Category Archives: U.S.A

New World Dog Bone Fragment Dated to 10,200 Years Ago

New World Dog Bone Fragment Dated to 10,200 Years Ago

According to a Science Magazine report, a 10,200-year-old fragment of dog bone has been identified among thousands of ancient bone pieces discovered in a cave on the west coast of Alaska in 1998. 

The find supports the idea that dogs accompanied the first humans who set foot on these continents—and that both travelled there along the Pacific coast.

“This is a fantastic study,” says archaeologist Loren Davis of Oregon State University, Corvallis, who was not involved in the research. “If the coastal migration theory is correct, we should expect to see exactly the kind of evidence reported in this study.”

A map shows the location where a dog bone dated to be from 10,150 years ago was found.

Researchers once thought humans initially entered the Americas about 12,000 years ago. That’s when thick glaciers that covered much of North America began to melt. This opened a corridor, which allowed people to trek from Siberia across now-submerged land in the Bering Sea, and then into North America on the hunt for mammoth and other big game.

But over the past decade, archaeologists have shown people might have begun to move into North America much earlier. To get around the glaciers, they would have island-hopped by boat and walked along shorelines exposed to low sea levels. They travelled from Siberia through the Alaskan archipelago about 16,000 years ago, eventually making their way down the Pacific coast.

The sliver of dog bone supports this hypothesis. Recovered from among more than 50,000 prehistoric animal and human remains excavated near Wrangel Island, researchers didn’t realize it came from a dog until they analyzed its DNA.

This bone fragment, found in Southeast Alaska, belongs to a dog that lived about 10,150 years ago, a study concludes. Scientists say the remains, a piece of a femur, provide insight into the question of when dogs and humans first entered the Americas, and what route they took to get there.

“We started out thinking this was just another bear bone,” says team leader Charlotte Lindqvist, a biologist at the University at Buffalo (UB). “When we went deeper, we found out it was from a dog.”

The bone is about 10,200 years old, making its owner the oldest dog known in the Americas, the scientists report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. (The previous record holders were two 10,000-year-old dogs unearthed in the U.S. Midwest.) And the dog’s DNA holds clues to an even earlier time.

The pup’s genome revealed it was closely related to the first known dogs, which researchers think were domesticated in Siberia about 23,000 years ago.

Based on the number of genetic differences between the Alaskan dog and its Siberian ancestors, the team estimates the two populations split 16,700 years ago, plus or minus a few thousand years.

That’s a clue that dogs—and their humans—left Siberia and entered the Americas thousands of years before North America’s glaciers melted.

“Here we have the genetic evidence, if not the physical evidence, [showing] dogs were already in the Americas with humans 16,000 years ago,” says Durham University archaeologist Angela Perri, who was not part of the team.

The dates also line up with DNA-based estimates for when modern Native Americans split off from ancestors in Siberia, providing another line of evidence to pin down when the first migrations happened.

“Understanding how the dogs moved also shows you how the humans moved,” says Flavio Augusto da Silva Coelho, a graduate student at UB who did the DNA and other analyses.

Perri agrees. The study shows dogs are a useful way to track ancient human migrations, especially when human remains are missing or can’t be sampled because of descendant community concerns, she says. Even without human samples, “dogs can tell us some really interesting things” about our history, she says.

For example, chemical isotopes in the dog bone suggest the pooch ate marine animals. Because dogs aren’t much good at fishing, their masters likely gave them scraps of fish, seal, or whale that they themselves hunted. “It’s a strong indication people are feeding dogs,” Perri says. “Everything in this study points to coastally adopted people and their dogs moving into the Americas.”

Forgotten Graves Found at Florida African American Cemetery

Forgotten Graves Found at Florida African American Cemetery

WJCT Public Media reports that recent excavations have confirmed the presence of 29 grave shafts detected last year during a ground-penetrating radar survey at the site of North Greenwood Cemetery, an African American cemetery that operated from 1940 to 1954.

Archeologists looking at a “forgotten” Clearwater cemetery say that they have found almost 30 grave shafts.

Archaeologists from the Florida Public Archaeology Network, based out of the University of South Florida, and Tampa engineering firm, Cardno Inc., provided a final update on the North Greenwood Cemetery excavation Friday.

