Search for First Americans to Plunge Underwater
Heinrichs, Allison M, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
James Adovasio's latest archaeological expedition to find the first Americans will require little digging.
Still, the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute director will have to reach depths of several hundred feet.
Adovasio plans to co-lead a two-week expedition in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the month to look for evidence of early American Indians along the ancient coast of Florida, now about 300 feet underwater, Mercyhurst College in Erie announced Monday.
"We have these little hints ... that there are potentially early sites off the coast of Florida," said Adovasio, former chairman of the University of Pittsburgh's anthropology department. "That is what makes this so exciting."
Adovasio rose to fame three decades ago while excavating the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Avella in Washington County. Radiocarbon dating showed the creekside outcropping was the site of human campsites as much as 16,000 years ago, five millennia earlier than archaeologists thought.
Before heading inland, paleo-Indians probably hugged the American coastline, congregating around freshwater rivers, Adovasio said. At the time, much of the world's water was locked up in glaciers, causing ocean levels to be lower and exposing more of the continental shelf.
As the earth warmed and water levels rose, evidence of such settlements fell deeper and deeper below water.
"There is no question in almost all archaeological minds that the earliest examples of North American occupation are underwater," said Dave Watters, curator and head of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. "There's been a lot of discussion, but not a lot of research because you can spend a lot of time looking for something and not ever find it."
Dredging and storms have turned up tantalizing clues -- spearheads, bone tools -- that such sites are just waiting to be found in the Gulf of Mexico, said C. …