Archaeological Site To Become A Pond Again
TITUSVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ After three years of digging, archaeologists who unearthed human brain tissue and bones 7,000 years old from a drained pond are flooding the site even though most of its clues to the past are still in the ground.
″We never want to remove everything,″ said Madeleine Carr, spokeswoman for the Windover Archaeological Research Project. ″We want to leave it.
″It’s sort of a nice feeling to know that at least half of it is still there. People can come back in the future, if they ever need to, and continue where we left off.″
The project will move to the laboratory, while the pond that hid an Indian burial ground from the last ice age until 1984 will be re-created.
″The research is what’s important now,″ Ms. Carr said as the field site workers began their last week.
Eight universities and scientists from 12 disciplines will study what was found at the site, including at least 62 skulls with well-preserved brain tissue, the skeletons of 164 people, about 9,000 bone fragments, as well as fabric, tools and jewelry.
″I’ve seen a lot of very interesting things go past my nose,″ said David Dickel, a Florida State University physical anthropologist and archaeologist who was co-director of the project and field director.
Radiocarbon dating has enabled the scientists to date usage of the burial ground from 6,990 years ago to 8,150 years ago, plus or minus 150 years, Ms. Carr said.
The Indians buried their dead in a mucky forest floor, she said. The pond came later, with a rising water level caused by the retreat of glaciers in the last ice age.
Scientists credit the submerged claylike peat that surrounds the bones and the low acidity of the water with preserving the remains. The peat blocked oxygen from reaching the materials and the low acidity of the water prevented degeneration.
Thanks to these conditions, Windover has yielded the oldest remains of children in the New World as well as the greatest range of age in individuals, stretching from neonatal to 70 years old, Ms. Carr said.
The skulls that were found yielded DNA, which has been cloned and used to unravel some genetic codes. Scientists from around the world who have been supplied with samples of the cloned DNA may be able to trace changes in human cell structure and learn how diseases such as cancer are related to heredity, according to Dr. William Hauswirth, a molecular biologist at the University of Florida.
The site was discovered in 1982 by construction workers building a road for a residential community. Developers set aside about 12 acres for the archaeological project and the owner has expressed an interested in preserving the site, Ms. Carr said.