The State You're In: Fossil hunter finds Ice Age artwork in Florida

“The coolest thing” fossil hunter James Kennedy ever found is at least 13,000 years old.

Associated Press

“The coolest thing” fossil hunter James Kennedy ever found is at least 13,000 years old.

Think of it as a postcard from the late Pleistocene, or maybe a "Hello from the early Holocene."

It's a simple line drawing of a mammoth, only a few inches from tail to tusk, etched with no small amount of artistic flair into the bone of an animal that hasn't been seen on the earth in 13,000 years.

In Europe, engravings like this are as common as miniature Eiffel Towers in a Parisian gift shop, but the significance of this illustrated shard dwarfs many archaeological finds of the last century for a simple reason.

It was found in Florida.

This makes it "the oldest and only existing example of late Ice Age art in the Americas," according to a paper published by retired University of Florida archaeology professor Barbara Purdy in 2011.

Sometime in the mid 2000s, an amateur fossil hunter named James Kennedy found the bone fragment in one of his regular forays around Vero Beach. Kennedy, who has been gathering fossils from this unusually rich locale for decades, didn't know what he had at first. The fragment sat in a box under his sink, according to the website of the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee, until February 2009, when he began cleaning some of his finds for possible sale.

Kennedy called it "the coolest thing" he had ever found, according to the site. Soon it was in the hands of Purdy, who led a series of tests to prove its authenticity. The artist used no metal tool, researchers concluded, and the discoloration inside the lines is the same as the surface, so it likely wasn't forged.

What we don't know is who he was, this traveler from the glacial north, who so wanted to share the awe of what he had seen.

Bill Duryea, Times staff writer

The State You're In: Fossil hunter finds Ice Age artwork in Florida 07/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 29, 2011 4:29pm]

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