Mammoth, Sloths & Giant Tortoises: Gifford to Discuss Prehistoric Florida at the FLAQ in Tampa

Florida Aquarium

TAMPA — February 25, 2010 — The Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami (UM) and The Florida Aquarium today announced that the speaker for the next ‘Evening Tide Talk’ will be Dr. John Gifford, UM associate professor, marine archaelogist and principal investigator at Little Salt Spring.  The lecture will take place March 18 at 6:15 p.m. at The Florida Aquarium (701 Channelside Drive, Tampa).

For nearly 30 years, Gifford has been invesitgating history underwater.  After receiving a Master’s degree from the Rosenstiel School in 1972, he becgan searching for shipwrecks off the Turkish coast. He has participated in geoarchaeological projects in Belize, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus, among others.

Since 1992 he has been a faculty member in the Marine Affairs and Policy division at the Rosenstiel School.  His field work is focused on Little Salt Spring, located in North Port, Fla.  More than 75 meters deep, Little Salt Spring harbors some of the most intriguing archaeological artifacts ever found in North America.

During early prehistoric times (12,000-7,000 years ago) the sinkhole was an oasis in the peninsula that attracted seasonal hunters and gatherers. The site has produced the second-oldest dated artifact ever found in the southeast United States — a sharpened wooden stake some 12,000 years old. The unique anoxic water that fills most of the sinkhole (below 5 meters/16 feet depth) has preserved a great range of organic materials including wood, textile fragments, hair, skin and brain tissue dating back to the Late Paleoindian and Early Archaic stages of Florida's prehistory, ca. 9,500 — 7,000 radiocarbon years ago. Archaeological remains exist both in the spring basin and the “27 meters/90 feet ledge”, a natural cavern at that depth below the spring surface. 

The lecture, presented by Wachovia Bank, will be preceded by a complimentary reception at 5:45 p.m.  For information and to RSVP, please call 813-273-4568.

About The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from Florida and all over the world. The Florida Aquarium’s mission since opening in 1995 is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment. It serves as a significant example of Florida’s commitment to preserving native landscapes, ecosystems, historical and archaeological sites, and ethnic and cultural traditions representative of the diverse geography and cultural life unique to our state. The Florida Aquarium has provided cultural enrichment experiences to more than seven million visitors, including 100,000 school students and teachers annually.

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

dr. john gifford •  florida aquarium •  archaeology •  history •  little salt spring •  discussion •