Category Archives: U.S.A

The Mystery Of Cahokia Mounds, North America’s First City

The Mystery Of Cahokia Mounds, North America’s First City

Long before Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America, the mounds of Cahokia stood tall and formed the continent’s first city in recorded history.

In fact, during its height in the 12th century, Cahokia Mounds was larger in population than London. It spread across six square miles and boasted a population of 10,000 to 20,000 people — vast figures for the time.

But Cahokia’s peak didn’t last long. And its demise remains mysterious to this day.

An illustrated aerial view of Cahokia.

The region has been occupied for the first time around 1200 BC in the late Archaic period but the first inhabitants in the area are thought to have arrived in the late woodland period around AD 600–700.

It is founded around AD 1050 in what is now western Illinois by archaeological evidence.

Cahokia at its peak was the largest urban center north of Central America’s Mesoamerican civilization with a population of 20,000 inhabitants, although the extent of the population at its highest is still disputed.

Monks Mound, the largest manmade pre-Columbian earthen mound in North America.

The city covered an area between six to nine square miles, notably larger than many contemporary European cities such as London, which during the same period was just 1.12 square miles.

The inhabitants constructed 120 earthen mounds, ranging in size and shape from raised platforms, conical, and ridge-top designs that involved moving 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period several decades.

They constructed ceremonial plazas, situated around the mounds that were interconnected with pathways, courtyards and thousands of dwellings made from wattle and daub, with outlying farming villages that supported the main urban centre.

The largest structure at Cahokia is “Monks Mound” (named after a community of Trappist monks who settled on the mound) which is a 290-metre-tall platform with four terraces that was built around AD 900–955.

An 1882 illustration of Monks Mound

The perimeter of the base of Monks Mound measures similar in size to the Great Pyramid of Giza and is notably larger than the base of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan.

Surrounding the main precinct was a defensive wooden palisade measuring 2 miles in length with watchtowers, that was built around the year AD 1200.

Although there is no archaeological evidence of conflict, some theories suggest that the defences were built for ritual or societal separation rather than for military purposes.

Cahokia began to decline by the 13th century and was mysteriously abandoned around AD 1300-1350.

Scholars have suggested that environmental factors such as flooding, or deforestation led to an exhaustion of natural resources.

In 1982, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) designated the site a World Heritage Site.

How 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck discovery ‘redefined’ history

Archaeology breakthrough: How 2,000-year-old Roman shipwreck discovery ‘redefined’ history

Scuba researchers explored waters in Florida when they came across the shipwreck of a Roman vessel. The ship was called ‘Panarea III,’ and was expected to have sailed between Rome and Carthage about 218-210 AD during the Second Punic War.

In 2010 US archeologists using sonar equipment and a remotely operated submersible find it at 130 meters depth.

In the center of the researchers, the Italian archeologists considered that the ship was a supply vessel in the fleet of the Roman consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus.

Among the stunning artefacts were “small fishing plates, kalathoi, pitcher, and the louterion,” the archaeologists said.

They said the latter was probably used as a sacrificial altar on board the ship.

Jarrod Jablonski, one of the divers, added: “Metal supports still embedded in the base were likely used for fastening to the deck.

Underwater researchers were exploring waters in Florida when they came across the shipwreck of a Roman vessel.

“The Louterion (the ship) is one of many unique discoveries that promise to help redefine what we understand about ancient trade routes and commerce in the 3rd century BC.”

A similar discovery was made in the waters of the Mediterranean when a Phoenician vessel was found by researchers.

The Phoenicians were the direct descendent of the Canaanites of the south Syrian and Lebanese coast – known as a great maritime people who had developed a high level of shipbuilding technology.

It was found at a depth of 125 metres below the surface.

According to Science News, after they find, Dr. Gambin said: “This shipwreck may offer new and significant information about Phoenician seafaring and trade in the central Mediterranean during the archaic period.

“To date, little is known about the earliest contact of Phoenician mariners with the Maltese islands.”

The researchers claimed that the ship was sailing from Sicily to Malta when it sank.

It was about 15 metres long and carried a cargo of 20 grinding stones (about 35 kg each) and 50 amphorae of seven different types – indicating the ship had been indifferent harbours.

