Little Salt Spring Exploration

Latest update November 15, 2018 Started on November 15, 2018
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Little Salt Spring is an archaeological and paleontological site located in North Port, Florida and is owned by the University of Miami. Previous excavations found evidence of a range of human activity dating back to Paleoindian hunter gatherers 12,000 years ago. This expedition seeks to archaeologically characterize and visualize the spring on a broader scale, through applying technology such as underwater lidar, sector scan sonar, and ground penetrating radar. With an approximate maximum depth of 250 feet, archaeologists and students will utilize an ROV and SCUBA diving to document, excavate, and analyze any artifacts discovered.

November 15, 2018
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Expedition Background

Originally it was thought that Little Salt Spring was a shallow freshwater pond, but in the 1950s SCUBA divers discovered that it was a true sinkhole extending downward, surpassing 200 feet. It was one of the first “wet sites” discovered in Florida. During the 1970s exploration and excavation yielded well-preserved wooden artifacts ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 years old. Many of these are of unknown function, as there are no other examples known with which they may be compared.


Little Salt Spring was donated to the University of Miami (UM) in 1982 by the General Development Corporation of Miami. Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS) have been exploring the site since 1992, conducting interdisciplinary fieldwork in prehistoric underwater archaeology, which also provides an excellent opportunity for student involvement. In 2007, UM archaeologists unearthed two stakes and recovered one of them, which they determined was 9,300 years old.

This expedition seeks to build on previous exploration and research efforts, starting with applying an approach utilizing technology that was either non-existent or cost-prohibitive years ago. The underwater lidar system will allow for a digital reconstruction of the physical nature and shape of the spring itself. The sector scan sonar will acquire acoustic imagery of the bottom of the spring as well as other potential areas for further exploration. The ground penetrating radar will be deployed in the shallower depths of the basin in order to assess what could be buried in those sediments and investigate potential future areas of excavation. All of these efforts will be followed up by visual survey and documentation through ROV and SCUBA diving, with the overall objective to assess the best path forward to continue making discoveries about this site and gaining further insight into past human behavior and activity in Florida and this region thousands of years ago.

This expedition will be carried out in a collaboration between UM, the State of Florida's Bureau of Archaeological Research (BAR), the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), and other organizations.

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