- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Archaeologists say they’ve uncovered a stone knife in a sinkhole near Tallahassee that dates back 14,550 years.

The scientists published their results last week and say the knife is evidence that people were in North America prior to the Clovis period. For most of the past century, archaeologists believed the first people known as the Clovis Culture arrived about 13,000 years ago. But they say the knife, along with other evidence, show people gathered around a small pond near what’s now the Gulf of Mexico more than 14,000 years ago. They believe the pond was covered and became a sinkhole under the Aucilla as sea levels rose, burying the evidence from their lives.

The Florida Times-Union (https://tinyurl.com/z9ywuva ) reports the stone knife was found at the Page-Ladson sinkhole under four meters of sediment that was radiocarbon-dated to 14,550 years ago.

“It’s the breakthrough site,” said Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M; University and part of the team that explored the sinkhole. “The evidence is unassailable: We have everything, all the evidence that scientists would want to see that tells us people were here in North America prior to the Clovis period.”

Scientists have been searching the area since the 1980s and have found other stone tools, the bones of extinct animals and a giant mastodon tusk, although many scientists have been skeptical. However, the latest finding was uncovered under preserved mastodon dung amid orderly layers, with the newest layers on top and older ones below.

The team acknowledged there isn’t a lot of physical evidence to go on, but said even small clues can help get at some long-buried truths.

“The plan is just to learn as much as we can about these early people as we rewrite the story of the first Americans,” Waters said. “Now we need to get the data, the hard data, to try to piece it all together. It’s an exciting time right now to be in this field.”

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Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, https://www.jacksonville.com

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