Archaeology news: They believe the ship was from Sicily

Dr. Gambin added: “This discovery may be considered as one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Malta datable to the early Phoenician period.”

Archaeologists Have Dates Wrong for North American Indigenous History

Archaeologists Have a Lot of Dates Wrong for North American Indigenous History — But Are Using New Techniques to Get It Right

It was in 1492 that Columbus reached the Americas. Many Europeans had travelled before, but the century from then until 1609 marks the creation of the modern globalized world.

It gave Europe extraordinary wealth and genocide and disease to indigenous peoples across the Americas. 

The dates and the estimates of the settlement in Europe are known from texts and sometimes illustrations, to use the failed colony on what was then Virginia’s Roanoke Island as an example.

However, one thing is missing. What of indigenous history in this traumatic era? Until now, the standard timeline has derived, inevitably, from the European conquerors, even when scholars try to present an indigenous perspective.

This all happened just 400 to 500 years ago – how wrong could the conventional chronology for indigenous settlements be? Quite wrong, it turns out, based on radiocarbon dating my collaborators and I have carried out at a number of Iroquoian sites in Ontario and New York state. We’re challenging existing – and rather colonialist – assumptions and mapping out the correct time frames for when indigenous people were active in these places.

Dating Iroquoia project member Samantha Sanft excavating at White Springs, New York.

Refining Dates Based on European Goods

Archaeologists estimate when a given indigenous settlement was active based on the absence or presence of certain types of European trade goods, such as metal and glass beads. It was always approximate, but became the conventional history.

Since the first known commercial fur trading missions were in the 1580s, archaeologists date initial regular appearances of scattered European goods to 1580-1600. They call these two decades Glass Bead Period 1. We know some trade occurred before that, though, since indigenous people Cartier met in the 1530s had previously encountered Europeans, and were ready to trade with him.

Archaeologists set Glass Bead Period 2 from 1600-1630. During this time, new types of glass beads and finished metal goods were introduced, and trade was more frequent. The logic of dating based on the absence or presence of these goods would make sense if all communities had equal access to, and desire to have, such items. But these key assumptions have not been proven.

16th-century European copper alloy beads from two sites in the Mohawk Valley.

That’s why the Dating Iroquoia Project exists. Made up of researchers here at Cornell University, the University of Georgia, and the New York State Museum, we’ve used radiocarbon dating and statistical modeling to date organic materials directly associated with Iroquoian sites in New York’s Mohawk Valley and Ontario in Canada.

First we looked at two sites in Ontario: Warminster and Ball. Both are long argued to have had direct connections with Europeans. For instance, Samuel de Champlain likely stayed at the Warminster site in 1615-1616. Archaeologists have found large numbers of trade goods at both sites.

Centuries-old maize sample, ready to be radiocarbon dated.

When my colleagues and I examined and radiocarbon dated plant remains (maize, bean, plum) and a wooden post, the calendar ages we came up with are entirely consistent with historical estimates and the glass bead chronology. The three dating methods agreed, placing Ball circa 1565-1590 and Warminster circa 1590-1620.

However, the picture was quite different at several other major Iroquois sites that lack such close European connections. Our radiocarbon tests came up with substantially different date ranges compared with previous estimates that were based on the presence or absence of various European goods.

For example, the Jean-Baptiste Lainé, or Mantle, site northeast of Toronto is currently the largest and most complex Iroquoian village excavated in Ontario. Excavated between 2003–2005, archaeologists dated the site to 1500–1530 because it lacks most trade goods and had just three European-source metal objects. But our radiocarbon dating now places it between about 1586 and 1623, most likely 1599-1614. That means previous dates were off the mark by as much as 50 to 100 years.

Other sites belonging to this same ancestral Wendat community are also more recent than previously assumed. For example, a site called Draper was conventionally dated to the second half of the 1400s, but radiocarbon dating places it at least 50 years later, between 1521 and 1557. Several other Ontario Iroquoian sites lacking large trade good assemblages vary by several decades to around 50 years or so from conventional dates based on our work.

Sturt Manning examining a sample in the Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory.