The process was done to verify the location of unmarked graves in the African-American cemetery that was identified previously.

“We’ve located a total of 29 graves, and that confirms the data of the results of the ground-penetrating radar survey that was conducted last year, in February and August,” said USF archeologist Jeff Moates.

The archaeologists opened three large areas for excavation, and, in addition to the graves, found a number of artifacts, including two dimes from 1942 and a penny from 1940.

During excavation of the former North Greenwood cemetery site in Clearwater, archaeologists discovered 29 grave shafts, as well as artifacts like this dimes.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the North Greenwood Cemetery was in operation between 1940 and 1954, explaining the coins from that time period.

The land was sold to make room for Pinellas High School and a city pool. The remains of 350 people were moved to Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Dunedin, but nearby residents of the Clearwater Heights neighborhood felt that the bodies in unmarked graves were left behind.

The excavation revealed that may indeed be the case.

“We’ve uncovered material that you would expect to be associated with graves,” said Moates. “There’s evidence of coffin hardware, decayed remains of coffins, concrete vaults, associated gravestone or headstone materials that are in a kind of a disturbed state.”

“We found an intact aluminum grave marker in the name of the deceased individual, Mr. William Ridley, who was buried in 1951,” Moates added.

During excavation of the former North Greenwood cemetery site in Clearwater, archaeologists discovered 29 grave shafts, as well as artifacts like this grave marker.
Artifacts like this grave marker were of the many found during the excavation process.

Once the community knew that the excavation process was happening, people like O’Neill Larkin, 81, wanted to share their memories of North Greenwood.

“He remembers playing on this cemetery as a boy, there was a popular swimming hole located nearby and Stevenson Creek,” said Moates. “But he remembers coming through here and hunting rabbits and quail and pigeon with his friends. He also had a friend who was a Boy Scout, who unfortunately died on a Boy Scout trip, and was buried in the cemetery.

“And so it’s just stories like that, that the community were able to come by and connect, share with us connecting the memories of this place to the actual physical remains of what they remember to be here.”

North Greenwood is just the latest in a number of forgotten Black cemeteries around the region and state that are being investigated following the discovery of the Zion Cemetery in Tampa in 2019.

Archaeologists will conduct a further study of the recovered objects and share their findings with the City of Clearwater and the local chapter of the NAACP.

City Found 360 Feet Below Missouri City, Giant Human Skeleton Found

City Found 360 Feet Below Missouri City, Giant Human Skeleton Found

When coal miners at Moberly, Missouri were drilling a shaft 360 foot deep, broke into a cavern revealing “a wonderful buried city,” multiple sources reported in 1885.

City Found 360 Feet Below Missouri City, Giant Human Skeleton Found Coal miners in the city of Moberly, Missouri mining a shaft 360 feet deep, broke into a cavern revealing “a wonderful buried city,” multiple sources reported in 1885. Incredible rude style masonry and artefacts have been identified.

Masonry and artefacts in extraordinary rude design have been found. Like stone tables, bronze and flint knives, stone and granite hammers, metal statues, metallic saws and a stone fountain that flowed with “perfectly pure water”, which was found to be impregnated with lime.

“Lying beside the fountain where portions of a human being and from the measurement of the bones, it concluded that when alive the figure was three times the size of an ordinary man and possessed of wonderful muscular power and quickness. “, according to the St Paul Daily Globe.

The Semi-Weekly South Kentuckian published the measurements of the giant’s leg, “The bones of the leg were measured, the femur measuring 4 and 1/2 feet, the tibia four feet and three inches. The head bones had separated in two pieces, the sagittal and cornal suturis having been destroyed”

The city was arched in by a hard and thick stratum of lava. The civilization used a regularly laid out road system enclosed by walls to travel around. A hall was discovered wherein were stone benches, tools of all descriptions for mechanical service.

The searching party spent twelve hours in the depths and only gave up explorations because of the oil in their lamps being low. No end to the wonderful discovery was reached.

The statues were not accurately made as those made by the mechanics in the year 1885, however, they demonstrated much skill and evidence of an advanced civilization.

The facts above are vouched for by Mr David Coates, the recorder of the city of Moberly, and Mr George Kealing, City Marshall, who were of the exploring party.

