Vero man refers to a set of fossilized human bones found near Vero (now Vero Beach), Florida, in 1915 and 1916. The human bones were found in association with those of Pleistocene animals. The question of whether humans were present in Florida (or anywhere in the Americas) during the Pleistocene was controversial at the time, and most archaeologists did not accept that the Vero fossils were that old. Recent studies show that the Vero human bones are from the Pleistocene, and are the largest collection of human remains from the Pleistocene found in North America.
Starting in late 1913 vertebrate fossils were uncovered during the construction of a drainage canal from the Indian River between Vero and Gifford. Samples of the fossils were sent by Isaac M. Weills and Frank Ayers to the state geologist of Florida, E. H. Sellards, who recognized the finds as Pleistocene animals. In 1915, 26 fossilized human bones and fragments were found in the banks of the canal. The following year Sellards conducted his own excavations at the site, recovering an engraved mammoth tusk and a bird bone with marks possibly made by humans. In a nearby location he recovered human bones from the stratum that contained Pleistocene fossils. Sellards also found chert flakes and bone tools, including what appears to be a broken stemmed Archaic projectile point, and near the surface found a few ceramic sherds.
Sellards first published his findings in 1916. He invited other scientists to visit the Vero site and investigate it themselves in October of 1916 and in March of 1917. Aleš Hrdlička, T. Wayland Vaughan, Oliver Perry Hay, George Grant MacCurdy and Rollin T. Chamberlin visited and examined the site. Sellards and Hays concluded that the human bones dated from the Pleistocene. Hrdlička, MacCurdy and Chamberlin argued that the human bones were much more recent, while Vaughan felt that more evidence was needed before making a decision. Hrdlička, the most prominent physical anthropologist in America at the time, was firmly convinced that humans had not arrived in America until well after the Pleistocene had ended.
The human bones excavated by Sellards were passed around various institutions for study. By the time carbon-14 dating of fossils became possible, some 35 years after the discovery of Vero man, some of the bones had been lost, and others had been rendered unusable for such testing due to the way they had been preserved with chemicals. Twenty-four of the human bones collected by Sellards were tested in a study published in 2012, which reported that analysis of the uptake of rare earth elements by fossils showed that the human bones and Pleistocene animal bones from the Vero site were of comparable ages. This set of human bones is the largest from any Pleistocene site in North America, though their precise age has yet to be determined.
In 2009 scientists announced the discovery of a carving of a mammoth or mastodon on a piece of bone found north of Vero Beach (the general area in which Vero Man was found). The carving may be among the oldest art found in the Americas. Scientists studying the carving noted similarities with Pleistocene art in Europe. Art historian Barbara Olins Alpert has noted that similarity does not prove connection, as finely executed realistic art styles have appeared in various times and places.
In 2014 new excavations at the site of the discovery of Vero man were undertaken by Mercyhurst University and the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee, a local non-profit organization. The Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee announced the discovery of a possible "human living surface" at least 12,000 years old during the 2014 excavation season. As of February 2015, excavations continue at the site, with recent finds including 14,000-year-old "charred" bones from a dire wolf and a horse, possibly from a hearth.
- Mitchem, Jeffery M. (2006). The Vero and Melbourne Discoveries: Scientific Controversy in the Early Twentieth Century. 58th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Sellards, E. H. (1916). "Human Remains and Associated Fossils from the Pleistocene of Florida". Florida State Geological survey. Eighth Annual Report: 121–160. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Mitchem, Jeffery M. (2006). The Vero and Melbourne Discoveries: Scientific Controversy in the Early Twentieth Century. 58th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society. pp. 4–6. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Stapleton, Christine (December 12, 2013). "Vero may hold clue to America's first humans". Miami Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Torrent, Danielle (May 3, 2012). "New UF study shows early North Americans lived with extinct giant beasts". University of Florida. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Rawls, Sandra (June 4, 2009). "University of Florida: Epic carving on fossil bone found in Vero Beach". Vero Beach 32963. Archived from the original on September 13, 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- Viegas, Jennifer. "Earliest Mammoth Art: Mammoth on Mammoth". Discovery News. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
- The Associated Press (June 22, 2011). "Ancient mammoth or mastodon image found on bone in Vero Beach". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
- Purdy, Barbara A., Kevin S. Jones, John J. Mecholsky, Gerald Bourne, Richard C. Hurlbert Jr., Bruse J. MacFadden, Krista L. Church, Michael W. Warren, Thomas F. Jorstad, Dennis J. Stanford, Melvin J. Wachowiak, and Robert J. Speakman (November 2011). "Earliest Art in the Americas: incised image of a proboscidean on a mineralized extinct animal bone from Vero Beach, Florida". Journal of Archaeological Science. 38 (11): 2908–2913. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.05.022.
- Howley, Andrew. "Is Florida Mammoth the Tip of the Iceberb?". National Geographic. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- "2014 Season Summary". Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Allen, Greg (February 28, 2015). "Can You Dig It? More Evidence Suggests Humans From The Ice Age". National Public Radio. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Purdy, Barbara A. (2008). Florida's People During the Last Ice Age. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. pp. 29–36. ISBN 978-0-8130-3204-7.