My colleagues and I have also investigated a number of sites in the Mohawk Valley, in New York state. During the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers formed a key transport route from the Atlantic coast inland for Europeans and their trade goods. Again, we found that radiocarbon dating casts doubt on the conventional time frame attributed to a number of sites in the area.

Biases That Led to Misguided Timelines

Why were some of the previous chronology wrong?

The answer seems to be that scholars viewed the topic through a pervasive colonial lens. Researchers mistakenly assumed that trade goods were equally available, and desired, all over the region, and considered all indigenous groups as the same. On the contrary, it was Wendat custom, for example, that the lineage whose members first discovered a trade route claimed rights to it. Such “ownership” could be a source of power and status. Thus it would make sense to see uneven distributions of certain trade goods, as mediated by the controlling groups. Some people were “in,” with access, and others may have been “out.”

Ethnohistoric records indicate cases of indigenous groups rejecting contact with Europeans and their goods. For example, Jesuit missionaries described an entire village no longer using French kettles because the foreigners and their goods were blamed for disease.

There are other reasons European goods do or do not show up in the archaeological record. How near or far a place was from transport routes, and local politics, both within and between groups, could play a role. Whether Europeans made direct contact, or there were only indirect links, could affect availability. Objects used and kept in settlements could also vary from those intentionally buried in cemeteries. Above all, the majority of sites are only partly investigated at best, some are as yet unknown. And sadly the archaeological record is affected by the looting and destruction of sites. Only a direct dating approach removes the Eurocentric and historical lens, allowing an independent time frame for sites and past narratives.

Dating Iroquoia Project member Megan Conger excavating at White Springs, New York. Some locations have been under-explored, so far, by archaeologists.

Effects of Re-dating Indigenous History

Apart from changing the dates for textbooks and museum displays, the re-dating of a number of Iroquoian sites raises major questions about the social, political and economic history of indigenous communities. For example, conventionally, researchers place the start of a shift to larger and fortified communities, and evidence of increased conflict, in the mid-15th century.

However, our radiocarbon dates find that some of the key sites are from a century later, dating from the mid-16th to start of the 17th centuries. The timing raises questions of whether and how early contacts with Europeans did or did not play a role. This period was also during the peak of what’s called the Little Ice Age, perhaps indicating the changes in indigenous settlements have some association with climate challenge.

Our new radiocarbon dates indicate the correct time frame; they pose, but do not answer, many other remaining questions.

Note: This article was originally published under the title ‘ Archaeologists have a lot of dates wrong for North American indigenous history – but we’re using new techniques to get it right’ by Sturt Manning on The Conversation.

Thousands of ancestors’ remains, sacred objects to return home to North Dakota tribe

Thousands of ancestors’ remains, sacred objects to return home to North Dakota tribe

In a storage room at the University of Tennessee’s anthropology department, the remains of almost 2,000 Arikara and Mandan people rest in boxes, alongside the sacred objects buried with them centuries ago.

There, 65-year-old Pete Coffey, director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, reunited with his ancestors in 2017.

“The only thing I can tell you is that I felt the presence of those ancestral spirits very strongly when I walked in there,” he said.

The Native American remains stored there were buried centuries ago along the Missouri River in South Dakota, according to a Federal Register report published in November. The 1,971 ancestors and 2,263 funerary objects have been traced to the Arikara and Mandan, who once lived in earth lodges along the river. The tribes, along with the Hidatsa, now live west of there on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

In the mid-1900s, archaeologists excavated the burial sites along the Missouri River in South Dakota as part of the Smithsonian’s River Basin Survey. The survey was an effort to gather as much archaeological information as possible before dams and reservoirs flooded areas along the Missouri River following the 1944 Flood Control Act.

An authentic reproduction of a Mandan Hidatsa earth lodge sits next to the Knife River Indian Villages interpretive center in North Dakota

For the MHA Nation, that meant thousands of their ancestors were taken out of the ground.  An archaeologist who helped excavate the remains eventually transported them to the University of Tennessee, where they’ve been stored since before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990. The act asked federal agencies and museums to take inventory of Native American remains and funerary and sacred objects in their possession and to work with tribes who have a claim to return the remains.

Coffey said NAGPRA gave tribes “the right to repatriate these remains which were taken with no thought of human decency, either by collectors or by archaeologists from museums and put on display.”