I could find no record of the 2nd exploration. Perhaps in the historic papers on film, in the town of Moberly, information may still exist.

In order to find 8 newspaper stories, I needed to search “stratum of lava” 1884-1886.

In an odd coincidence the terms “cave + Missouri”, “Missouri + cave + coal mine”, “Missouri cave fountain”, “Missouri gaint” and countless other rational terms would not locate these articles on the library of congress website.

It seems you need to be clever in your search terms in order to locate historical articles that are relevant.

Archaeologists Unearthed a 15,800 Year Old Stone Tool In Oregon

Archaeologists Unearthed a 15,800 Year Old Stone Tool In Oregon

Recently, an artifact that was unearthed in Oregon and was identified as an “ ancient Swiss army knife,” may have been the oldest artifact so far found in western North America.

The simple stone tool, hewn from a piece of bright orange agate, was unearthed near a shallow cave that has already turned up evidence of early human occupation — including stone points, tools, and charcoal-stained hearths — dating back as much as 12,000 years. But this artifact was found even deeper in the region’s sandy clay, beneath a layer of volcanic ash that experts have found to be 15,800 years old. If its age is confirmed, the tool would be nearly 3,000 years older than the widespread artifacts of the Clovis culture, once thought to be the continent’s earliest inhabitants. 

“This is really exciting,” said Stephen Baker, spokesman for the Oregon office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in an interview. “But of course there’s more research to do.” The hand-sized tool was first unearthed in 2012 by the University of Oregon’s archaeology field school, at a site in south-central Oregon known as Rimrock Draw Rockshelter, on BLM land. The fact that it was found beneath — and was therefore presumably older than — the layer of ancient ash was “fascinating” in itself, Baker said. After a chemical analysis of the artifact revealed that it also contained traces of proteins from bison, confirming that it had been used as a tool.

Ancient bison skeleton from the La Brea tar pits in California
This orange agate stone tool, found buried beneath a layer of 15,800-year-old volcanic ash, may be the oldest artifact yet found in western North America, archaeologists say.

“Getting this bison residue further corroborated the idea that it was a tool, likely used for butchering,” Baker said. Dr. Patrick O’Grady of the University of Oregon, who has been leading the excavations, said that the discovery came about after his field school uncovered debris from an ancient rockfall near the cave.

“Our excavation units had reached a jumbled layer of rockfall that appeared to be the result of a collapse of portions of the rock shelter face,” O’Grady said in an interview.

“We wanted to break that material up and clear a path so we could continue excavating to the bedrock underneath.” Beneath the debris, the team found large fragments of tooth enamel from an extinct species of camel. And beneath those, they hit a sudden, even layer of volcanic ash and rock, called tephra. Experts from Washington State University analyzed the ash, and were able not only to radiocarbon date it to about 15,800 years ago, but were also able to isolate its source: Washington’s Mount St. Helen’s.

Now sagebrush country, the terrain around Rimrock Draw Rockshelter was likely much wetter when the artifacts found there were originally used.

“We found the stone tool 20 centimeters under the Mount St. Helen’s tephra, in dense sandy clay sediment,” O’Grady said. Baker, of the BLM, said researchers quickly identified the object as a tool.

“When they found it, they kind of joked that it was like an ancient swiss army knife,” he said.

“One edge, they believe, was used for scraping animal hide, and another side that’s been worn down over the years they believe was used for carving wood or bone. So, there are a couple of theories, but they think this is kind of a multi-purpose tool.”

The archaeologists were also struck by the tool’s unusual material, he added. It’s this bright orange agate, Baker said. “In that area, there’s a lot of obsidian, but they’d never seen this material in that area before. So it really raises a lot of questions.

“They’re fascinated with, how did this tool get here? Where did it come from? What did they use it for?”

O’Grady agreed that the use of agate is unusual for the region, and potentially significant.

“It is much less common in eastern Oregon sites than obsidian,” he said of the agate.

