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13,000 Year-Old Mammoth Etching Could Be America's Oldest Art

By KJ Mullins     Jun 12, 2009 in Entertainment
The oldest known artist in North America may have been a hunter during the Ice Age. An anthropologist is making that claim after examining an etching on a 13,000-year-old bone found near Vero Beach, Florida.
The bone details a walking mammoth according to Barbara Purdy, a professor emerita at the University of Florida.
Purdy began her examination of the art work believing that it was a fake. After the bone had undergone a series of tests by forensic scientists at the University of Florida she changed her mind.
TC Palm reports:
“The incising would have to be at least 13,000 years old because that is when the animals became extinct and more recent people would not have seen an elephant to etch,” Purdy wrote in her report about the find. The etching is on bone from either a mammoth, mastodon or giant sloth.
Tests showed that the etching on the bone took place just a short time after the animal died. The bone belonged to either a mammoth, mastodon or a giant sloth. Those animals all died out during the last ice age at least 10,000 years ago.
Fossil hunter James Kennedy had found the bone. It had set under his sink for years before he noticed the image during a dusting. The amateur collector's find could prove that humans were in Florida up to 13,000 years ago.
National Geographic reports:
"I had no idea it was this big of a fuss. [When I heard] there was nothing else like it in the Western Hemisphere, that's when my heart kind of stopped."
Kennedy has yet to decide if he wants to sell the bone or donate it to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
Purdy, the anthropologist, said, "This is the first glimpse of real art in the Western Hemisphere, and I think that's our starting point for something that might be found in the future if we start looking closely at these old bones."
The artifact has one more test underway to see if it is really from Indian River County where it was discovered 15 years ago. The soil from the discovery site is being compared with the bone.
TC Palm reports:
“There is nothing else like it,” a piece of art dating to around the end of the last Ice Age in the New World, said Steven Holen, curator of paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “It is one of the most spectacular finds in American archaeology in recent history.”
Underwater archaeologist John Gifford of the University of Miami says that until he can look at the artifact he will be skeptical but that it is possible that such an artifact could have been found.
More about American oldest art, Ice age, Etched bone
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