MAY SPEAKER: John McCarthy

HISTORY AT THE WATER’S EDGE

About 7,200 years old and buried 21 feet deep below the Gulf of Mexico, 350 yards off Manasota Key is an extremely well preserved human burial site. Archaeologists are exploring what has been termed a “globally significant” discovery. National Geographic calls it an “unprecedented” find.
How was this site discovered? A diver picked up a barnacle-crusted jaw from a shallow spot off the shore of Manasota Key. The specimen sat on a paper plate in his kitchen for a couple weeks before he realized it was probably a human bone. Weeks later the diver sent a picture to Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, where it landed in front of Ryan Duggins, the bureau’s underwater archaeology supervisor. “As soon as we were there (at the site) it became clear that we were dealing with something new,” Duggins recalls. First, he spotted a broken arm bone on the seabed. Then, when he noticed a cluster of carved wooden stakes and three separate skull fragments in a depression, Duggins realized he might be dealing with a Native American bog burial site—one that had been inundated by sea level rise, but was miraculously preserved.

John McCarthy, Director of Historic Spanish Point, will speak about this newly discovered burial ground that scientists are studying underwater off Manasota Key. He is Executive Director at Spanish Point as well as a writer for Sarasota Magazine. He served over 10 years an Environmental Specialist for Sarasota County responsible for providing environmental and development review for coastal resource protection and coordination of resource monitoring and enhancement projects. Mr. McCarthy was Sarasota County Historian from 1982 to 1988.