Coffey has been working with universities and museums across the U.S. that have reached out since the act was passed in the hopes of returning remains. Still, the MHA Nation is just one of the hundreds of tribal nations across the country working to reclaim their ancestors since the act was passed. The Federal Register regularly posts reports alerting tribes to collections.

Dustin Lloyd, the burial coordinator for the South Dakota State Historical Society’s Archaeological Research Center, said some members of the scientific community worried about losing data or information from burial grounds after the act was passed. But Lloyd said the issue is more human than that.

“These were people at one point,” he said. “They were family members, they were fathers, sons, grandmothers. That’s why protection in place is such an important aspect of NAGPRA.”

Reburial this summer

Since 1990, Coffey has helped reclaim tens of thousands of his Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara ancestors across the country. When remains are returned, he consults with tribal elders to determine where and how they should be buried. He said, for the most part, remains are simply put back into the ground, as all the prayers and ceremonies were performed at the original time of burial.

Sometimes, remains are returned to the sites near where they were originally taken. But when that’s not feasible, Coffey said, the remains are repatriated, or given back, to the tribe for reburial on their land.

This summer, the MHA Nation will rebury thousands more of their ancestors. Ellen Lofaro and Robert Hinde at the University of Tennessee started working on the repatriation of remains in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Lofaro, a curator of archaeology, said NAGPRA “not only gives tribes a voice at the table but a power to make decisions. Archaeologists did not always take their wishes and desires into consideration.”

The university contacted the MHA Nation to let them know they had thousands of remains and funerary objects in storage. The next year, 2017, Coffey came to see the remains for himself.

The university, the tribes, and the Army Corps of Engineers for the Omaha District — which owns the land where the remains were excavated — had to meet to determine how to proceed according to NAGPRA rules.

“We’re pretty grateful NAGPRA has a process we feel is successful in helping get these ancestors back to their families,” said Julie Jacobsen, cultural resources program manager for the Corps’ Omaha District.

Because the Corps is the largest land management agency in the U.S., they have “a lot of land with a lot of sites” where collections were excavated prior to NAGPRA. Making sure these collections are properly cared for by those managing them and working to get them repatriated is a “big responsibility,” Jacobsen said. She added that the collection at the University of Tennessee is abnormally large compared to most the Corps works to repatriate.

Overall, Coffey said working with the university and the Corps to repatriate the remains has been a very positive experience.

Jacobsen said the Corps is working to determine how many trailers will be needed to safely return the remains and sacred objects to the MHA Nation and to devise a security plan to protect the remains during the long drive from Tennessee to Fort Berthold.

Hinde said the remains are set to be transported home this summer when cold weather isn’t a factor. There, at Fort Berthold, the tribal ancestors will be laid back to rest.

A fossilized human footprint was found to be 500 million years old!

500 Million-Year-Old Human Footprint Fossil Baffles Scientists

Hundreds of millions of years ago someone with shoes walked on an ancient trilobite.

The amateur fossil hunter William J. Meister found a lifetime discovery 43 kilometers west of Delta, Utah, in the summer of 1968, he found a fossilized human footprint about the size of a US 13 shoe (3.5″W x 10.25″L) stepping on a trilobite. Now, trilobites only existed between 260 to 600 million years ago, so this makes it the oldest human fossil footprint ever discovered!

Trilobites were small marine invertebrates related to crabs and shrimps. Scientists currently think humans emerged 1 or 2 million years ago and only began wearing such shoes a few thousand years ago.

This archaeological discovery could be sufficient to overturn all conventionally accepted ideas of human and geological evolution. According to science’s currently accepted timeline of human existence on this planet, humans advanced enough to wear shoes that would not have existed hundreds of millions of years ago. As one might expect, this sent shockwaves throughout the scientific communities with excitement for a new paradigm shift as well as skeptical denial.

Meister took the rock to a professor of metallurgy at the University of Utah, Melvin Cook, who suggested he show it to the university’s geologists. But none of the geologists were willing to examine it, so Meister took it to a local newspaper called The Deseret News and quickly became very well-known around the country.

