

Tampa, Florida -- For decades, scientists have been working to uncover the hidden mysteries of our state, most of which lie below the surface of the water.

One major research project is taking place just south of here in Sarasota County in a place called Little Salt Spring.

Deep in the woods of southern Sarasota County you'll find Little Salt Spring, a 240-foot deep hourglass-shaped spring that may hold the answers to when humans first arrived in our state. Mike Terrell, says divers and researchers from the University of Miami and the Florida Aquarium are unearthing major finds.

"During the last ice age, there was a land bridge between Asia and North America that opened up that allowed people to come across. That was 12,000 years ago. But we're finding artifacts that date back to that time, so if the artifacts were put there 12,000 years ago, but people were only coming across from Asia, they had to come from somewhere. So some of the possibilities may be Europe or possibly even up through South America, but those are questions we are trying to answer."

The underwater journey is tedious work. Divers map the area and mark unique finds, and those that can be brought up are so they can be studied more closely.

One of the wildest finds is the tip of a spear with a preserved piece of wood, something scientists can date by using radio carbon testing. Terrell says it's the second oldest artifact ever found in the Southeastern United States.

"Another neat artifact that we found was a small green pendant that was probably owned by someone of a higher stature, like a chief or a medicine man of the tribe. And it's unique, because it's an ornamental piece, it's not utilitarian. So they were making pieces that weren't for survival, so it may show more structure and even hierarchy in that culture."

Little Salt Spring was first explored in the 1950's, and a full blown underwater excavation began in 1992.

So far researchers have only explored five percent of the total spring, as they rewrite Florida history, artifact by artifact.


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