Located on the southern edge of Florida’s Red Hills, the Page-Ladson archaeological dig has attracted exploration by scientists since the 1960s. In the January 2015 issue of National Geographic Magazine an article includes Page-Ladson as one of only ten sites important for studying early human settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
Recognition of the possibilities of this site was slow in coming. S. David Webb and James Dunbar were early investigators. Michael Waters of the Center for the First Americans at Texas A&M University and others have continued studying into 2014. Several remarkable finds in the 1980s and 1990s kept scholarly interest high. An artifact found in 2013 is 14,400 years old. Subsequent discoveries verify these discoveries.
In 2012 a gathering of scientists and scholars met to discuss the meaning and possibilities of the site in the First Floridian First American Conference in Monticello, Florida. Pre-Clovis artifacts were displayed and studied increasing lay and scholarly interest in the Red Hills Region.
Inspired by the First Floridian Conference, several scientists who were speakers in the conference and Monticello/Jefferson County community leaders formed a committee to create a local institute to support scholarly study of the Aucilla Basin.
The new Aucilla Research Institute (ARI) provides logistical and research support for visiting scientists. ARI founders expect the Institute’s work to gradually spark an economic resurgence in the area. With grant funding support, the institute is involved in several explorations of the Aucilla and the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
ARI participated in planning the Second First Floridians First Americans Conference held in Monticello on October 1, 2, 3, 2015. A book of scholarly papers rising from this conference is in the process of publication by the Florida Press. A third conference, First Floridians First Americans III is planned for fall of 2018. Because of the stature of the Page-Ladson site, speakers will include some of the foremost Paleolithic scholars in the World.