NORTH PORT, Fla. - Florida's history could be re-written in North Port. Thursday, archaeologists dove deep below the surface at "Little Salt Spring" to bring up what they believe could be prehistoric treasures.
Once an ice age oasis, the spring is a time capsule waiting to be opened. "As far as we know, it has been this way for at least 9,000 to 10,000 years," Underwater Archaeologist Dr. Jim Gifford said.
For 3 years, Dr. Gifford, from the University of Miami, has been excavating a 10,000 year old underwater ledge, hoping to unlock the mystery of Florida's earliest people - where they came from, and how they got here.
"If we get a good sample, say 15% or 20%, I'd say there is a pretty good chance we would find more definitive traces of human activity," Gifford said.
Equipped with flashlights, Gifford and two divers from the Florida Aquarium in Tampa dove down, soon locating fragments of bone and wood.
"It's a piece of wood that looks teardrop shaped, it may be slightly broken at one end," Gifford said through microphone as he searched the ledge.
Little Salt Spring is actually quite big. Although the Dr. Gifford and divers only went 90 feet below the surface, the sinkhole actually drops to more than 200 feet!
Gifford said one great thing about working underwater is, "You can leave everything you have been using and don't have to worry about someone walking off with it."
After getting to dry land, the findings were examined. The bone was actually a portion of a lower jaw bone from an immature White-tailed Deer.
The two pieces of wood, were perhaps evidence of early human life long before previously thought. "It looks to me as though it may have been sharpened by people," Gifford explained. "We'll have to take a very close look at it under a low-power microscope to see."
They've only begun to scratch the surface. Operating on a small budget, they can only work two months a year. They're hoping grants will help them do, and find, more.
"I'm pretty confident there is a lot of stuff we could find," Gifford said.
The Florida Aquarium, which provided the divers, also pitched $12,000 into this 10-day excavation.