“My take is that older points tend to be made of [materials like agate] more often than obsidian.” For archaeologists, this new discovery readily invites comparison with a similar find made nearby — at Oregon’s Paisley Caves, just 200 kilometers away, wherein 2008 animal bones and human feces were found that dated to about 14,300 years ago. While those finds, too, remain controversial, both men acknowledge that the Paisley Cave samples gave scientists more to work with than what they have so far at Rimrock Draw.

Sites around the rock shelter have turned up other evidence of early human occupation, including these obsidian stone points, flakes, and hearths dating back as much as 12,000 years.

The comparison with the Paisley Caves is just kind of inevitable, Baker said. Paisley Caves is just a perfect situation because there they found many, many samples. But in this situation [at Rimrock Draw], they have just a couple of pieces of evidence in one particular area that they need to expand and add more evidence too.

“So we’re in the very early stages of this.”

O’Grady agreed, adding that it’s too early to begin finding a place for Rimrock’s ancient orange tool in the timeline of American pre-history. We all know the significance of the Paisley Caves site, with the exquisite fieldwork, the sequence of radiocarbon dating, and well-dated human fecal material that has firmly placed the site among very few in the Americas that are established as pre-Clovis occupations, he said.

In an attempt to find a comparable body of evidence, he added, the coming field season at Rimrock Draw will be devoted largely to identifying the size of the 15,800-year-old layer of volcanic ash, and testing to see if more artifacts await beneath it. Rimrock has to produce strong dateable evidence through either cultural features or stratigraphic time markers to begin any conversation about its place in the realm on pre-Clovis sites,” O’Grady said.

“We have a hint of such a possibility through the association of the orange flake tool 20 centimeters under the Mount St. Helens tephra. But, it is only that — a hint — until we can show that the tephra is widely distributed across the site and that artifacts are found consistently underneath it.

“It is at that point that the work really begins,” he continued, “to verify the relationship in collaboration with other Paleoamerican researchers and conduct vast amounts of geological and archaeological analyses to firmly establish the relationship. It is that next step that must be approached very carefully, to watch warily for the older signs, and we are moving toward it with caution, but also with hopeful optimism.

Did the Celts build “America’s Stonehenge” 4,000 years ago?

Did the Celts build “America’s Stonehenge” 4,000 years ago?

Studying the origins of the aptly named Mystery Hill megaliths, also known as America’s Stonehenge, whets one’s curiosity but does not satisfy—unless one is satisfied by the excitement of confounding mystery alone.

A structure at Mystery Hill, also known as America’s Stonehenge. It may not look quite as impressive as the UK’s Stonehenge, but it also hides many alluring secrets.

The site, in North Salem, N.H., includes stone monoliths and chambers spread across 30 acres.  The stones are said to have complex astronomical alignments. A 4.5-ton stone slab that seems to be the focal point of the site may have served as an altar for sacrifice. It is grooved with a channel for draining, possibly the blood of a victim.

A variety of characteristics have fueled a theory that America’s Stonehenge was built by Europeans as long ago as 2,000 B.C.—thousands of years before the first evidence of Viking settlement in North America. Archaeologists are divided. Some say the evidence is lacking to support this theory and that the site may have been constructed in relatively recent times.

Many similar sites are found on the stretch from Maine to Connecticut, though none as expansive as Mystery Hill. Here’s a look at the site’s characteristics and the views of various experts.

Why it May Have Been the Celts

1. Glyphs seem to suggest an archaic Irish language, though any deciphering of the glyphs has been controversial.

2. It seems from the astronomical alignment that the megaliths mark cross-quarter holidays. These holidays are only celebrated by the Celts, according to astronomer Alan Hill. Some have compared the megaliths to Stonehenge. 

3. “Carbon-14 results coincide with the date of a major immigration by Celts,” according to a book by David Goudsward and Robert Stone titled “America’s Stonehenge: The Mystery Hill Story, from Ice Age to Stone Age.” Stone bought the site in the 1950s and opened it to public viewing and to further research. Goudsward and Stone continue: “The Celtiberians [Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian Peninsula] interacted with Carthaginians, a nationality almost certain to have the skill to cross the Atlantic. However, there is not of the ornamentation on the stones that would be indicative of Celts.”

A structure at the Mystery Hill site.

