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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 October 2010

Front Door Fieldtrips: Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

I found myself all alone in the office on a Friday, so I decided to treat myself to a little adventure. There are lots of great places in St. Augustine for my Front Door Fieldtrips, but I have one abiding favorite: wherever the City’s Archaeology Division is working. It doesn’t seem to matter where he is, City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt is always digging up something new about the oldest city.

Right now the city is finishing up about a month’s work at the Fountain of Youth, so I hopped on my FPAN bike and pedaled over there. When I arrived, I found a half-dozen volunteers from the St. Augustine Archaeological Association hard at work. They were digging, screening, and recording site information. Lucky for me, they weren’t too busy to show me some pretty interesting discoveries.

Strolling past the five units they have open, I got a clear sense of the long history of human occupation in the area. It’s no surprise these days that waterfront property is a hot commodity, but I found myself face-to-face with evidence of what may be a universal truth throughout history: Floridians love bayfront property. Okay, so technically some of them were Floridians before it was even Florida, but I still think it holds true. In one large unit, I could see the small postholes that Carl and crew had uncovered in weeks prior. They were small, in two parallel lines, and hundreds of years old. According to Halbirt, they were prehistoric features that may have made up the structure of a rack for drying animals or their skins.

These two units show the postholes to a structure from
the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

Then we came to the “new” features. In two adjacent units, the crew had found a series of linear postholes from a structure related to Mission Nombre de Dios (1587-1728). Even better, they found where the row of posts turned 90 degrees—so they could trace the shape and direction of the building. Corners are a big deal when archaeologists are trying to make sense of features like these. They can help us understand the layout of a building, start to indicate its size, and even help us figure out basic questions like which side was the inside of a structure and which side was outside.

Finally, I checked out one of the two active units. Janet was plugging away, cleaning up a linear feature made of clam and oyster shell. It was a particularly odd discovery for a couple of reasons: first, it had a posthole right in the middle. Second, the shell lined up perfectly with one of the rows of postholes they had exposed before. It was completely different, yet entirely the same. I needed Carl to make sense of it, and of course he complied.

Janet cleans the shell feature.  A posthole once stood in the area just above Janet's hand, where the shell stops.
He explained that the packed shell was likely part of a prehistoric midden. When the people who built this structure dug a posthole into the midden, they either left some shell in place or put it back around the post. The packed shell then became a foundation for the wall that was built over it.

It may not seem like much, but in multi-component sites like this, where different people have used the same land over time, finds like this are pretty cool. They show people adapting to their environment and changing the landscape. They also show how the people who lived there later were affected by earlier occupation. At this site, we see prehistoric Timucuans using estuarine resources for food and designating this space as a discard area. The mission Indians who came later had to deal with thick, brittle, dense shell while digging postholes. They transformed the midden into wall foundation just by leaving it in place.

One of the neatest things about this multi-component site is how the people who own it now hope to use it in the future. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park hopes to protect the units but leave them open and visible. That way visitors can see some of what archaeology has taught us about this area, where Pedro Menendez first encountered the Timucuan village of Seloy and set up his encampment.

For more information, check out these links:

St. Augustine’s Archaeology Program: http://www.digstaug.org/

Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park: http://www.fountainofyouthflorida.com/
St. Augustine Archaeology Association: http://saaa.shutterfly.com/

Wake Up Call: SEAC Public Archaeology Interest Group Forum

For those of you attending the Southeast Archaeology Conference in Lexington this week, don't miss the Public Archaeology Interest Group Forum on Thursday morning.  You can find us in the Crimson Clover Room from 8 to noon.

Eight sounding a little early?  I'm offering free wake up calls to get you pumped up and ready!  Send  email with the subject WAKE UP CALL and I'll request your phone number and what time you'd like me to ring.  You can wake up to "Public Archaeology...get up and get out there!!!"  Or something more subtle, like "Good Morning Merry Sunshine."

See you there!

It's raining jobs!

Raining is overstating it, but contrary to typical prospects in archaeology--especially public archaeology--it feels like Florida's cup overfloweth this fall.  Three job postings are currently open: museum manager at FPAN, Assistant Professor position at our host institution Flagler College, and Director of Education with partner the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  All three are looking for qualified public archaeologists to fill the positions.  Take a look and spread the word! 

