Drawing of Indians capturing mammoths
Original drawing by F.D. Howard, ©

Florida.....12,500 YEARS AGO

BY Frank Howard
November 19, 1995

12,500 Years ago men were hunting rather large animals in places like the Aucilla and Wakulla Rivers. Archaeologists and Paleontologists are presently working in an area of the Aucilla River which contains remnants of the largest North American Mammoths. What makes these remains so special is that they are found in context with man-made hunting artifacts!

The Columbian Mammoth was about three times the size of a modern elephant and larger than the Woolly mammoth. Most remains of it are found where they have been disturbed, or washed away, and re-deposited some place else thereby making it very difficult to place them in a time and environment context. But at this site the archaeologists have found the mother lode - the undisturbed strata in which the mammoth lay down and died. The bones are still in the same layer in which they met their death.

In this particular instance the bones are found in context with artifacts left by humans also. These include such as flint flakes, ivory spear foreshafts, and other bone and flint artifacts. Of great interest at this site is the fine preservation of organic materials found.

For instance, gourd seeds that looked as if you had just opened up a package of seeds ready to plant! -- very fresh looking mammoth dung! Yes, dung! Preserved animal dung is an excellent material from which to learn about not only an animal's diet, but is also a window into the type of botanical and environmental diversity present. Note that even the pollen from plants other than what had been eaten would be present.

A little about Florida topography of that time will help visualize how man and mammoths become preserved together. 12 to 15,000 years ago Florida was quite arid. The plants we see today did not arrive as such until about 5,000 years ago. In the previous time the water level was much lower than it is today. Streams and rivers, such as the Wakulla , the Aucilla and other North Florida rivers, were perhaps more like small intermittent streams in that they were more deeply cut into the land but only showed small streams from the springs and sinkholes along their channel bottoms. The channels would have been cut during an earlier age when the water level was higher and the glaciers of the far north were in a melt stage. The rivers would have carried much more water at a much higher speed then.

In an arid land the mammoth would naturally have found ways into the beds of the then somewhat dry riverbeds. After all, the food plants would be down there near the remaining water. Man would certainly have the advantage in hunting them there for he could stand above on the channel rim and get in his best shots before going down to finish the great beasts off.

In our continuing efforts to regain stewardship of this land of ours let us not forget that we must not knowingly destroy the stories to be gained from it before they can be read by those trained to do so. Remember if you should dig into such a site, do not continue because you feel you might find "something really good" but get the experts to advise you. Also note, the one small artifact you remove from its context may have it's position as the vital key which allows the expert to determine an explanation for the site.

more articles by F. Howard
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