Engraving of a mammoth or mastodon is first of its kind
Thirteen thousand years ago, someone living in Vero Beach, Florida, carved an image of a large animal onto a piece of bone.
It’s the oldest and only known example of Ice Age art to depict an animal with a trunk – a mastodon or mammoth.
The bone was discovered by fossil collector James Kennedy, who contacted scientists at the University of Florida and the Smithsonian Institute when he realized the significance of what he’d found.
Mammoths and mastodons disappeared from the region about 13,000 years ago so this engraving was clearly done before that time. But in the investigations that followed the discovery, a whole array of experts, from forensic anthropologists to materials science engineers, had to make sure the engraving was authentic and not a hoax.
One of the main goals for the scientists was to investigate the timing of the engraving – was it ancient or was it recently engraved to mimic an example of prehistoric art?
The bone was found near a location, known as the Old Vero site, where human bones were discovered side-by-side with the bones of extinct Ice Age animals almost 100 years ago. So the team compared this fragment with others from the Old Vero site, and they used optical and electron microscopy to compare the surface of the carved part of the bone with the rest of it. Finally, they came to a unanimous conclusion: It’s for real.
This finding also validates the previously controversial claim of geologist Elias Howard Sellards in the early 20th century that people were hunting animals at Vero Beach during the last Ice Age.
It also confirms the theory that the reason the mastodons and mammoths disappeared from North America 13,000 years ago is that they were hunted to extinction.