Learn About Florida's First People with Paleontologist David Letasi

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Learn About Florida's First People with Paleontologist David Letasi

Fri, 03/26/2021 - 09:53
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Everyone is familiar with the film Jurassic Park and those of us over a certain age remember The Flintstones, the first cartoon to become a prime time series. Hernando County even has its own dinosaurs albeit ones made from cement. 

On Wednesday, April 1, at 6:30 pm you will have the opportunity to meet a genuine dinosaur hunter – local paleontologist, David Letasi. This seasoned scientist will be giving a free lecture at the Brooksville City Hall – 201 Howell Avenue. The program is sponsored by the Historic Hernando Preservation Society. 

Letasi has been interested in fossils and pre-historic times since he was eight years old and thus has had sixty-seven years’ experience searching for fossils all over North America and Asia. By age twelve, he had discovered three archeological sites that are recorded in the Michigan State Archeological Site Survey. In addition to dinosaurs, Letasi has studied prehistoric man, ancient world history, and archeology.  

After serving in the Navy, he decided to travel around the United State to collect specimens from well-known fossil sites in Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Florida, as well as Canada and several countries in Asia. After he married his wife, Suzanne, in 1972 she began to travel with him. In 1976 they moved to Florida where it was possible to collect saber-tooth cat fossils, his main field of interest, all year round. 

During a five-year period, he moved back to Michigan, his home state, and became active with the Michigan Archeological Society. Letasi even lectured at the University of Michigan for the Eastern Federation of American Archeologists in 1979 on an archeological site he had excavated.

After returning to Florida, Letasi worked for Great Explorations Museum in St Petersburg and assumed a number of duties, including designing and curating exhibits and later worked at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa. While at MOSI, he led cave explorations for children and adults to the Dames Cave in the Withlacoochee State Forest, as well as fossil-collecting trips to mining sites in Polk County. Since retiring from MOSI in 2007, he has been active in projects with the Historic Hernando Preservation Society. 

Letasi is even on YouTube and you can find his videos by searching "David P. Letasi Archeologist" or "David P. Letasi Paleontologist." You can watch a recent lecture on his work with the dinosaur Spinosaurus under the Withlacoochee Rockhound Society of Brooksville and view his lecture for the Seminole Historical Museum and Society. Prior to the Covid Pandemic, Letasi also gave presentations at schools.  

His lengthy résumé includes being the lead archaeological project coordinator with the Historic Hernando County Preservation Society, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the Gulf Archaeology Research Institute of Gainesville. Some interesting projects he’s worked on include searching for the eighteenth-century capital of the Seminole Nation and the exploration of the Bayport Civil War shipwreck site.   

Next Wednesday’s presentation will take the audience back to the Ice Age in pursuit of Florida’s Paleo Hunters to learn about Florida’s first people. Letasi will discuss how these early Floridians survived climate change and giant predators, as well as various theories regarding their origin. 

Jon Yeager, who has served as Secretary of the Historic Hernando Preservation Society since its inception in 2008, helped organize this lecture. David Letasi was its founding President and has served on its board throughout the years.  

“It is because of Dave's guidance and wisdom that the preservation society has continued to grow over the years,”  Yeager states. 

The purpose of the all-volunteer organization is exactly what the name implies – to preserve and promote the interesting and varied history of our community, which goes back several hundred years to the Seminole Indian culture, the early pioneers, and even into the twentieth century. The society erects historical markers and holds lectures and presentations on various subjects such as archaeology, architecture, culture, and history. 

The organization welcomes anyone who wants to become a member. For more information go to www.hernandopast.org. You can also find out about upcoming events and meetings on their Facebook page.

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