Prehistoric Florida

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Little Salt Spring: Through the Looking Glass

Little Salt Spring is one of the most important archaeological sites in the state, and perhaps the nation, for its wealth of information about the first Floridians more than 12,000 years ago. The sinkhole's water chemistry and temperature have helped to create a one-of-a-kind, prehistoric submerged site where late Paleoindian and archaic artifacts have been excavated from a portion of the spring basin.

 

"Divers from The Florida Aquarium are working with UM scientists in the complex excavation of Little Salt Spring," said Thom Stork, CEO and President of The Florida Aquarium, "which requires highly skilled and trained divers to carefully locate and catalog the treasures that lie in the depths of the spring."

 

Donated to the University of Miami in 1982, Little Salt Spring was first discovered to be an underwater archeological site in the late 1950s. In 2005, Dr. John Gifford, Rosenstiel School associate professor and Little Salt Spring principal investigator, made an exciting discovery. With the help of his graduate students, Gifford discovered two exceptional archaic artifacts estimated to be approximately 7,000 years old - a greenstone pendant and another carved stone artifact that appears to be part of a spear-thrower.

 

"Our research has only begun to scratch the surface of what this site may reveal to us," said Dr. John Gifford. "The anoxic (absence of oxygen) environment at the bottom of the spring does not allow microbes and bacteria to live, so decomposition of organic material deposited there thousands of years ago is greatly reduced. Wooden and other organic tools, as well as animals' soft tissues and bones, are preserved nearly intact in this unique environment."