One might think that Archeology sites throughout the World
have produced many datable human remains. Nothing could be further
from the truth. Ancient human remains have so rarely been found
that these singular findings could not be connected to others to form chronologies
about human evolution.
The scarcity of human remains to be analyzed has prevented the
sciences of Anthropology and Archaeology from forming conclusions about
the cultural levels of ancient humans. We try to measure the culture of
a people in terms of the totality of their socially developed behavior,
their arts, crafts, tools, and language. As a result of scarcity
of samplings, ancient humans have been generally classified in such terms
as; savages, hunter-gatherers, roving bands, etc. This is especially
so for the early inhabitants of the New World. Some recent discoveries
shatter that prevailing picture of the ancient people of North America.
The Windover Site at Titusville, Florida
4,500 miles to the South and East of Beringia is the Windover
Archaeology site. One of the so-called roving bands of hunters settled
there to live. At Windover, more ancient human remains were discovered
than the total of all others found previously in the New World, and they
were the oldest. The Windover site produced the largest and oldest
group of human remains, and most complete insight of an ancient culture
ever found. The following quoted article tells of some astounding
findings there. The following article was originally published on May 16, 1996 by The News Herald (Panama City, Florida),
and is reprinted here with permission:
Archaeology finds new picture of Paleo Indians
By: Robert Suriano, Florida Today
Melbourne -- Food was plentiful in the lush land that was Broward
County 8,000 years ago, making life good for the people who buried
their dead in a shallow pond near Titusville. They walked the ground
between the site of today's Walt Disney World and the Space Coast, hunting
white-tailed deer and bobcat among the pine and oak trees. They fished
for bass and sunfish or scooped up turtles, frogs, and snakes. Their
primary job -- filling their stomachs -- took only about two hours each
day, leaving plenty of time for making jewelry from bones and seeds or
weaving clothing from the leaves of sabal palm.
That is a richly detailed picture that continues to emerge today
of the Paleo-Indians, whose watery burial ground was discovered in
1982 during construction of a housing project off State road 405.
Known worldwide as the Windover Archaeological Site, more than a decade
of research from that dig is challenging previous notions about these people
of the distant past.
"They enjoyed a good lifestyle, said Glen Doran, the Florida
State University archaeologist who oversaw the Windover excavation that
lasted from 1984 to 1986. "Life was a little easier than it even
may have been a few thousand years later. You had a a lot of different
resources packed pretty densely into this area within a few kilometers
walk in any direction. Clearly, this was a good place to be."
And so it remains for Fran and William Hinson and child, 12 year
old Hilary, who play in the yard that borders the burial site, now a National
"I was intrigued with their level of civilization," she said.
"They exhibited a civilization far beyond what had been previously believed
that ancient Indians in North America and Florida would have shown."
The Windover site, named for the sprawling rural housing development
that surrounds it, bore archaeological treasures that amazed experts with
their quality and quantity.
*Skeletal remains of 169 people, split almost evenly between
males and females, ranging from 6 to 70 years old. About 75 of the
skeletons were relatively intact.
*90 intact human brains that include the oldest DNA samples in
*Artifacts of wood, bone, and seed that were made into jewelry
and tools, providing insight into the ancient peoples' lives.
*Tests showed the oldest skeletons were buried 8,100 years ago.
The youngest was placed in the ground 6,900 years ago.
"To put this into context," Doran said, "these people had already
been dead for 3,000 or 4,000 years before the first stones were laid for
the Egyptian pyramids!"
They were lean and robust, most likely a copper-skinned people.
The tallest man stood 5 feet and 6 inches tall. The average woman was 5 feet and 2 inches.
Like all people of their time, about 6,000 BC, they kept moving
in a yearly pattern that followed the most ample sources of food.
For this group that meant walking the land between the St Johns River and
They had risen above the subsistence level, giving them time
to do things not typically associated with early people.