Why it May Have Been the Natives

1. Archaeologists have found Native American artefacts on-site that are more than 1,000 years old.

2. The use of stone-on-stone tools shows workmanship similar to that employed by Native Americans.

Glyphs of the Celts?

An example of Ogham

Ogham is an Irish script used in the fifth to sixth centuries that consists of crosshatches. Glyphs that may be ogham are said to have been found on the stones.

Karen Wright, who wrote an article for Discovery Magazine in 1998 after visiting Mystery Hill, described what she felt to be dubious deciphering: “Various authors [have made interpretations,] consulting languages from ogham to Russian. The most baroque interpretation, a translation based on Iberic/Punic, was ascribed to three evenly spaced parallel grooves in a rust-coloured cast: ‘In Baal, on behalf of the Canaanites this is dedicated,’ read the translation.

“This, I decided, was the archaeological equivalent of the scene from Lassie in which the dog barks once and Jimmy is given to understand that the leg of a six-year-old girl named Sally has been trapped under a fallen tree 30 yards north of the falls on Coldwater Creek near the old mine shaft and oh, by the way, she’s diabetic too, so bring some insulin.”

A structure at the Mystery Hill site.

Carbon Dating

In 1969, archaeologist James Whittall unearthed stone tools at the site, along with charcoal flakes that could be carbon dated. The dating showed the tools’ user was working around 1,000 B.C., according to Goudsward and Stone.

Whittall recovered charcoal from several other locations on-site and carbon dating ranged from 2,000 B.C. to 400 B.C. 

Dating Using Astronomical Alignments

Astrological alignments concur. Astronomer Dr. Louis Winkler, the principal site scientist, found the positions of some stones align with where the stars and other celestial objects would have been about 2,000 years ago. He has also done radiocarbon and laser theodolite dating to support a Bronze Age origin (2,000 B.C.–1,500 B.C.).

Anthropologist Bob Goodby of the New Hampshire Archaeological Society (NHAS) said the alignments are “coincidental.”

“With so much stone around, it wouldn’t be that difficult to find some alignments that correspond to celestial things,” Goodby told Boston University publication the Bridge. This isn’t the only “coincidence” cited by critics of the ancient-European-origin theory, nor the only one cited as a little too “coincidental” by supporters of the theory.

For example, critic Richard Boisvert, New Hampshire’s deputy state archaeologist, admitted the structures resemble ancient European megalithic structures, but that it’s a coincidence. He told Discovery that it’s a case of the same form-fitting the same function.

Professor of astronomy at New Hampshire Technical Institute Alan Hill does not see the astronomical alignments as coincidence. He told New York Times that the megaliths mark cross-quarter days, the halfway points between the solstices and equinoxes. Celts are the only ones to celebrate cross-quarter holidays, he said. Hill dismissed the theory that the structures are cellars built in the past few centuries, partly because the doors are not wide enough to admit wheelbarrows. A local lawyer and mystery novelist, David Brody, told the Times there are too many similarly puzzling stones and structures in the region to write it all off as coincidence.

stonehenge usa
A structure at the Mystery Hill site.

Stone-on-Stone Tools Suggest Primitive Builders

The builders apparently used stone tools, not metal tools. Boisvert’s boss, New Hampshire state archaeologist Gary Hume, told Discovery the stone-on-stone workmanship is similar to that of Native Americans. He was hesitant to say the megaliths could be 4,000 years old, but he seemed to leave the possibility open. He said he wasn’t going to question “the two reputable surveyors who had vouched for the alignments,” wrote Wright.

The Natives and the Celts are not the only groups archaeologists have pinned as the potential builders. Some say it may have been the Phoenicians, the people of an ancient kingdom on the Mediterranean. The standing stones align with the location of the polestar Thuban during Phoenician times, according to Wright.

Jonathan Pattee, a shoemaker and his family lived on the site throughout much of the 19th century, and many say he and his family built the structures. Dennis Stone, Robert Stone’s son who is also currently owner and operator of the site, told Discovery that some of the structures were probably built by Pattee, but certainly not all. Others have also said the intricacies of construction and alignment were not likely carried out by the Pattee family, and the family would have used metal tools, not stone tools.