This amazing find was presented on March 1, 1973, in a creation-evolution debate at California State University in Sacramento. The creationist team included Dr. Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research and Reverend Boswell of a local Sacramento church. The scientific team consisted of Dr. Richard Lemmon of the University of California at Berkeley and Dr. G. Ledyard Stebbins of the University of California at Davis. Reverend Boswell said:

“I have here something that pretty much destroys the entire geological column. It has been studied by three laboratories around the world and it’s been tested and found valid. It represents a footprint that was found at Antelope Springs, Utah while digging for trilobites.

The man was digging for trilobites, and these are trilobites here and here embedded. This is a brick mold of a trilobite footprint of a human footprint with a trilobite in it. The man stepped on a living trilobite, [thus burying] him in the mud.

These particular strata are dated Cambrian, supposedly 500 million years extinct before man arrived on the face of the earth. The interesting thing about this photograph is that there is also heel marks, which would indicate that they were made by modern man.”

In a news conference, the skeptical curator of the Museum of Earth Science at the University of Utah, James Madsen, dismissively said: “There were no men 600 million years ago. Neither were there monkeys or bears or ground sloths to make pseudo-human tracks. What man-thing could possibly have been walking about on this planet before vertebrates even evolved?”

Another astonishing trilobite fossil discovery was made in Antelope Spring, Arizona on July 20, 1968, by Dr. Clifford Burdick, a consulting geologist from Tucson, Arizona. He found an impression of a child’s foot in a bed of shale.

‘The impression was about six inches in length, with the toes spreading as if the child had never yet worn shoes, which compress the toes. There does not appear to be much of an arch, and the big toe is not prominent.’

This was shown to two geologists and a paleontologist. One geologist agreed it seemed to belong to a human being, but the paleontologist’s opinion was that no biological agent had been involved. Dr.Burdick affirmed:

“The rock chanced to fracture along the front of the toes before the fossil footprint was found. On cross-section, the fabric of the rock stands out in fine laminations or bedding planes. Where the toes pressed into the soft material, the laminations were bowed downward from the horizontal, indicating a weight that had been pressed into the mud.”

Mr. Meister claimed that when he had a geologist examine the print, the geologist offered him $250,000 for the print. Meister asked him, “What are you going to do with it if I sell it to you?” The geologist replied, “I’m going to destroy it, it destroys my entire life work as a geologist.”

It’s disappointing to think that some people would be willing to destroy such a monumental artifact that can reveal such a new perspective on our human heritage and origins.

Respected archaeological researcher, Michael Cremo, has written books on the subject of such examples of ancient artifacts and he has learned that certain scientific institutions, like the Smithsonian Institution, make great efforts to maintain the concept of recent human evolution. He has documented several instances where they deny, defame, and even exile archeologists for publishing their findings for peer review.

“In defense of the dates obtained by the geologists, Virginia Steen-McIntyre wrote in a letter (March 30, 1981) to Estella Leopold, associate editor of Quaternary Research: “The problem as I see it is much bigger than Hueyatlaco. It concerns the manipulation of scientific thought through the suppression of ‘Enigmatic Data,’ data that challenges the prevailing mode of thinking.”

Can you imagine the implications of mankind around the world learning or realizing we are hundreds of millions of years older than we thought and that we have been far more advanced than even we are today? The questions and answers beyond this metaphorically opened doorway could cause a rippling paradigm shift worldwide.

During one interview, Michael Cremo said:

“The reactions in your question are typical of a group that I call the fundamentalist Darwinists. They support the theory of evolution not for purely scientific reasons, but because it confirms their prior commitments to strict materialism. They do not want to hear me, and they do not want anyone else to hear me, so they say those kinds of things. Sometimes they try to stop me from lecturing at universities.”

Those really seeking the truth are open to new information to learn from and examine the scientific findings rationally without bias. We may have to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers to the questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here?

Utah family finds 16,000-year-old horse bones in the backyard

16,000-yr-old Ice Age Horse Found During Utah Family’s Backyard Renovation

Laura and Bridger Hill dug their yard after embarking on a home building project But something surprising emerged into the soil when a portion of the earth was removed: a row of rib bones. That certainly wasn’t all, though.

Following further investigation, the Hills realized that they had the nearly complete skeleton of some mysterious creature on their hands. Yet even at this point, the family had no clue as to the significance of their find.