But they were not free from human hostility. The remains
of a 29 year old male show a deep wound in the buttocks, probably caused
by an antler. The injury is such that Doran thinks it was caused
by a human wielding the antler in anger. He says that the wound is
counter to previously stated views of these people as passive.
Most of the other skeletal remains showed signs of long festering
infections that likely brought natural deaths during a time before antibiotics
and medicine. But overall, the group appeared to be healthy.
They had triumphed over the rigors of daily life.
"Relative to a lot of other populations at this time period,
these folks were relatively well off." Doran said. A sign of their
wealth is the cloth that was found among the bodies, the oldest cloth ever
found in the Western hemisphere.
"This cloth will set the example," Doran said. It is rare
that fabric textiles even 1,000 years old are preserved in the United States."
*All told, 87 cloth fragments from an estimated 67 complete items
were recovered from the dig. The cloth was made from the leaves of
sabal palm. The pieces reveal five different methods of fabric making,
all without benefit of a loom. Even so, some fabrics are woven as
tightly as a cotton T-shirt. Others are made more loosely twined
into blankets, capes, and toga-like garments.
*Some skeletons were found with especially fine cloth, suggesting
some of the dead enjoyed a special status, but not necessarily a society
of kings and paupers.
"In all likelihood, they had a egalitarian society." said James
Adovasio, director of the Mercyhurst Archeological Institute in Erie, PA.
The institute is overseeing the chemical preservation of the cloth.
In addition to the cloth, artifacts of bone and wood were found
among some of the skeletons. They include a wooden pestle and a paddle,
perhaps used to pound plant fibers for weaving; a small hammer, needles
made from deer antler, and the bones of manatees, rabbits, and fish.
If the number and quality of skeletal remains at the site caught
the attention of archaeologists, an added discovery in 1984 caused great
*They found one skull that contained a soft, greasy, lard like
substance. Doran scooped the material out and stored it in the refrigerator
of his Cocoa apartment before sending it to a laboratory for chemical analysis.
He guessed that it could be anything from slime mold to brain tissue.
"Organic matter," was the laboratory analysis. The material
had decayed too much for the tests to determine whether it was human brain
A second chance came in December. Archaeologists found
another skull with the substance inside. This time they sent the
entire skull to the University of Florida laboratory in Gainesville, where
molecular biologist, William Hauswirth and his colleagues were waiting.
Instead of spooning out the material. Hauswirth removed the rear
portion of the skull and tilted it. A shrunken but intact human brain slid
out! Over time, the organ had lost mass and its tissue had mixed
with peat, but the softball-sized matter was clearly a brain.
*By the end of the excavation, 91 brains were recovered.
Ninety of them, minus the first that was not salvaged, are stored in the
pathology freezer at Sands Hospital in Gainesville.
Although brain tissue has been discovered before, this was the
first time that intact human brains had been preserved. Even while
the bodies' other soft tissues deteriorated, the brains were secure in
the safest place in the body, the skull.
"The crania is well designed to protect your brain while you
are living," Doran said. "The end result is that it protects it when
your are dead too."
The brains hold a frozen gold mine of genetic information in
the form of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. While Doran said he thinks
older human DNA has been recovered elsewhere in the World, so much of the
genetic material never has been isolated from a single group of people.
Hauswirth said it contains genetic markers, or specific segments
of DNA that are affiliated with one small subset of modern American
Indians. This suggests that the Windover people did not reproduce
with people from other groups, a finding that again challenges previous
A New Culture Model for the Ancients
The primary significance of Windover is the seeming sophisticated culture of
these people who lived there 8,100 years ago and before. Windover dates
an advanced culture in North America that precedes any previously discovered
anywhere else in the World. Their egalitarian culture paints a new
picture of ancient people of the Americas. Until now, the model of
ancient peoples pictured roving bands of hunters, grunting semi-savages,
having no culture to speak of. Of course, the 4,700 BP pyramid
builders of Egypt had advanced further in terms of architectural achievements
and they had pictograph symbols to convey meaning, but they came
along 3,400 years after the Windover people. Windover revealed a
culture of people in the New World, twice as old as the Egyptian culture.
