DATE: Nov. 18, 2010
CONTACT: Sandra Rawls from The Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee ( OVIASC) 778- 5274 or ROSE GAINES 567-6600 ext. 222 from the Vero Beach Charter High School.
VERO MAN HIGH SCHOOL SAND PROJECT
A University excavation of the famous Vero Man site is still in the future, but this winter and spring local students will be getting some experience in discovery methods used by professional scientists. The Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC) and science teacher Rose Gaines of the Charter High School have arranged with the City of Vero Beach to examine soil that may contain fossils and other material. The purpose of the project is to teach students techniques that can be used to find fossils.
Mon. Nov. 22, a truckload of sand scraped from the sides and bottom of the main relief canal in Vero Beach, including the Vero Man site, will be delivered to an arranged site on the grounds of the Vero Beach Charter High School.
The City routinely scrapes sand from the sides and bottom of the canal to keep it open for proper drainage. The material is stored in piles at the city water plant for use in projects around the city.
A student science project to examine a truck load of this sand and its contents will be conducted at the Charter High School. Students will learn screening and sorting techniques similar to those used in paleontology and archaeology. AP science teacher Rose Gaines will direct the project, with screening of the sand beginning the first weekend in Feb.
Students who participate will be learning techniques they might use later as student volunteers in an actual excavation. Funds for an excavation at the famous Vero Man site are being sought locally by the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC). The group was organized to pursue a university excavation of the Old Vero Sites following the discovery here of a carving made in the ice age on the bone of a local extinct mammoth or mastodon.
The find has re-ignited interest in excavating one of the few places in the United States where human and extinct animal bones were discovered together. Between 1913 and 1916, when the relief canal was originally created, the discovery of the bones created controversy that continues even today.
Although the sand scraped from the canal is no longer in its natural geologic layers, it can still be examined using scientific methods. Systematic examination using screening methods employed by archaeologists and others can be practiced and careful records kept of what is found.
This process will mean students learn a disciplined, orderly way to examine the sand, with thorough records kept. Conclusions cannot be drawn about placement and original context of anything that is found, but seeds and other organic materials, bone fragments, and human artifacts like buttons or much older items might be discovered.
The design for the screens and sifters, which are being built for the project, has been provided by Dr. Barbara Purdy, retired professor emerita of archaeology and anthropology, and by paleontologist Dr Richard Hulbert, both of the University of Florida.
Students will examine the sand using these screens and sifters which employ a variety of gauge sizes. Dissecting scopes will be used to look at the smallest particles, and all samples will be bagged and tagged, and data kept in a log record similar to the systems used by professionals in a university excavation.
Possible bone fragments, organic matter, and remnants of man-made objects from various time periods will be recorded and identified. Drs. Purdy and Hulbert may be consulted for identifications if needed.
When all the sand is examined, a final report of its contents will be prepared by students. The sand itself will be used for other projects at the Charter High School after it has been examined.
All high school students in Indian River County who are interested in archaeology and paleontology will have a chance to sign up and participate in this project. A sign up will be sent to all county high schools in January the week they return from Christmas break.
Indian River County is full of Ice Age fossils: Recently a rare Simpson spear point around 9000 years old from the end of the ice age was found in material dug from in a Vero farmer’s drainage ditch which had been scraped for better drainage just as is done with the main relief canal.
OVIASC is raising funds to properly excavate the fossil-rich Old Vero Site near the airport. The Indian River County Historical Society is acting as an umbrella organization until March for OVIASC and is receiving tax exempt donations for this project. Donations can be sent to OVIASC, P.O. Box 351, Vero Beach, FL 32961-0351. Make checks payable to IRCHS, with OVIASC in the memo line. Read more about the program at www.OVIASC.org.
Other high school teachers in Indian River County interested in the sand project should contact Rose Gaines
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