Manasota Key Archaeological Site

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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.

John McCarthy, Executive Director, Historic Spanish Point

On Tuesday, March 27 at 7pm the Lemon Bay Historical Society will host a presentation at Fellowship Hall, Englewood United Methodist Church, 700 E. Dearborn St., Englewood, on this incredible find. Our guest speaker will be John McCarthy, Executive Director of Historic Spanish Point. A native Floridian, John has spent his entire adult life learning about and bringing awareness to the power of nature, heritage, recreation and civic engagement to build community identity, value and pride. He is best known for his passionate lectures and unconventional management style. John, also a tour guide and author, served as Sarasota County’s official historian (beginning at the age of 19) and went on to have a 32-year-career in County Government, serving 10 years as an Environmental Specialist

Nichole Grinnan measures a section of a 7000-year-old archaeological site found in the Gulf of Mexico off Manasota Key (Photo: Ivor Mollema/Florida Department of State)

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. 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.

“What we currently are thinking is that when an individual passed, they would have been wrapped in handwoven fibers and sunk to the bottom of the pond,” he explained. “A series of fire-hardened and sharpened stakes would be pounded into the pond bed around the body with the tops of those stakes protruding above the water line.”

A notched stake discovered at the Manasota Key Offshore site.

Despite the murky water, several aqua archaeologists measured and marked the ocean floor with the help of laser guided equipment. Each waterproof white tag marks intricate details of this sacred ground below the sea.

The site, which measures roughly 0.75 acres dates back to the Early Archaic period, over 7,000 years ago, a time when Florida’s hunter-gatherers were living a more sedentary lifestyle, researchers say.

Learn all about this unprecedented find at the first public presentation on this significant and sacred burial site.

John McCarthy is Executive Director at Spanish Point as well as a writer for Sarasota Magazine. He served over 10 years an 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.

Join us on Tuesday, March 27 at 7pm at Fellowship Hall, Englewood United Methodist Church, 700 E. Dearborn St., Englewood. A $10 donation is requested to help save Englewood’s historic Green Street Church.