First Floridians 2015

Page-Ladson one of only ten important Paleo

sites in the Western Hemisphere

Anne Haw Holt

Located on the southern edge of Florida’s Red Hills, the Page-Ladson site has attracted exploration by scientists since the 1960s. In the January 2015 issue of National Geographic Magazine an article includes Page-Ladson as one of only ten sites for studying early human settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Recognition of the possibilities of this site was slow in coming. S. David Webb and James Dunbar were early investigators. Michael Waters of the Center for the First Americans at TAMU and others have continued studying into 2014. Several remarkable finds in the 1980s and 1990s kept scholarly interest high. An artifact found in 2013 is 14,400 years old.

In 2012 a gathering of scientists and scholars met to discuss the meaning and possibilities of the site in the First Floridian First American Conference in Monticello, Florida. Pre-Clovis artifacts were displayed and studied increasing lay and scholarly interest in the Red Hills Region.

Inspired by the First Floridian several speakers and community leaders formed a committee to create a local institute to support scholarly study of the Aucilla Basin. The new Aucilla Research Institute (ARI) provides logistical and research support for visiting scientists. ARI founders expect the Institute’s work to gradually spark an economic resurgence in the area.

ARI is a participant in planning the Second First Floridians First Americans Conference to be held in Monticello on October 1, 2, 3, 2015. Because of the stature of the Page-Ladson site, speakers include some of the foremost Paleolithic scholars in the Western Hemisphere.

 Aucilla River photo by Anne Haw Holt

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*First Floridians First Americans Conference 2015*

3 full days of presentations will tell the story of Florida’s people before the Spanish came. Archaeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, other scholars, many who worked on digs in Jefferson County, will explain what the pre-Clovis discoveries — artifacts proven to be more than 14,000 years old found in this area mean to scholars and the people who live close to the sites.

Dennis Stanford, head archaeologist for the Smithsonian has been invited to open this second First Floridians First Americans Conference. Mike Waters of the Center for the First Americans at Texas A & M University will explain the controversy among scholars created by discoveries made in the Aucilla Basin. He will tell of past local discoveries such as a stone knife embedded in plant matter and a mammoth tusk scholars contend is the earliest proven large animal kill in North America. Scholars will discuss the possibility that this part of coastal Florida may prove to be the earliest human settlement in North America. There is even a question that these paleoIndians may have come from Europe.

Confirmed scholars from Georgia, Pennsylvania and Canada agree to design their remarks to make them understandable and interesting to laymen. Papers will be edited for publication post-conference and slide presentations will be posted on the First Floridians web site. We will present an extensive display of artifacts from this area, with informational docents, open to viewing by the public to help explain the story of the First Floridians: First Americans.

This project will give scholars new information and lay attendees an understanding of the importance of protecting the archaeological, anthropological and early historic sites in our county.

Our target audience is residents and students of Monticello, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Leon & surrounding counties and scholars interested in the archaeological exploration of the Southeast. We will use newspapers and other print media, radio, television, Internet Media releases, posting on related web sites and social media to market this conference.

Jim Dunbar, Lee Newsom, David Webb, Glenn Doran, Erv Garrison are among the scholars confirmed. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian and others have been invited. David Ward, Ed. Green, and Jack Carswell will conduct educational field trips to several archaeological sites.

Copies of slide presentations will be posted on www.firstfloridiansconference.com and available to the public.

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