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Saint Augustine, Northeast Florida
Going public with archaeology for outreach, assistance to local governments, and service to the citizens and state of Florida. Visit our website at: http://flpublicarchaeology.org/nerc/
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Archive for August 2008

Mala Compra- Not such a bad deal.

On August first, the FPAN crew headed out to Anastasia Island to help reverse the stigma of the archaeological site known as Mala Compra- Mala Compra meaning
"bad purchase." At the peak of its era, the Mala Compra plantation was a part of the Northeast Florida plantation system. Between 1816 and 1836, the plantation produced sea island cotton, cotton that is known for its long fibers and silky feel. As it was in the 1800’s, this cotton is the most valuable and costly cotton on the market. After 20 years of sea island cotton production, Mala Compra was burned down by the Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole war.

Fast forwarding about 170 years we now find ourselves at the grand opening of the Mala Compra site. After receiving historical recognition in March, the outside exhibit lured not only the whole Northeast Region FPAN crew, but state and
local officials along with people of the archaeological community and the public at large, as well. About 115 people in all watched with excitement the cutting of the ribbon, officially welcoming the public to come and learn about the plantation that once stood on the island site.

The focus of the grand opening was the amazing open-air exhibit which featured the remains of the plantation. Located above the site, visitors are able to walk along catwalks and get a bird’s eye view of what is left. Visitors were elated to see that the features can be illuminated with the push of a button a
nd moreover some stations even have audio to describe and explain the points of interest. Another stimulating element of the Mala Compra site is the displays of artifacts found during the excavation. Sherds of pottery, pieces of pipe, and even a child’s boot spur are among the displayed items.

This site is open to the public during daylight hours and promises to bring archaeological history into anyone’s life. The FPAN crew was honored to be a part of the grand opening and hopes that a more positive light will be shed on Mala Compra’s future.

--Rosalie Cocci

Island Adventures

Last week Sarah and I traveled to the southernmost part of our region to explore a cracker house and a possible shell mound, and also so that I could meet our counterparts from the East Central region, Rachel and Tim. And although those sites turned out not to be the most exhilarating that we’ve ever seen, we had our share of adventure.

We love getting out and exploring the archaeological sites in our region, so the four of us took the opportunity to check out Hontoon Island, a state park in Deland featuring, among other attractions, a prehistoric Indian mound.

Our visit started with a brief boat ride from the parking area to the island itself, during which time we were directed to the museum and the trail that leads to some cabins and, eventually, the mound.

The museum displayed some fascinating artifacts, as well as a reconstructed profile of the layers in the shell mound. We also saw some pictures and discussion of a huge wooden owl totem, which for some reason had been moved to the Fort Caroline National Memorial several years ago.

After the museum, we spent several minutes doing extensive archaeological (ahem) study of a manatee swimming near the docks.

Just before leaving, Sarah, Tim, and I headed down the path to the mound, even though we didn’t have time to go all the way to it. Rachel wisely stayed behind. We got as far as the cabins and started back, when we stumbled upon our greatest adventure of the day: we were attacked by a giant rattlesnake!

Okay. When I say attacked, I mean we almost walked over it, and by huge, I mean about a foot-and-a-half long. All the same, we spent about ten minutes trying to figure out how to navigate our peril. None of us were sure how to get around it without immediate need of medical help, and we felt too silly to call the park rangers over a foot-long snake. Sarah tried the “throw something at it” method using the stem of a palm frond, but missed the snake by enough that he didn’t seem to notice anything new. I had just about decided to take up residence in cabin one when Tim discovered some luck at just cutting the rattler a wide berth. He started past the snake and it turned away, slithering off the path, but not before Sarah snapped some more photos.

So, now that I’ve been through it, I’ve learned a little something. If you find yourself in the path of a rattler and aren’t sure what to do, call Tim or Sarah. I’ll be in cabin one.

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