Ancient burial site off Manasota Key needs to be preserved quickly

Ancient burial site off Manasota Key needs to be preserved quickly”

A 7,000-year-old burial site belonging to the ancestors of Native Americans has been found off the coast of southwest Florida.

Florida Public Archaeology Network partner Nicole Grinnan measures the test unit's depth using a laser level and folding ruler at the Manasota Key Offshore site. Archaeologists are particularly excited about this sight because peat preserves remains so well, and they will be able to learn about Florida's ancient people.

The discovery of the burial ground stemmed from an expedition that happened during the summer of 2016.

Archeologists have since visited the site, about 300 yards from shore and 21 feet below the surface, and identified at least six sets of human remains - and possibly an entire graveyard spreading across an acre. The diver then reported the findings to the Bureau of Archaeological Research and the State Departments Division of Historical Resources. Florida has a number of pond burial sites from the Archaic Period, including Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County.

Under Florida law, it's a first-degree misdemeanor to remove artifacts from an archaeological site without authorization and a third-degree felony to knowingly disturb, destroy, remove, vandalize, or damage an unmarked human burial.

Before sea levels rose to what they are today, the archaeologists believe that Native Americans used the site to bury their friends and family members.

"Seeing a 7,000-year-old site that is so well preserved in the Gulf of Mexico is awe-inspiring". The peat slows the organic decomposition process, allowing the site to stay well-preserved.

Duggins said after encountering "broken bones and wooden stakes", they realised they were dealing with a Native American bog burial site that had been miraculously preserved.

However, these locations are few and far between.

The only known examples of submerged offshore prehistoric burial sites are known to be in Israel and Denmark. "The site is protected under Florida law and it is illegal to excavate and/or remove any material or human remains from the site", reads a statement from the Florida Department of State's Bureau of Archaeological Research. "The people buried at the site are the ancestors of America's living indigenous people", said Dr. Timothy Parsons, the director of Florida's Division of Historical Resources.

"Our hope is that this discovery leads to more knowledge and a greater understanding of Florida's early peoples", said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

"As important as the site is archaeologically, it is crucial that the site and the people buried there are treated with the utmost sensitivity and respect".

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