diver holds ancient native american skull

Photo courtesy National Geographic

In June of 2016 a recreational diving trip just off Florida’s Manasota Key discovered what he believed to be human remains.  The bones rested in Gulf of Mexico waters about 21 feet below sea level.

The diver reported the finding to state of Florida officials who opened an archaeological investigation shortly thereafter. As it turns out, the underground site is an authentic Native American burial ground, and testing indicates that the age of it reaches back to the Archaic Period.

This tells us a couple of interesting things.  First, the Archaic Period ended some 7,200 years ago when Gulf of Mexico water levels are believed to have been about 30 feet below where they are today.

Using those calculations, it’s likely that the burial site was roughly 9 feet above-ground when the ancestors were laid to rest. That’s consistent with the traditions of tribes that are well-documented in modern times.

While the discovery isn’t among the first underwater Native American burial sites dating back to the Archaic Period, what does make the Manasota Key archaeological project so groundbreaking is that it lies a quarter mile offshore.

It’s also remarkably undisturbed – certainly by human hands, and there is already a mountain of evidence collected by remote sensing technology that should lead scientists through an unparalleled recreation of Native American lands in the prehistoric area.

Florida law enforcement has been tasked with protecting the burial site.  That’s admittedly a difficult task, even in a State where felony charges await anyone caught vandalizing unmarked human burial sites.