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Prehistory of Melbourne

The Melbourne area and eastern Florida has a deep, rich prehistoric history.  Throughout the years of economic development, we have been finding some very interesting items.  Not only do they include bones, they also include shards of pottery and other signs of early life.

It’s sometimes difficult to understand what these are considering when you drive around the area you see modern buildings, tourist attractions, homes, roads and other conveniences.  But there’s a deep history under the ground.

Burial grounds:  A little north of Melbourne in a place called Titusville there are 8.5 acres that were recently purchased by the Archeological Conservancy.  This organization purchases land that has significant historical treasures and keeps them safe from development.  In 1982, a developer started digging and soon realized he was digging into a burial ground.

After doing some careful excavating and studies, the bones were found to be over 8,000 years old, providing us with some of the oldest brain DNA samples ever discovered.  It is thought that these early inhabitants may have crossed into North America during the last ice age.

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Mammoths:  In the western part of Melbourne, many fossilized bones of early mammoths have been found.  In fact, the area in Melbourne is considered one of the big three in terms of fossilized information found about the Pleistocene era – which started around 1.8 million years ago and lasted until approximately 12,000 years ago.

The mammoth skeleton, which was found with most bones intact, is now located at the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Due to the rich history in the Melbourne area, it is thought that there are many fossil beds that may be buried under housing developments or shopping malls.

Melbourne Bone Beds:  This is the name of the area where the mammoth bones were found.  It is in the Crane Creek area of Melbourne.

In addition to mammoths, many more bone types were found. These included mastodons, giant sloths, camels, horses and armadillos, saber-toothed cats, giant bison, birds and reptiles.  They also found human bones, which spurred on the discussion of whether early ancestors lived next to large prehistoric animals.  The human skull found is called the “Melbourne Man” and is currently located in the Smithsonian.

Later discoveries did prove that early Native Americans that lived in what is now known as Brevard County, Florida did in fact live with mammoths and other prehistoric animals.  The bones found are estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 years old.

For more information, the Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science has some great information about local finds.

25 Nov

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