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7,000 year old grave site found in Gulf of Mexico

Posted at 10:17 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-01 07:30:40-05

State officials say a Native American ancestral burial site has been discovered off the southwest coast of Florida near the city of Venice.

"Never did I imagine in a million years would we find human remains down there," said FGCU graduate student Dayanira Lopez.

Lopez, her classmates and Anthropology professor Heather Walsh-Haney are working to preserve this 7,000 year old site.

"It was not under the Gulf of Mexico at that time, that was habitable, wonderful land that our indigenous people lived on," said Walsh-Haney.

But thousands of years worth of erosion and changes to the landscape meant, what was once actually a freshwater grave, is now the sea bottom.

Researchers say peat covering the grave helped keep it intact over all these years.

Once work at the bottom of the ocean is done, Walsh-Haney says she will work with the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes on the best ways to preserve the underwater grave.

"What types of sands or sediments should we use to cap off the site to protect it.  Will putting in buoys or pylons to alert boaters of this important site, how is that going to affect the preservation."

State officials are keeping the exact location of the site a secret for now, and won't disclose some of the artifacts that were found.

"Just the fact that I was able to be a part of something that was 7,000 years old is just absolutely unbelievable to me," said Lopez.

It's against the law for divers, boaters and anyone else to disturb the site or take anything from the site.