Destination Archaeology Resource Center Manager

The University of West Florida, Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) is taking applications for the position of Coordinator (Resource Center Manager). This position will manage the Destination Archaeology Resource Center located at the FPAN Coordinating Center in Pensacola. For additional information, and to apply for this position, go to https://jobs.uwf.edu/applicants/jsp/shared/Welcome_css.jsp. All applications must be submitted on-line.

Review of applications will begin at 5:00 pm on November 4, 2010.

See full UWF listing

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Flagler College invites applications for a full-time faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor of Anthropology to begin August 2011. Candidates must demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to teaching and mentoring of undergraduates, an ability to teach a range of anthropology courses, and creativity in linking academia with field work. The successful candidate will be expected to make significant contributions to the growth and development of the current anthropology minor and to support the development of a public history program with one or more courses focusing on public archeology.

Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. in Anthropology, demonstrated excellence in teaching, and an active scholarly agenda. Preference will be given to candidates with a strong background in archeology, an area expertise in the Southeastern United States, and a secondary interest in cultural anthropology. The ideal candidate will have an interest in and ability to develop field based archeological research in Northeast Florida. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Flagler College is a private independent college with an enrollment of 2,500. The College is located in historic St. Augustine, Florida, 35 miles south of Jacksonville and 55 miles north of Daytona Beach. Applicants should send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, a brief statement of teaching philosophy and research goals, evidence of teaching effectiveness, a brief description of proposed courses, unofficial copies of transcripts, three letters of recommendation with contact information, and other supplementary materials to Dr. Alan Woolfolk, Dean of Academic Affairs, Flagler College, 74 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084. Review of completed applications will begin December 1 and continue until the position is filled. No electronic submissions, please.

For more information about Flagler College visit their website.

Director of Education, St. Augustine Lighthouse
The Director of Education is responsible for the overall successful development and implementation of the historic site interpretation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse (SALH) and Lighthouse Archeology Maritime Program (LAMP) sites. All programs and activities will be based on historic research and the museum’s mission statement. Programming, planning and all activities will be in concert with guidelines set in tandem with the Executive Director under established board of trustees’ policies. Responsible for short and long range planning for educational programs; facilitation and supervision of the site’s interpretive team; determination of site-specific interpretive goals; interpretive training and visitor services training; marketing plan for specific educational programs; communication with site supervisors including other Departmental Managers, the Volunteer Coordinator, and any docent, volunteer, staff member or trustee volunteer as needed. $35,000.00 – $42,000.00 (Yearly Salary)

Job Requirements: MA in public history, early childhood education, historic preservation, museum studies, education, history or related field. BA in appropriate field and three (03) years relevant experience may be substituted for advanced degree. Must be an experienced museum education professional. Public archaeology and grant writing experience preferred. Experience with STEM highly desirable.

Please see original post at http://www.aam-us.org/aviso/index.cfm for more information.

We look forward to partnering with all the new archaeologists these opporuntities bring in!

Dig It!: Tolomato Cemetery

One of my favorite places to visit in St. Augustine is a cemetery on Cordova Street, usually closed off to the public, surrounded by a barbed wire fence, containing a lovely white mortuary chapel and fascinating burials. I like the Tolomato Cemetery as much for the historical intrigue as for its appearance. When I walk by, I cannot help but admire how beautiful the land is and how the property now uniquely lies in the downtown historic and residential area of St. Augustine. Often explored on ghost tours, Tolomato Cemetery offers a visitor much more than a scary story.

Though the cemetery has been closed to burials since 1892, the cemetery's history begins well before the 19th century. Guale Indians who relocated from Georgia originally inhabited the site during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763). A larger area functioned as a Franciscan mission with a cemetery included. Throughout the years, burials stopped and resumed due to changes in governing powers. Today, more than 1,000 marked and unmarked burials are present in the cemetery.