A paleontologist said Wednesday the bones may date back as much as 16,000 years.

Bridger and Laura Hill discovered the ancient remains late last fall and consulted a neighbor, who referred the couple to the paleo lab at Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Ancient Life.

Tuesday and Wednesday, paleontologist Rick Hunter and his team carefully excavated the bones, which Hunter said belonged to an Ice Age-era horse.

“We’ll be able to learn some really interesting things from this skeleton,” Hunter said. “It’s probably about 16,000 years old, roughly.”

Bridger Hill said the remains were first spotted by his son.

An illustration of Haringtonhippus francisci, an extinct horse species that was found in North America during the last ice age. Rick Hunter, a Utah paleontologist, said the horse, whose skeleton was discovered in a Utah backyard, may have looked similar to this.

“We started digging away with our fingers and saw ribs,” Hill said. Hunter said the skeleton was mostly intact, though team members were still working to locate the skull.

“What you see behind us there is a massive excavation to find more skull elements and teeth,” volunteer Lane Monson said.

Excavators used a grid to map and document the site.

The scientists ended up recovering several teeth, including a molar that wound up in fossil preparologist Sara Wootton’s hands.

“Yeah, it’s just a treasure hunt all the time,” Wootton’s co-worker Jodie Visker said. “It’s super fun!”

Visker said the team had been carefully sifting through the sand and dirt in the Hill’s backyard for two days.

“You have to have a lot of passion for something to want to dig all day long in the dirt, I guess,” she said.

Hunter said the scientists would take the remains back to the paleo lab and try to reconstruct the bones, with hopes that they would be able to determine the exact species, as well as answer several other questions about the creature’s health and structure.

Hill said he never expected that kind of find in his yard.

“It’s pretty neat,” Hill said.

Ghost fleet “hidden in plain sight”: Archaeologists are uncovering more than a dozen historic vessels from Nansemond River Virginia.

Ghost fleet “hidden in plain sight”: Archaeologists are uncovering more than a dozen historic vessels from Nansemond River

What’s underneath? This is the big question that a group of archaeologists is delving and digging in Suffolk.

A group of archaeologists maps the shape of the hull of a late 1800s “bug-eye” — a classic Chesapeake Bay working vessel 

Suffolk history buff Kermit Hobbs stumbled over something that caught his attention from the Nansemond River two years ago. CNN reported.

“My friend and I, we were looking for an old dugout canoe that we thought was supposed to be in the woods when suddenly I saw posts sticking out of the mud,” said Hobbs.

So, he got out his drone to get a bird’s-eye view.

“It was amazing what we saw. It’s like we dug up a treasure, like a relic,” Hobbs explained.

Hobbs’ drone video revealed picture-perfect remnants of old wooden boats hidden in plain sight.

‘Greatest assemblages of historic wrecks’

“We believe this is one of the greatest assemblages of historic wrecks in Virginia that represents Chesapeake Bay maritime history for over a century,” said Brendan Burke, an archaeologist with the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.

Hobbs find piqued the interest of archaeologists from across the United States. Many were in Suffolk this month, excavating and recording the remains of what they call a “ghost fleet.”

The boats range in size from 50 to 80 feet.

“What started at six boats is now 13 — working craft boats, transportation boats, lumber boats, shingling boats and oystering,” said Burke.

Burke, who has conducted numerous studies of shipwrecks in Florida, is overseeing the project in consultation with Longwood University archaeologists and students.

Brendan Burke, associate director of LAMP, lifts an artifact from the mud as he and his colleagues map the shape of the hull of a late 1800s “bug-eye” 

The LU team is using a laser-scanning device to gather a high-density “point cloud” of the entire wreck complex for later use in creating a 3-D model of the wreck site.

“We are at the maritime front door of Suffolk. By researching these boats we are learning about the builders’ history, the sailors who were on them, and what they contained,” said Burke.

So far, the group has learned the date of the abandoned boat from back from the Civil War era to WWI.

“120 years ago, you would have seen an oyster house, docks, and a dozen or so boats, so they could be a part of that,” Burke explained.

The boats sit on private property on the Nansemond River and will not be removed.

Dr. John Broadwater is participating on behalf of the Virginia Department of Historic Places, which is funding the project through its Threatened Sites program. 

