Kenosha - Earliest Evidence of Man
In the search of ancient man in the Americas, no find is more important than the one made by David Wasion in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Wasion was a construction worker
whose avocation is field archaeology. In 1990, he was working for the Kenosha Public Museum when he mentioned some possibilities to staff archaeologist, Dan Joyce.
The nearby Kenosha County Historical Museum was in the process of major staff changes and was conducting a full inventory of its holdings. Wasion had heard stories of
mammoth bones being found at various sites around Kenosha going back to the 1920s, but no one knew what had happened to the bones.
Wasion poured over old newspaper clippings and documents at the Historical Museum, but the inventory showed no such mammoth bones. Finally he got a phone call
from a staff member: “We've just come across a big wooden box, a crate, in the basement, and it has some bone in it. Do you want to go take a look?"
In the dusty basement, Wasion lifted the top of the crate to see bones from known Kenosha sites: Mud Lake, Fenske, and Schaefer. But Wasion saw something he never
expected: obvious cut marks that had to be made by human hands.
Wasion immediately called Professor David Overstreet at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Overstreet told Wasion to contact Joyce, and the following day all three of
them examined the bones. These marks were clearly human but were not created by the machines that dug up the bones. These were butchering marks made by ancient
man. Radiocarbon dating would later reveal that some bones were over 13,000 years old, at least two thousand years older that the supposed Bering Straits crossing and
They had a sketch map from the Schaefer site and decided that is where they would make their first attempt at finding the rest of a mammoth. Overstreet was insistent
that Wasion should be part of the dig. He knew Wasion's skills. He had employed Wasion several times over the years at various field sites for his company, Great Lakes
Archaeology. Wasion had earned his stripes as a young man in southern Illinois, joining an amateur archaeology club that sometimes worked with Northwestern
University at various digs. After coming to Wisconsin, Wasion was often the site artist for Overstreet. He even trained others in field techniques, including college students
majoring in archaeology.
But when it came to hiring Wasion under a government grant, Wasion lacked the appropriate degree. Joyce and Wasion sat down and wrote up Wasion's resume,
including the various publications in which Wasion's drawings and work appeared. Finally he received a title acceptable for the grant: “Avocational Archaeologist
recognized by the state of Wisconsin.”
They began their work in the summer of 1992. In three days they hit bone. The discovery of the Schaefer mammoth was monumental. The bones were stacked, something
no animal would do, and stone tools were found under the pelvis, tools that could not have migrated from areas above. While other sites claim they may be older than the
Kenosha sites, all have problems with dating. Here were cut marks directly on the bone, and material from directly inside the bone could be carbon dated with no threat of
While the dig continued at Schaefer, the farmer from across the street, John Hebior, came over and stated, “Here, this is from my field,” and handed the team more
In the summer of 1994, Overstreet and Wasion unearthed the Hebior mammoth, considered to be one of the most complete wooly mammoth skeletons ever found in the
Americas. Castings were made of the bones to make replicas of the skeleton. If your local museum had placed on display a mammoth skeleton within the last ten years,
chances are it was made from the castings of the Hebior mammoth.
Often, when credit is given for major finds, the first person left out is the one who lacks the advanced degree. But one name that should not be dropped in search for
ancient Americans is David Wasion.
(David is the sandy haired fellow in the above picture.)
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