Of course, there are artful paintings of animals and symbols in caves that
are attributed to the Neanderthals, but little else to associate with Culture.
Now we know that 8,000 years ago, the Windover people wove fine
cloth.; They buried their dead ceremonially. They cared for
each other; by indulging and taking care of the handicapped.
And they adorned the bodies of their dead with fine clothing, placing
them in special positions that were spiritual to them, and things that
would be useful in an after life were buried with them.
Logic places them in Florida for quite some time before they
buried their dead in that peat bog. How long?; 1000 years?
5000? Could the ancestors of the Windover people have been the Clovis
of New Mexico 11,000 years ago? Time, distance, and logic says not.
The Windover people might be the ancestors of the Seminoles. They
might be related to other Paleo Indian cultures of North America, past
and present. There is sufficient human DNA to find out. The
ancient human DNA is of such quality as to allow genetic cloning, or to
make comparisons with present living ethnic groups, or to test kinship
with other ancient peoples. But the latter would require usable DNA,
and this treasure trove seems to be the oldest group of human DNA ever
found anywhere in the World. Also, the artifacts collection
has an abundance of the oldest fabrics ever found in the Western hemisphere...
8,000 year old cloth woven as fine as in a cotton t-shirt! At first
it was thought that the clothing was hand woven, but that does seem to
be possible. They must have used some sort of apparatus, a loom,
to weave such fine cloth.
Now we will move on to some other Archaeology sites and times.
A Table of Archaeology Discoveries
*Indicates actual human remains found and dated
|Site and place
|Time before Present (BP)
|4,700 (a base line)
Eastern United States
|*The Windover People
|Old Crow Site
Old Crow, Yukon
Old Crow, Yukon
|*The Ice Man
Early Human Species
200,000 to 35,000 BP
Modern Man (Homo Sapien) 50,000 BP to Present
Of course, this table represents only a few archaeology
sites that have produced provable times of ancient human life, and one
should not discount the dates of the ones that did not produce actual human
remains. Other evidence at many of the sites are compelling and in such
abundance that the dates are not arguable .
The theory goes that in Europe, Modern man overlapped both
the Neanderthal and the Cro Magnon species during a brief 18,000 years
span. This overlap period, 50,000 to 32,000 years BP, could become
more significant as archaeology sites in the Americas produce more dated
evidence. Archaeology of the New World is beginning to push closer
to the theoretical time lines of these three species of early man.
If the Old Crow site, or any other, should date 27,000 years, then the
question will emerge; "Were the people Neanderthal, Homo Sapien, or a separate
New World specie?"
How does all of this relate to the Arctic Northern Region?
Well, we have that pesky theory.. that the New World was devoid of human
life until the Ice Age came.
The Beringia Theory: A land bridge (Beringia) between
Siberia and Alaska was exposed by a lowering of the World's sea levels.
Then roving bands of Asian hunters crossed the land bridge into Alaska.
These roving bands then followed the animals East and Southward to populate
the central Continent, and thence into Central and South America.
This theory has held up for nearly a century and has been defended quite
vigorously, until recently.
Beringia and the Clovis People-- Two Dependent Paradigms
The Clovis theory proposes that they were the first humans to
arrive in The New World. Human life did not exist in the New World
before. Clovis sites dating range between 10,000 and 11,500 years
before present. (Archaeology uses the word paradigm to mean a theory
that is held until disproven.)
"Pre-clovis" is a term that Archaeology circles are using widely
now. Its meaning is diametrically opposed to the theory that
the Americas were populated by Asian bands of hunters that crossed the
Beringia land bridge. That is, if there were pre-clovis people, then
their ancestors could not have crossed Beringia from Asia.