A Lowa teenager searching for Arrowheads finds a 30,000-year-old mastodon jawbone instead

A Lowa teenager searching for Arrowheads finds a 30,000-year-old mastodon jawbone instead

When hunting for arrowheads on an Iowa farm a teenager got a huge surprise. Instead of any arrowheads, the teen found a 30-inch jaw bone of a mastodon — a prehistoric hairy elephant, related to the mammoth. 

According to WHO-TV, a paleontology unit at the University of Iowa (UI) retrieved the jaw bone and other associated bones over the weekend.

“A few weeks ago we were informed that someone had discovered a fossil on the property in the middle of a small field,” Tiffany Adrain, head of the UI Paleontology Repository told the media.

A University of Iowa paleontology team was on a farm in southern Iowa to pick up the bone of a prehistoric mastodon.​

Facts About Mastodons


Unlike modern elephants, mastodons had much smaller ears and foreheads and were covered in a thick layer of brown hair. Hairs on their coats could grow up to 35 inches (90 centimeters) and the males’ tusks grew to about 8 feet (2.5 meters). Females did not have tusks.

From foot to shoulder, mastodons were between 8 and 10 feet (2.5 and 3 m) tall. They weighed between 4 and 6 tons (3,500 and 5,400 kilograms), according to the Illinois State Museum.

That isn’t much different from their modern counterparts. Modern elephants weigh 3 to 7 tons (2,722 to 6,350 kg) and range from 5 to 14 feet (1.5 to 4.3 m) tall, according to The Defenders of Wildlife. 


Though mastodons appeared primarily in North and Central America, they eventually spread all over the world, in every continent except for Antarctica and Australia. They typically inhabited spruce woodlands around valleys and swamps, according to Cochise College. 


Mastodons went extinct around 10,000 years ago. There are many theories as to why. Most of these theories boil down to climate change and/or human hunting, according to Simon Fraser University.

Some scientists think that the Earth warmed up from the Ice Age too quickly for the mastodon to adapt or that humans hunted them to extinction.  

Others, like researchers Bruce Rothschild of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and Richard Laub of the Buffalo Museum of Science in New York, have a different theory.

They found that 52 percent of the 113 mastodons they studied had signs of tuberculosis. This led the researchers to think that a tuberculosis pandemic contributed to their extinction.

Though death by disease sounds like a cut-and-dry answer, “Extinction is usually not a one-phenomenon event,” Rothschild told Live Science.

It is likely that the disease didn’t kill off the animals directly, but made them weak. Coupled with the coming out of the Ice Age and fighting off humans, the species just couldn’t survive. 

Sculptures by artist Sergio de la Rosa show three elephant relatives, from left to right: the mastodon, the mammoth and the gomphothere.

Fossil discoveries 

The first mastodon fossils were found in 1705, according to the Oregon History Project, when a large tooth and bone fragments were found in the Hudson River Valley in New York.

Not long after, in 1807, Thomas Jefferson personally financed an expedition that was by led William Clark to excavate mastodon and mammoth fossils from the Big Bone Lick site in Kentucky.

There have been many mastodon fossil discoveries in the past few hundred years. Sometimes, they are found in unusual places. For example, on October 16, 1963, Marshal Erb was using a dragline to excavate a pond and found fossils that came to be known as the Perry Mastodon. In another instance in 2016, a sinkhole in Florida’s Aucilla River was declared an “archaeological gold mine” after an ancient human tool and mastodon bones are found inside.

“It was actually a high school student who had found the object, and the landowners contacted us and notified us [and] sent us photographs. Now we could tell right away it was a jaw bone of a mastodon,” she added.

The bone, which was then donated by the farmers to the UI Paleontology Repository, is believed to have belonged to a young mastodon that might have been 7-feet tall, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

The couple who own the farm and donated the bones asked not to be named so that fossil hunters don’t trespass on their property. About 30 years ago, they had found other bones on their land that belonged to a woolly mammoth, WHOTV reported.

“I think people are finding stuff all the time,” Adrain told the Press-Citizen. “Maybe they are out canoeing or fishing on a bank. Farmers, in particular, on the land can spot things pretty easily.”