The focus of this year's May/ June field season was the Latvis/ Simpson Site in the lower end of the Little River Section of the Aucilla. Our purpose was twofold: 1). To excavate and sample a 30 foot vertical sediment bank for paleoenvironmental data (and possibly to find archaeological remains as well); and 2). to excavate and collect the remains of a proboscidean embedded in the sediment at the bottom of the 30 foot wall. As it turned out the full month was required just to sample the column of sediment, leaving no time to collect the bone bed at the bottom or excavate the Mastodon or Mammoth stuck in the mud. To accomplish our second goal we scheduled an additional two week foray to the depths in early August. Fortunately, the second effort was enough to reach our goals.
The excavation of the sediment bank was painstakingly slow due to the compacted nature of the clays. Four Marshalltown trowels and countless off-brand trowels made the supreme sacrifice for the effort. In the end we made a stairway just over eight meters deep in eleven 1 by 1 meter steps. Two of these steps individually were over two meters high. For the entire height of eight plus meters we took 4 one liter bulk samples and 8 pill bottle carbon and pollen samples at increments of 20 centimeters (there were additional samples taken when changes in the sediment occurred). This sediment was taken to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville where it was frozen until it can be processed.
Several samples have been thawed, and or ganic material has been removed for radiocarbon dating the middle and top of the site. Currently we have two dates. Between the upright tusks a seed of cucurbita pepo was recovered in the straw mat that returned an accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) date of 31,550 rcybp +240. Roughly two meters above this a piece of wood was dated to just over 25,000 years old. Our expectation is that the sediments up from here will be progressively younger, how ever, what we are anxious to find is the probable large break in the continuity of deposition. The thought is that six meters of sediment will not be a full record of 25,000 years of deposition. At the moment the story is incomplete and will unfold over the next year or so.
Because we did not reach the bottom of the sediment column In June the exciting work had to wait until August. At the bottom of the bank we surface collected 22 one meter units of faunal, and some cultural, remains that were mostly disarticulated. The artifacts included a Bolen Beveled point and a reworked Simpson point (Figure 1) (much to our surprise). This is not to say that they are associated with the animals at the bottom. The artifacts, and most of the bones, are removed from their original context! The only clear exception are the tusk fragments that fit onto the tips as they came out of the clay and strawmat. These associated pieces can safely be said to lie in situ. The vertical angle of the tusk tips was measured when they were exposed; they were 5T for the north tusk and 74 for the south tusk respectively. It certainly appears that this individual died face down in the mud. Four other completely unstained juvenile proboscidean bones were re covered, including a humerus and a rib fragment that also stood vertically in the sediment. Further excavation will be quite rewarding because we know of another ten unstained bones protruding from the strawmat and overlaying clay layer.
Practically everyone currently with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project was involved in this operation and I would like to personally thank each and every one who helped with a wonderful site that will yield enormous amounts of information about prehistoric Florida for years to come. I would also like to apologize for whistling the "I Dream of Jeannie" theme song every waking moment, however this apology is not extended to Bill Gifford because he made me do it.