First Floridians and Last Mastodons

By Dr. S. David Webb

A score of collaborators from diverse institutions in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and California, completed their contributions to the ARPP book early this year. After further editing and illustrating, the book will be bundled off to Plenum Press for publication. The diversity of contributions is quite remarkable, a tribute to the wealth and variety of evidence preserved in the river bottom and recovered by ARPP underwater excavators.

Several early chapters set forth the regional geology, especially the late Pleistocene of the Aucilla River and Apalachee Bay. The stratigraphy and carbon-dates that establish the chronological framework are presented in excruciating detail. The fauna and the flora are analyzed in multiple contributions and then synthesized to give a sense of the regional environment. Two chapters are concerned with stable isotopes and their environmental significance. Two other papers present details of the mastodon digesta found in abundance in certain strata. And last but not least, of course, are several studies of cultural remains from early and late Paleoindian horizons.

In broadest terms this book will provide the most intensive prehistory yet known of a late Pleistocene and early Holocene setting in Florida. The environmental and chronological studies provide a sound frame onto which the rich tapestry of faunal, floral and cultural evidence is woven. It has long been known that Florida’s submerged sites yield some of the richest evidence of Paleoindian cultures in North America, but this is the fullest test of the “Oasis Hypothesis” that purports to explain Florida’s underwater wealth. The title, First Floridians and Last Mastodons captures the essence of this long book. It will probably be published during the year 2001.