June 10, 2009—The Americas’ oldest known artist may have been an Ice Age hunter in what is now Florida, according to an anthropologist who has examined a 13,000-year-old bone etching.

The carved bone, which depicts a walking mammoth (detail of the bone at top), was found near Vero Beach in east-central Florida. (See a map of the region.)

Scientists also determined the 15-inch-long (38-centimeter-long) bone fragment (pictured in full at bottom) belonged to one of three animals: a mammoth, a mastodon, or a giant sloth—all of which died out at the end of the last ice age, between about 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.
(Read National Geographic magazine editor Chris Sloan’s take on the newfound mammoth art: “Mammoth Art in America, or Mammoth Fraud?”)

Discoverer and local fossil hunter James Kennedy only recently noticed the image after dusting off the bone, which had sat under his sink for a few years.

“I had no idea it was this big of a fuss. [When I heard] there was nothing else like it in the Western Hemisphere, that’s when my heart kind of stopped.”

“This is the first glimpse of real art in the Western Hemisphere, and I think that’s our starting point for something that might be found in the future if we start looking closely at these old bones.”

excerpts  (Related: “Climate Change, Then Humans, Drove Mammoths Extinct.

—Christine Dell’Amore

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More Information: National Geographic

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