Friday, December 3, 2010

Life can be exciting for a Florida Archaeology Monitor.  Last month I wrote about how the State of Florida will train interested citizens to help with the identification and preservation of Florida'a archaeology resources.  A three day course will prepare you to assist the state with this important job.  I got my certification this year and have been getting calls to come and help identify sites.  I work for FPAN - Northeast Region at Flagler College as a Site Specialist.  Last month I visited three potential sites in response to people calling FPAN with site questions.

Indian Shell Mound

Roads as Sites
Did you know that many of Florida's early roads were constructed from old Indian shell mounds?  Crushed oyster and clam shells make an excellent road bed material.  Indian shell mounds and shell rings once lined the east and west coasts of Florida as well as along many of Florida's major rivers like the St. Johns River.  Most of these important sites were destroyed as roads for wagons and later automobiles were extended into the Florida peninsula.   And, as a consequence, artifacts from the shell mounds, end up eroding out of the edges of many of our roads, especially roads constructed in the early years of Florida's European history.   When people walk along old roads and find these Indian artifacts, they immediately think they are on an Indian site. 

I was invited to Clay County to see some artifacts from an old road near the St. Johns River.  This road was originally an old shell road going to an early plantation. The artifacts were eroding from the road bed and appeared to be out of their original context.  They were probably moved as road fill from a site that was not too far from the road.   Many Indian sites existed along the St. Johns River.   So I did not prepare a Florida Master Site File (FMSF) form for the road because the artifacts came from another place, but noted that the road itself is definately an interesting part of Florida's early history.  The road is still in use serving a modern subdivision but it was originally built to serve wagons and carriages on their way to an early British St. Johns River planatation.

A house built in the mission style

A Lost Mission
Did you know that there were about 140 missions built by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in Florida in the late16th, 17th and early 18th centuries.   Unlike California missions some of which are still standing, all of Florida's mission buildings have long since mouldered away.  But there is still evidence under the ground for many of these early Indian missions.  Several Franciscan mission sites have been identified around the City of St. Augustine by our City Archaeologist, Carl Halbirt.  But many in outlying areas of the state are still lost.  FPAN-NE was invited by a private citizen to see some artifacts from the mission period found along the St. Johns River in St. Johns County.  I visited the residence to view the place where the artifacts were found.  It so happened that the property was right next to a known mission site which had already been recorded on the Florida Master Site File.  The value of this visit is that we now think that the mission extended farther along the river than originally recorded.  More archaeological testing around the mission site will be undertaken by our St. Johns County Archaeologist, Robin Moore.

Prehistoric pottery sherd.

A Historic Home
Frequently history and archaeology overlap.  FPAN-NE was called by the owner of a home in Volusia County already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The owner had uncovered some Indian artifacts on the property in the course of doing some tree removal and landscaping.  The house, one of the oldest in Volusia County, was on a site that had obviously been occupied for a long time before Europeans entered the County.   Indian pottery from the St. Johns I period as well as a number of lithic objects were found around the old house.   I will prepare a Florida Master Site File form to list the property as an archaeology site as well as the historic home site already listed on the National Register.

All in a days work for a Florida Archaeology Monitor.  If you would like to come out with me on some of my future site visits, just give me a call or an e-mail with your contact info.   I would love company!

Toni Wallace,

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