Tag Archives: underwater archeology

Underwater archeologists excavate the Ryan-harley site on the lower Wacissa River.

Seeing the Ice Age Wacissa Through Artifacts and Fossils

Last week, we met Morgan Smith’s team and got to know their archeological sites on the Silver River.  Today, we’ll revisit their Wacissa River site, see some of the artifacts and fossils they’ve found, and learn what they can tell us about ice age Florida.   We’ll also look ahead to potential off shore digs.

Special thanks to Shawn Joy, Morgan Smith, and Matt Vinzant of Karst Underwater Research for letting us use their underwater footage.  Morgan’s research is sponsored by the Felburn Foundation, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, and the PaleoWest Foundation. He would like to thank the Silver River State Park, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

In the video above, we visit three archeological sites on two rivers.  When you watch footage from each sites, one sticks out as the most visually striking.  It’s an underwater cavern at the head spring of the Silver River, and it’s full of mammoth bones.  It looks like a cool place to explore.  But it’s also the site with the least scientific value. Continue reading

Morgan Smith, in full scuba gear, descends into Silver Springs' (Florida) head spring, also known as Mammoth Spring.

Underwater Archeology in Florida Part 1 | Silver River Mammoths

Last year, an archeological site on the Aucilla River made international news when an artifact was found in sediment radiocarbon dated to 14,550 years ago.  This makes it one of the oldest sites in North America, further evidence that people were here earlier than once believed.  We catch up with the research team behind that find.  Our area is a hotbed for underwater archeology; in fact, our many waterways might be our greatest archeological asset.

Special thanks to Shawn Joy, Morgan Smith, and Matt Vinzant of Karst Underwater Research for letting us use their underwater footage.  Morgan’s research is sponsored by the Felburn Foundation, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, and the PaleoWest Foundation. He would like to thank the Silver River State Park, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

“Ocala famous, baby!” Shawn says as he and Morgan look over the cover of the Ocala Star Banner.  In one photo, the two of them are beneath the Silver River in scuba gear, under the headline “Unearthing History”.  Excavating a submerged mammoth kill site might be as glamorous as prehistoric archeology gets, and it looks good on the newsstand. Continue reading

Is Artifact Collecting a Threat to Archeology?

In early November, WFSU-TV aired a segment titled “Amateur Archeologist vs. Looter: A Matter of Context?”  The video featured proponents of a program resembling the defunct Isolated Finds, which let avocational (amateur) archeologists purchase a permit to collect artifacts that had eroded into waterways from their sites.  Since the piece aired, new legislation has been introduced into the Florida House and Senate which would enact such a program.  In the video below, we talk to professional archeologists and an avocational opposed to rebooting the Isolated Finds program, including the man who oversaw its previous incarnation.


This segment aired on WFSU-TV’s Local Routes on February 4.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV
A Simpson point found in Wakulla Springs State Park. Such points have been dated between 8 - 9,000 years old, and have been found locally in the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers.

A Simpson point found in Wakulla Springs State Park. Such points have been dated between 8 – 9,000 years old, and have been found locally in the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers. Photo provided by Dr. James Dunbar.

“We’re not in the artifact collecting business,” says Dr. Glen Doran.  “We’re in the information collecting business.”  To Dr. Doran and the two men seated next to him, a well preserved paleolithic spear point is a puzzle piece, just like the seeds, bone fragments, and chert flakes around where the point was found.  While it might be exciting to be the first person to hold it in several thousand years, to archeologists, the story of that tool’s creator is more exciting.  New bills would allow Florida citizens to take and keep artifacts found underwater and “out-of-context,” that is, not buried in an archeological site.  If passed, Doran and his associates fear an ensuing “gold rush” that would decimate the state’s rich historic and prehistoric resources.

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Underwater Archeology | Excavating the Wacissa River

We dive into the Wacissa River with a team of scuba-diving archeologists.  What did they find?  And what do their findings mean within the larger picture of prehistoric Florida?  Read on.  Big thanks to David Ward and Robert Daniels of the Aucilla River Group for helping us arrange the shoot and transporting the crew to the site.  And thanks to Hot Tamale, whose music is featured in the video.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Some time ago, possibly about 12,000 years or so, a group of hunters stopped by the Wacissa River and made some tools.  They’re not likely to have self-identified as members of the Suwannee culture group, though that’s how archeologists classify them based on the way they crafted their spear points.  These paleolithic humans left a mess of bone and rock on what may or may not have been a riverbank at the time.  That refuse is of interest  to Morgan Smith, a PhD. student at Texas A & M University. Continue reading