The Florida Department of State has announced the discovery of a unique, globally significant
archaeological site in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Venice.
• The Manasota Key Offshore site is the first preserved prehistoric burial site in North or South
America that has been discovered offshore, and one of just a few such sites known in the world.
• The site is more than 7,000 years old and is the final resting place for numerous ancestors of
Florida’s indigenous people.
• The discovery demonstrates that the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to contain other
preserved archaeological sites that were once on land but are now submerged.
The number-one priority is protecting and preserving this fragile site.
• The site is protected under Florida law, and it is illegal to disturb, excavate, or remove any
material or human remains from it.
• This is a burial site and should be treated with the utmost respect.
• Further investigation could lead to more knowledge and a greater understanding of Florida’s
earliest peoples, as well changes to Florida’s landscape over time.
The Department of State is committed to engaging and informing the community as it continues to
learn from the site.
• The department has engaged many local and statewide partners, including the Seminole Tribe
of Florida, to ensure that its work honors the site’s historical significance and cultural sensitivity.
• State archaeologists have also met with local dive shops, charter operators, and property
owners to educate them about the site’s significance and how they can help protect it.
• The best thing the public can do is respect the law and let the scientists do their work.
You can learn more about the site and follow its investigation on the Department of State website.
• Information about the Manasota Key Offshore site is available online at dos.myflorida.com.
What is the Manasota Key Offshore site?
The Manasota Key Offshore site is a unique, 7,000-year-old underwater archaeological site that was
recently discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers have confirmed a prehistoric Native American
burial site that was located on dry land at the time of its use, when the Florida peninsula was much
larger than it is today. The site is being protected and investigated by the Florida Department of State.
Who discovered the site?
Fossil hunters looking for megalodon (prehistoric shark) teeth identified possible human skeletal
material and reported it to the Department of State’s Bureau of Archeological Research, which has
jurisdiction over human remains that are more than 75 years old.
Where is the site located?
The site is located in the Gulf of Mexico, near the coast of Venice. Due to the sensitive nature of the site
and concerns for its preservation and security, the Department of State is not sharing specific
information regarding its location.
How do we know it was a burial site?
Researchers have identified the preserved remains of multiple individuals, along with artifacts used in
ancient burial practices. Research indicates that more than 7,000 years ago, during lower sea levels, the
site was a freshwater inland pond and that ancestors of Florida’s indigenous people interred deceased
individuals within this pond using wooden stakes. The stakes may have been used to help hold the
bodies underwater. As sea levels rose, the pond was covered by what we know today as the Gulf of
Mexico; however, the peat bottom of the pond remained intact. Peat slows the process of organic
decay, which allowed the burial site to stay well preserved.
Who are the people buried there?
These individuals are ancestors of Florida’s indigenous people.
How do we know how old the site is?
Radiocarbon analysis of artifacts found at the site dated them to 7,214 years ago, which falls within the
Early Archaic period in Florida. For historical context, consider that the Great Pyramids of Giza are about
4,500 years old. The earliest evidence of humans in Florida dates to at least 12,000 years ago.
Why is this discovery significant?
The Manasota Key Offshore archeological site is the first preserved prehistoric burial site in the
Americas that has been discovered offshore, and one of just a few such sites known in the world. The
discovery demonstrates that submerged offshore archeological sites have survived sea-level rise and
other natural occurrences, such as erosion and hurricanes. This revelation opens up the possibility that
the Gulf of Mexico could contain other preserved archeological sites that were once on land but are now
The site is also unique because of its exceptional preservation and age. It is the final resting place for
numerous ancestors of Florida’s indigenous people. As the state continues to document and research
the site, we will gain a deeper understanding of Florida’s early history and its inhabitants.
Can people visit or dive the site?
Due to the sensitive nature of the site and out of respect for the individuals buried there, divers and
other interested individuals are strongly discouraged from visiting the site. The site is protected under
Florida law, and it is illegal to disturb, excavate, or recover any material or human remains from the site.
How is the site being protected?
Under Florida law, it is the state’s responsibility to manage and protect the Manasota Key Offshore
archeological site. The Florida Department of State’s number-one priority is the preservation, respectful
treatment, and security of this rare and unique site. State and local law-enforcement partners are aware
of the site and the laws that protect it, and they frequently patrol the area. In addition, local property
owners actively monitor the site and will report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. Staff from
the Department of State also have conducted outreach to area dive shops and charter operators to
inform them of this rare and fragile site and invite their participation in protecting it.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – dial #FWC, *FWC, or 888.404.3922
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office – 941.316.1201
Venice Police Department Marine Patrol – 941.486.2444)
What should a person do if they are diving or swimming and think they have found human remains or
another potential burial site?
If you think you have found human remains anywhere in Florida, whether on land or offshore, cease all
activity in the area and immediately notify local law enforcement.
Has the Seminole Tribe or other Indian tribes been involved in this process?
The individuals buried at this site are ultimately the ancestors of Florida’s Indian tribes, and the state has
been working closely with the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of Florida throughout this process.
Under Florida law, the Department of State is required to consult with the tribes on human remains. The
department’s goal is to work with the tribes to ensure that the site and the individuals interred there are
treated with the utmost respect.
What is Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s role in this project?
Gulf Coast was asked by the Secretary of State to take the lead role in convening and engaging local
partners and community stakeholders in support of the long-term management plan that is being
developed for the site. The foundation has connected researchers with law enforcement, local
homeowners and businesses, and cultural organizations and experts. Our primary focus at this time is
using resources and relationships to build a local network of citizens who appreciate this special place
and can help protect and preserve it.