Goodby and other critics of the ancient-origin theory say archaeologists would have found signs of people living on or near the site, such as burial grounds. He said the sacrificial stone was probably actually a place for inhabitants in more recent history to make soap. Whatever the theories, as  Goudsward and Stone write: “There has been so much damage in the last four millennia that no matter who you believe built the site, there is just enough physical evidence to warrant further investigation along that line. This has produced a spectrum of theories as wide and expansive as the skies that may or may not be charted by the ancient monoliths.”

A 9,000-year-old caribou hunting structure beneath Lake Huron

A 9,000-year-old caribou hunting structure beneath Lake Huron

Underwater archaeologists have discovered evidence of prehistoric caribou hunts that provide unprecedented insight into the social and seasonal organization of early peoples in the Great Lakes region.

An article detailing the discovery of a 9,000-year-old caribou hunting drive lane under Lake Huron appears in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This site and its associated artefacts, along with environmental and simulation studies, suggest that Late Paleoindian/Early Archaic caribou hunters employed distinctly different seasonal approaches,” said John O’Shea, the Emerson F. Greenman Professor of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan and lead author of the article.

The Drop 45 Drive Lane. (A) A plan showing the major topographic and cultural features associated with the drive lane. Black dots represent the location of placed stones. The hunting blinds incorporated within the main drive lane feature are labelled. The raised cobble surface to the north and west of the drive lane varies from 1 to 2 m higher than the bedrock on which the drive lane stones are located. This plan was produced as an overlay of the acoustic image. (B) An acoustic image of the drive lane produced via a mosaic of scanning sonar images. The scanning unit is the black circular area near the centre of the image, and the red circles surrounding have radii that increase by 15 m. A trace of the second scanning sonar location is visible in the southeast of the image. Light coloured objects are stones that produce a strong acoustic signature, whereas dark areas are acoustic shadows.
Stone tool debris from the Drop 45 Drive Lane. (A) Composite photograph showing the 11 chert flakes recovered from the Drop 45 Drive Lane. (B) The location of archaeological tests on the Drop 45 Drive Lane superimposed on the acoustic image (Fig. 2B). Small white circles represent test locations that did not generate identifiable archaeological debris. Large white circles with black centres represent locations that produced lithic debris. Black centres with adjacent numerals indicate locations that generated multiple lithic remains. North is to the top of the image, and the red circular rings surrounding the scanning sonar placement are incremented in units of 15 m.

Diver and remote operated vehicle collecting samples at Drop 45 Drive Lane in Lake Huron.“In autumn, small groups carried out the caribou hunts, and in spring, larger groups of hunters cooperated.”

According to O’Shea, who is also Curator of U-M’s Great Lakes Division of the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, the site was discovered on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, under 121 feet of water, about 35 miles southeast of Alpena, Mich., on what was once a dry land corridor connecting northeast Michigan to southern Ontario.

The main feature, called Drop 45 Drive Lane, is the most complex hunting structure found to date beneath the Great Lakes. Constructed on level limestone bedrock, the stone lane is comprised of two parallel lines of stones leading toward a cul-de-sac formed by the natural cobble pavement.

Three circular hunting blinds are built into the stone lines, with additional stone alignments that may have served as blinds and obstructions for corralling caribou.

Although autumn was the preferred hunting season for caribou, the orientation of Drop 45 shows that it would only have been effective if the animals were moving in a northwesterly direction, which they would have done during the spring migration from modern-day Ontario.

“It is noteworthy that V-shaped hunting blinds located upslope from Drop 45 are oriented to intercept animals moving to the southeast in the autumn,” O’Shea said.

“This concentration of differing types of hunting structures associated with alternative seasons of migration is consistent with caribou herd movement simulation data indicating that the area was a convergence point along different migration routes, where the landform tended to compress the animals in both the spring and autumn.”

The structures in and around Drop 45, and the chipped stone debris for repairing stone tools, provide unambiguous evidence for intentional human construction and use of the feature, O’Shea said. And they also provide important insight into the social and economic organization of the ancient hunters using this area.

Diver and remote operated vehicle collecting samples at Drop 45 Drive Lane in Lake Huron.

“The larger size and multiple parts of the complex drive lanes would have necessitated a larger cooperating group of individuals involved in the hunt,” he said.

