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Prehistoric carving may be Americas’ oldest artwork

tests,through different methods,provided microscopic views of the artefact,allowing scientists to compare the age of the engraving with the age of the bone....

A small carving of a mastodon,a prehistoric cousin of the elephant,found on a piece of mammal bone among an amateur collector’s pile of fossils in Vera Beach,Florida,might be thousands of years older than Stonehenge in England and the pyramids in Egypt,says a team of scientists at the University of Florida. It also would offer rare tangible evidence that humans lived in Florida,America,during the last Ice Age,alongside now-extinct mammals such as the mastodon,mammoth and saber-tooth cat. Already,one anthropologist involved in studying the artefact has dubbed it the “oldest,most spectacular and rare work of art in the Americas”.

Scientists at UF studied Kennedy’s artefact,not to age it exactly,but with the intention of proving it to be a fake,said Barbara Purdy,a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. Kevin Jones,a professor of materials science and engineering at UF who was brought in to run tests on Kennedy’s fossil,used energy dispersive spectroscopy—basically a fancy X-ray—and a scanning electron microscope to study the bone in great detail. Both tests,through different methods,provided microscopic views of the artefact,allowing scientists to compare the age of the engraving with the age of the bone. Jones even scratched the artefact to compare the appearance of the new marks with the prehistoric ones. All evidence suggested that it was the real thing,the team concluded. The age will remain something of a mystery. “Thirteen thousands years,14,000,15,000,we don’t really know,” the scientists said,adding that the exact age is less important than what the artefact tells us about early humans. The detail of the artwork itself suggests that the artist saw a mastodon

up close.

But scientists fear the artefact may be lost to public view forever. Kennedy plans to sell it at an auction instead of giving it to a museum. The auction is being advertised online.

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First published on: 14-03-2010 at 10:39:02 pm
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