At least three Archaeology sites within the Americas have produced
evidence of human life that date before the time when the Beringia Land
Bridge was exposed for transit into North America. Evidence at Meadowcroft places humans there 19,600 BP. The Old Crow sites
suggest 20,000 BP, and the Monte Verde site suggests 14,500 BP. One sample of charcoal at the Old Crow sites dated 25,000 BP, but
was said later not to be charcoal. There are two sites near Old Crow. One is named Old Crow and the other Bluefish Caves. Old Crow
is a Gwich'in village on the Porcupine River above the Arctic Circle in the Yukon Territory. This remote area is replete with
ancient artifacts. Preliminary artifacts dating there range between 12,000 and 27,000 years BP. If the latter date, 27,000 BP,
is confirmed, it will become the oldest archaeology of the New World. Although much older claims of New World human existence
have been made by many archaeologists in the past, their findings were discounted by others.
Suffice it to say that site datings at Meadowcroft, Manix Basin,
and Monte Verde have already shattered the Clovis and Beringia theories,
and these dates confirm the presence of humans in place in the Americas
before Beringia was exposed for transit.
Bye bye Beringia! Clovis now becomes just one group of
New World people, probably the predominant group of that time period, but
not the first or only.
Have Biases Deterred New World Archaeology?
Of course, and there is no doubt about! We could blame some
early Archaeologists for being wrong, but they are all dead. The
science of Archaeology did not begin until the early 18th Century.
That is not very far back in history. Until the 17th Century, the
Papacy was the World's authority about the genesis of the World and
its inhabitants. By decrees of the Papacy, the beginning
of the Earth was set at 3500 BC. God created the world about that
time (in 7 days). Then God created man. So the first bias about
Archaeology was religion based. Anyone who might come up with a different
theory would face the crime of heresy, and could suffer various forms
of punishment, including execution, depending upon which of the old world
countries he lived in. All countries of Europe were kingdoms and
each had a strong attachment to the Papacy. Kings depended upon Papacy
support, and they could not hold their crowns without it.
Religions of the World still cling to Creationism, and they might be right,
at least partially. If so, the time of the World's beginning was
too far in the past for our comprehension.
Today, archaeology is so broad based that little if any bias
can exist. There are many archaeology associations and institutes
comprised of individual members, mostly professors, who come together in
conferences. At times these independent associations produce written
papers that are released to public domain. These archaeology associations
form a loose and self policing body politic of the science.
Archaeology is purified by these professional associations.
They work both independently and together to scrutinize each other's scientific
analysis of site works and methods of dating. Some individual
archaeologists take it upon themselves to argue against the veracity of
other's works, which creates rifts within the profession. It all
comes down to meticulous testing and documentation to back up the findings
at each site.
Important archaeology sites, such as Windover, Meadowcroft, Bluefish
Caves, and Monte Verde, might produce an abundance of new science, but
the findings may not be fully digested by the archaeology community as
a whole. This seems to be the case of the Windover and Meadowcroft
site works. A rich and important group of new findings seems to have
escaped major notice and the important science developed there may not
ever be fully integrated into the mosaic of new world archaeology.
Monte Verde for example, is far away in Chile, and the expense of full
and continued participation by a college in that exploration would be prohibitive.
The Arctic slopes of Alaska and Canada are a wide and rich source of ancient
artifacts of human life, but the expense of conducting detailed research
there is also prohibitive. Submerged wet sites are the most
expensive of all to explore. Wet sites are also the most promising
for finding preserved human DNA. There are many known wet sites that
are awaiting funding to explore. These short comings are just the nature
of an un-regulated and largely un-funded science. And few would believe
that science should be regulated.
Europeans have their Neanderthals and Cro Magnon ancestors to
study. The New World has a much wider variety of ancient people to
study. So far though, no archaeology organization has ventured to
propose that ancient New World people may have been a separate specie of
humans than any in the Old World, or that a specie of humans might have
originated, in place, in the Americas. While evidence has not been
produced to support such provocative ideas both are possibilities to explore.
Future generations deserve to know the ancient history of their lands.
To the Indigenous Peoples of the North Index
To Features & Maps by Bill Jones
The opinions expressed are those of the author, Bill Jones.
This article is copyright ©2000-2011 by Bill Jones.