“The smaller V-shaped hunting blinds could be operated by very small family groups relying on the natural shape of the landform to channel caribou towards them.”

Co-authors of the article are Ashley Lemke and Elizabeth Sonnenburg of U-M, Robert Reynolds of Wayne State University and Brian Abbot of Nautilus Marine Group International.

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave

A fossilized shark head dating back some 300 million years ago has been discovered in the walls of a Kentucky cave. Experts believe it belonged a Saivodus striatus, which lived between 340 and 330 million years ago during the Late Mississippian geological period.

The well-preserved head shows the creatures skull, lower jaw, cartilage and several teeth. Based on the dimensions, the team believes the animal was similar in size to our modern-day Great White shark.

The ancient shark head was uncovered in Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Kentucky, which is Earth’s oldest known cave system, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

A massive, fossilized shark head dating back some 300 million years ago has been discovered in the walls of a Kentucky cave. Experts believe it belonged a Saivodus striatus, which lived between 340 and 330 million years ago during the Late Mississippian geological period.

It was first spotted in a treasure trove of fossils by Mammoth Cave specialists Rick Olson and Rick Toomey, who sent images of their findings to Vincent Santucci, the senior palaeontologist for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for help with identifying the fossils.

But it was palaeontologist John-Paul Hodnett who made the exciting discovery.

‘One set of photos showed a number of shark teeth associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage, suggesting there might be a shark skeleton preserved in the cave,’ he told the Journal.

The head was well-preserved in the cave and the team was able to make out the shark’s skull, lower jaw, cartilage and numerous teeth.

The well-preserved head shows the creatures skull, lower jaw, cartilage and several teeth. Based on the dimensions, the team believes the animal was similar in size to our modern-day Great White shark

Based on these features, Hodnett believes the shark was about the size of a modern-day great white. The Mammoth Cave National Park holds a trove of ancient fossil – more than 100 hundred shark species have been discovered so far.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’

A discovery such as this is very rare, as cartilage does not usually survive fossilization.

However, shark teeth are commonly found, as they are made of bone and enamel, making them easy to preserve.

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave
The remains of the ancient animal are located in Mammoth Cave National Park (pictured), which is home to the longest known cave system on Earth-one that extends for more than 400 miles

Hodnett said teeth and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’  

A separate exudation found teeth that they believed belonged to the largest prehistoric shark that lived over 2.5 million years ago.  The discovery was made by divers in an inland sinkhole in central Mexico supporting anthropologists’ theories that the city of Maderia was once under the sea.

Fifteen dental fossils were found in total with thirteen of them believed to belong to three different species of shark, including a megalodon which existed over 2.5 million years ago.

According to the researchers involved, an initial exam of the thirteen shark dental fossils and their size and shape revealed that they might have belonged to the prehistoric and extinct species of megalodon shark (Carcharocles megalodon), the mackerel shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the saw shark, the last two of which are not extinct.

Hodnett said teeth (pictured) and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls

The fossils belong to the period of Pleiocene, the epoch in the geologic timescale that extended from 5 million to 2.5 million years ago, and the Miocene, an earlier geological epoch which extended between 23 and 5 million years ago.

Reports state the Xoc cenote is the largest in the city of Merida with a diameter of 2,034 feet and 91 feet deep.

An American King Tut’s Tomb of the Arkansas Valley

An American King Tut’s Tomb of the Arkansas Valley

During the height of its looting in the winter of 1935, the Spiro site—located in northeastern Oklahoma just 10 miles west of Fort Smith—was catapulted to fame by a headline published in the Kansas City Star (December 15, 1935) proclaiming it “A ‘King Tut’ Tomb in the Arkansas Valley.

80 years ago, in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, a group of six men – calling themselves the Pocola Mining Company – kicked in $50 each to raise the $300 Evans was asking for a 2-year lease to excavate the mound on the Craig property.

Descendants of the miners say they believed gold was hidden in the mound, stashed by early Spanish explorers who were traveling the rivers of the interior from Colorado, trying to make it to the Mississippi and the sea. The story maintains that the gold was buried in a mound near a river, along with the Indian guides who were killed to keep the secret.

