Texas A&M Discovery About Early Settlers In Florida Named Among Top BBC Science Stories

a diver in murky shines a light on artifacts

(Photo credit: Mike Waters)

The discovery of stone tools and bones in a Florida river by a research team that includes a Texas A&M University professor, proving that humans settled the Southeastern United States far earlier than believed, has been named one of the top science and environment stories for 2016 by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).

In its rankings titled “Big Digs: The Year 2016 in Archaeology,” the BBC selected five stories as among the best of the year.  Results of the project led by Michael Waters, director of Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of the First Americans, and Jessi Halligan (his former student and now assistant professor at Florida State University) were published in Science Advances.  It details excavation work at the Page-Ladson site done in 26 feet of water in a sinkhole in the Aucilla River in Florida. The research team found stone tools and the bones of extinct animals, including a mastodon tusk that showed obvious signs of cutting by the early settlers of the area.

Radiocarbon testing showed that the artifacts were about 14,550 years old, meaning they were made about 1,500 years before it was believed the first people inhabited the area and pre-date Clovis culture artifacts.  Clovis were the direct descendants of the earliest people who arrived in the New World about 15,000 years ago.

The findings raise new questions about the settlement of the Americas.  “Page-Ladson is one of the oldest sites in the Americas and it continues to demonstrate that people occupied the Americas much earlier than we had previously thought,” Waters says. “It is an honor to have our research recognized by the BBC.”

Other top BBC stories in the science and environment category include “Britain’s Pompeii,” about the discovery of a settlement of houses built on stilts by apparently wealthy people that were destroyed by a fire thousands of years ago and were mysteriously abandoned;  a story about how ancient DNA proves that cats found buried alongside humans show they were domesticated as long as 9,500 years ago and how cat populations spread through Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean by ships;  a story that shows that man-made global warming could have been started as long as 10,000 years ago by methods of early agriculture and deforestation; and the discovery of ancient skeletons found in Arizona that show that women with birth defects were treated by numerous caregivers 1,400 years ago.

Established in 1922 by a Royal Charter, the London-based BBC is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organization and the largest broadcaster in the world with almost 21,000 employees and has large television, radio and online news gathering services around the globe.  It is a public service organization and free of government intervention.

For more about Waters work on Page-Ladson site, go to http://today.tamu.edu/2016/05/13/first-settlers-in-gulf-coast-far-earlier-than-believed/

For more about the Center for the Study of the First Americans, go to http://csfa.tamu.edu/

First Settlers In Gulf Coast Far Earlier Than Believed

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $866.6 million in fiscal year 2015. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2014), based on expenditures of more than $854 million in fiscal year 2014. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu

Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644 or Michael Waters at (979) at 845-5246

For more news about Texas A&M University, see http://today.tamu.edu/.

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