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So, you think you really know Vero?! Then, what is truly our town’s most famous and oldest treasure: Citrus groves? “Old Florida” architecture? Ais Indians? Spanish shipwrecks? Fort Vinton? Coastal sharks? None of the above. If you guessed Vero Man, you hit the ancient jackpot of our Treasure Coast and the correct answer! Vero Man is a prehistoric site discovered during the 1913 dredging of canals in Vero (not even called Vero Beach yet) by the Indian River Farms Company.
The discovery of Vero Man rankled the scientific world then just as much as it causes strong debate in 2014. Had we not been told by “the experts” that man did NOT inhabit Florida 2000 years ago? This ground-breaking discovery in Vero has turned that theory upside down: “Geologists, anthropologists and archaeologists now know that humans have been here since at least 10,000 to 12,000 B.C.”.
Many of us discover Vero Beach while searching for “greener pastures”. Florida’s earliest humans found Vero in much the same way. Vero Man may have migrated from Europe* via the frozen North Atlantic to Greenland and on down the East Coast. (The journey probably even traversed the general route of Interstate 95, without modern rest stops of course.) “It is assumed the humans were just following their prey and that the prey was just looking for greener pastures”. Vero Beach provided a green enough pasture for Vero Man and its prey to stay.
Just South of Aviation Boulevard and a bit West of US1 is where you will find the Old Vero Man Site. There is really not much to see today unless you are one of the archaeologists participating in “The Dig Project”. What is out of our daily sight, is very much on the minds and radar of a group of dedicated volunteers and scientists. Vero Man and the Dig Project are about to go viral as the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC) announced in September that FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) and Mercyhurst University will work together to research and document a piece of the Ice Age on the Treasure Coast. “The Old Vero Man site has been called one of the most important finds in the history of North American Archaeology, and has been carefully overseen since 2010 by the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC), an ALL volunteer organization. Last year, the OVIASC hand-picked the experts at Mercyhurst University’s Archaeological Institute to begin exploring this historic site, and now, they’ve chosen the scientists who study ancient DNA at HBOI to process those findings.”
Randy Old, Chairperson of OVIASC, is excited to have Dr. James Adovasio of Mercyhurst University, as the lead archaeologist on the Vero Project. “The involvement of Dr. Adovasio, considered the best Early Man expert in the U.S., brings The Dig Project to a whole new level”, says Randy. Dr. Adovasio was invited earlier this month to present results of the January 2014 dig at the 71st Annual meeting of the SE Archaeological Conference. Attendees took note; the word is out; Vero Man is serious news.
News stories relating to Vero Man have circulated and created mild public interest various times since the discovery almost a century ago. Scientists never seemed to agree on the age or importance of the find and carbon dating was not available before the 1950’s. Vero Man’s original bones were likely lost in 1945 while in transit from the Florida Geological Survey in Tallahassee to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., putting a further damper on the matter. Stories still circulated though that Vero Man’s skull was collecting dust somewhere in the Smithsonian. In 1996, Pamela Cooper, Supervisor of the Archive Center at the Indian River County Main Library in Vero, secured a grant from the Florida Humanities Council and traveled to the Smithsonian to find the skull.
Pam and her travel mate, Vera Zimmerman came up empty handed. What these two ladies did find was a reconstructed Vero Man skull and the interest and expertise of a world famous institution, the Smithsonian. Pam and Vera, however, are the true Vero Man cheerleaders and experts. These two historians have spent countless hours over the years collecting, researching, cataloguing, photographing (Vera) and displaying anything and everything relating to Vero Man. On the second floor of the Main Library in the Archive Center & Genealogy Department is where you will find Pam most days and more importantly an absolutely fascinating amount of Vero Man photos, relics and research. Pam is passionate about this history and loves to “create history to let you learn about it and gather your own conclusions”.
The renewed interest in Vero Man is exciting news for Vero Beach and those who have worked tirelessly over the years to keep its significance in the limelight. Great things are happening with new partnerships and the fast approaching 2015 Dig Project. The Old Vero Man site will come alive with activity again in January as students and scientists unearth old evidence in hopes of reaching new conclusions. I urge you to learn more about this fascinating Vero Beach treasure and join in the discovery of Vero’s history.
*NOTE: Vero Man may have migrated to Florida via Asia. The scientific jury is still “out” on the Asia/Europe debate. Science is very interested in the peopling of the North American continent and the Vero Digs project hopes to unearth evidence that will eventually provide the answer.
Bones found at Old Vero Man Site:
Vero Man skeletal remains were found together with extinct mega-fauna such as mammoths, mastodons, giant saber-tooth tigers, bear-sized sloths, a new species of tapir (now called the Vero Tapir), and other large animals from the Late Ice Age or as scientists would call it, the Late Pleistocene period.
Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee (OVIASC), “Uncover the Truth of the Old Man Vero Site”
OVIAS, PO Box 351, Vero Beach, FL 32961-0351; info@OVIASC.org
Indian River County Main Library, Archive Center & Genealogical Department, Pamela J. Cooper, Supervisor
1600 21st Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960; 772.770.5060, ext 5; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. James Adovasio of Mercyhurst University, Lead Archaeologist, “Dig Old Vero”
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