(Florida Department of State Information)
Manasota Key Offshore
An unexpected discovery by a fossil hunter diving a quarter-mile off Manasota Key near Venice, Florida, has led to a groundbreaking archaeological project that could change everything scientists thought they knew about offshore archaeology. The Manasota Key Offshore (MKO) site will help archaeologists understand how Florida’s indigenous people lived, and what their environment was like over 7,000 years ago.
An amateur diver first reported possible human remains in the waters just off Manasota Key to the Bureau of Archaeological Research (BAR) in June 2016. Through non-invasive underwater survey and investigation techniques, including magnetometry, sub-bottom profiling, and side-scan sonar, BAR’s underwater archaeologists soon documented evidence of a prehistoric Native American burial site in what appears to have been a freshwater peat-bottomed pond thousands of years ago.
Ongoing archaeological investigation revealed multiple discrete areas containing peat, worked wooden stakes that were used in burial practice, and the remains of multiple individuals. Radiocarbon dating of two stakes dated them to more than 7,200 years old, during the time referred to as the “Archaic Period." When this site was in use, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were about 30 feet below their current level. Given the site’s depth today – under about 21 feet of water – the pond sat on dry land some nine feet above sea level at this time.
Florida’s archaeological record already includes evidence of Archaic Period pond burials at several sites, including the well-known Windover site in Titusville and Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County. What makes Mansota Key Offshore site remarkable is its location offshore, and the evidence collected through non-invasive remote sensing techniques that will allow scientists to recreate the prehistoric environment – including evidence of ancient springs and rivers.
Globally Significant, Transformative for Florida
The Manasota Key Offshore site represents the first example in the Americas of offshore preservation of the Archaic Period paleoenvironment, including a prehistoric burial site that survived sea level rise since the last ice age. The implications for learning more about how Archaic peoples lived in Florida, the effects of sea-level change on the prehistoric landscape, and the intersection of the two are vast and exciting. Reconstructing the ancient landscape of the area may provide crucial insight into the circumstances that allowed this delicate site to be preserved. This information can be applied to other submerged areas to better understand the effects of sea-level rise on underwater archaeological sites throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
(The following is courtesy of Smithsonian.com)
This video was recorded by mask mounted GoPros and displays some of the excavation activities at Manasota Key Offshore. You can see archaeologists using the underwater airlift, excavating artifacts and taking measurements. Credit: Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Department of State
7,000-Year-Old Native American ‘Bog Burial’ Found Off the Coast of Florida
Experts have identified the remains of at least six individuals, and suspect there are many more bodies to be found
By Brigit Katz
MARCH 8, 2018
Thousands of years ago, ancestors of Florida’s indigenous people buried their dead in shallow, peat-bottomed ponds. As sea levels rose, these watery graveyards were submerged by the Gulf of Mexico. But as Megan Gannon reports for National Geographic, the Florida Department of State announced last week that it had unearthed an Early Archaic Native American burial ground off the coast off Manasota Key. Archaeologists have thus far identified the remains of six individuals, but they suspect that many more bodies may lie beneath the sea floor.
The ground-breaking discovery was made in 2016 by a diver who was searching for prehistoric shark teeth—a popular pastime on the Gulf beaches around Venice, Florida. But instead of shark teeth, the diver found a jawbone, with a molar still attached. He brought the relic to the attention of Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, which confirmed that the jawbone had come from a human.
A team of underwater archaeologists, led by bureau supervisor Ryan Duggins, subsequently set out to explore the site where the bone had been found. “As soon as we were there it became clear that we were dealing with something new,” Duggins tells Gannon. He quickly discovered a broken arm bone, a collection of carved wooden stakes and three separate skull fragments. The team returned to the site in 2017 and found more human bones and wooden stakes, along with textile fragments.
In a statement, the Florida Department of State said that the burial ground has been dated to around 7,000 years ago. At that time, sea levels were much lower than they are today, creating the “small inland freshwater pond” there. Duggins tells Gannon that when ancient indigenous people buried their dead in ponds such as this one, they hammered sharpened stakes into the pond bed, surrounding the body with wooden markings that protruded out of the water.
Though the newly discovered graveyard was eventually covered by deeper waters, the peat bottom remained intact. “Peat slows the process of organic decay,” the Florida Department of State explains in its statement, “which allowed the site to stay well preserved.”
Officials note in the statement that it is “exceedingly rare” to find submerged offshore prehistoric burial sites, especially in North America. So-called “bog burials” are more frequently associated with regions in Northern Europe, where remarkably intact remains have been found. But the newly announced discovery is not the first peat graveyard be unearthed in Florida. Back in the 1980s, archaeologists were able to excavate 168 “bog bodies” at a pond in near Cape Canaveral, which is known as the “Windover” site. Some of the remains were so well-preserved that their brains survived to modern times.
As Rafi Letzer of Live Science points out, the new discovery off Manasota Key suggests the region may hold other unexplored Native American burials that have managed to survive over millennia, withstanding natural forces like erosion and hurricanes. For now, Florida archaeologists are working to dry and desalinate the bones, and they hope the remains will lead to new insights about Florida’s prehistoric populations.
Officials are also taking pains to ensure that the remains are treated respectfully. The site of the graveyard is protected under Florida law, and it is illegal to remove or disturb any artifacts in the area. Duggins tells Gannon of National Geographic that he is consulting with Seminole Tribe of Florida about the treatment of the bones, and Florida officials plan to send a nationwide notice to Native American tribes who might want to claim the remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
“As important as the site is archaeologically, it is crucial that the site and the people buried there are treated with the utmost sensitivity and respect,” Timothy Parsons, director of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources, said in the Department of State’s press release. “The people buried at the site are the ancestors of America’s living indigenous people. Sites like this have cultural and religious significance in the present day.”
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/7000-year-old-native-american-bog-burial-found-coast-florida-180968345/#RggQSbDj6doL7im6.99