They started with picks and shovels. At first, the relics and skeletons the diggers unearthed from the mound were of little interest. These men were after gold. But curiosity seekers would come by and offer nickel or a dime for an artifact that caught their eye. As word spread, curio hunters came by the mounds to buy up more of the items.

When word of the cache of relics reached Forrest Clements at the archaeology department of the University of Oklahoma, he tried to stop the dig. He attempted to buy out the investors, who were discouraged they weren’t hitting pay dirt. He tried to get Evans to rescind the lease. He lobbied the Oklahoma Legislature to pass an antiquities act to protect the mounds from commercial digs – and there he succeeded.

But not everyone agreed with his idea that the past was public property. The 1930s was the era of the fictional Indiana Jones and the decade after the spectacular unearthing of King Tut’s tomb. Weren’t archaeologists really treasure hunters too?

Clements explained the difference in terms of the greater good: “If the at-present, almost wholly unknown, the prehistory of Oklahoma is to become a matter of scientific record, the archaeological work must be done by formally trained persons and published in the orthodox scientific journals before the relatively few sites have been irretrievably ruined.”

He added a simple assessment, in layman’s language: “Scratching around can never be useful and is always damaging.”

Four months before the Pocola Mining Company’s lease was to expire, the new law allowed Clements to contact the LeFlore County sheriff’s office and file a complaint about the now-illegal digging on Craig Mound. A deputy showed up and told the men they had to stop, under threat of arrest. Clements thrilled that the slow destruction of the mound through shovel and pickax had been stopped, headed to California to teach a course.

ARAS/OAS team conducting a gradiometer survey at Spiro.

Upon hearing that Clements had left the state, the Pocola Mining Company snuck back to the mound to get as much for its investment as it could.

They hired out-of-work miners and decided to speed up their quest to tunnel through to the mound’s center. About 30 feet in, they hit fragments of conch shells, engraved with faces and symbols. Accounts tell of the miners hauling out the decorated shells by the wheelbarrow and dumping them near the entrance, where they were crushed underfoot.

Eventually, the diggers hit a wall of hard-packed earth, 18 inches thick. In his book “Looting Spiro Mounds,” historian David La Vere tells of the moment of discovery and what waited on the other side: “The pick blade broke through into empty space. Immediately there was a hissing noise, as humid Oklahoma summer air rushed into the hollow chamber beyond.” The miners’ lamps revealed one of the most stunning finds in the history of the continent: the largest trove of pre-European-contact artifacts north of the Mexican border, sealed in Spiro Mounds decades before Columbus set foot in the Americas.

What followed was a feeding frenzy. There was neither time nor inclination for photographs or sketches to be made of the layout or holdings in the central tomb. Witnesses tell of beads, pearls and arrowheads spilled across the site, feather capes and elaborate weavings trampled, ancient cedar poles burned as firewood and human bones piled at the edge of the camp, where they soon crumbled to dust.

The Spiro Mounds treasure made headlines nationwide. The New York Times trumpeted the significance of the relics, inaccurately noting that “each item taken from the mound is catalogued and photographed and careful records are being kept.” The Kansas City Star heralded the discovery of a “‘King Tut’ Tomb of the Arkansas Valley.” Soon, other LeFlore County mounds came under attack from relic hunters wielding shovels and driving mule-team-drawn scrapers.

With the burial chamber sacked, time running out on their lease, and Clements due back from California, the Pocola Mining Company decided on one last action. From La Vere’s telling: “In a fit of spite, just to jab their finger in Clements’ eye, they packed the central chamber of the Great Temple Mound with kegs of black powder and touched off a mighty explosion.”

The blast shattered whatever items remained in the chamber, creating a small cave-in and a large crack in the mound and, according to La Vere, “destroyed the Pocola men’s reputation as down-home heroes fighting for their property rights, blowing them instead into the ranks of looters and destroyers.”

The men were eventually arrested, but there is no record of them serving time. The damage was done.

Though the artifacts were priceless, the miners sold them for next to nothing. The money to be made was pocketed not by the workers but by dealers reselling the items to private collectors and museums.

The wealth of secrets lost in their rush to find gold disintegrated as quickly as the crushed fragments of bone and shell. They are now known only to the wind and the earth near the bend in the river where Spiro once ruled.