 A new organization, the Tolomato Cemetery Preservation Association (TCPA), formulated by Matthew Kear in his master's thesis, emerged to maintain the property, to protect and preserve the cemetery and open the gates to visitors.  When I attended my first meeting, the TCPA permitted us to explore the fascinating cemetery.
 I was ecstatic to view the chapel up close AND be able to go inside. Wandering around the grounds, I could finally read the headstones and admire the beauty of the old wording, the intricacies and decoration of each memorial to the past. I could speculate about these people and attempt to imagine who they were and what there lives were like. My visit encouraged me to imagine while giving me a concrete concept of the cemetery. It was certainly worth visiting.
Now I have been where a mission once stood. I've paid homage to St. Augustine's past. I've seen the commemorations to Bishop Augustin Verot, first Catholic Bishop of St. Augustine, Father Miguel O’Reilly, the first pastor of the Cathedral, General Biassou, hero of Haitian independence, among many others.
The Tolomato Cemetery attests to St. Augustine's unique, long, and wonderful history.

You can learn more about the Tolomato Cemetery and the TCPA by visiting http://www.tolomatocemetery.com/.
If you'd like to learn more about the Menorcan culture, visit http://menorcansociety.net/.

Archaeology Along the St. Johns River

Sarah's photo from the field: archaeology on the St. Johns.
The origin myth of the northeast regional center is that our boundary was created in concert with the St. Johns River. The steering committee, in their wisdom, decided that cultural cohesion to my region begins and ends with this geographic feature. Were they right?

For five years now I have thought and pondered the importance of the river, and only this year can I answer without reservation—yes.

Visitors to Florida may erroneously think that it is the sea that is the most influential natural wonder that has affected human habitations. However, it is the river that has done the most to been the basic needs of the human inhabitants over time, providing food, water, and shelter along the shore. 

Sites along the St. Johns River (source: Florida Master Site File 2010)

According to the Florida Master Site File, over 1,500 archaeological sites have been identified along the 310 mile river, and that doesn’t account for unreported sites.  Site types include Archaic prehistoric mounds, missions, forts, shipwrecks, and plantations. In fact, the only site type absent is Paleolithic sites not often found in northeast Florida.

Owl totem replica at Hontoon Island, SP (original on display at Ft. Caroline!)

Archaeological interest in the river spans over a century. While most archies are more familiar with C. B. Moore, he wasn’t the first here to excavate. Jeffries Wyman is credited as the first archaeologist along the river with explorations dating back to the 1860s. In 1868 he published “On the Fresh-Water Shell-Heaps of the St. Johns River, East Florida” in The American Naturalist. C.B. Moore was next to make Florida famous with his intensive study from 1892 to 1918. Dr. Jerry Milanich wrote a succinct review of his work and impact on Florida sites for the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History (read more).

The copper made famous by C. B. Moore, recovered from Mt. Royal.

Archaeologists excavate every season along the banks. Dr. Ken Sassman from University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson, also UF, run field schools every summer. While Dr. Sassman focuses on prehistoric middens up river, Dr. Davidsons work has focus mostly on historic plantations, namely Kingsley Plantation. Field schools such as these ensure that archaeology along the St. Johns is fostered and updated annually.

Behold the glamor of doing research in the river (me and the boys from LAMP).

Besides academic research, archaeological work is done in advancement of earth disturbing activities. When new utility lines, marinas, or bridges are proposed, the banks and bottom lands are evaluated for their impacts to archaeological sites. This could include consulting topographic and areal maps at the very least, or side-scan sonar to shovel probe surveys. One thing is for certain: new sites are discovered and added to the site files every year.

Menendez High School students replicating Maple Leaf site plan on tarp.

Arguably the most significant find is the Maple Leaf. The Maple Leaf is a steam ship that hit a minefield in the river during the Civil War. The ship sank but remained well preserved by the tannic waters around. Jacksonville resident and history enthusiast Keith Holland rediscovered in the 1980s and later ECU’s focused several field schools on documenting the site. Collections from the Maple Leaf can be seen on shore at the Mandarin Museum at Walter B. Jones Historical Park or at the Museum of Science and History in downtown Jacksonville.  Mapleleafshipwreck.com makes reading up on the wreck easy by maintining a list of articles to read on line.

Wooden chain found on the Maple Leaf (curated at DHR in Tallahassee).

Recently the St. Johns River Summit met in Jacksonville to coordinate future efforts to save and promote the river. Besides archaeology, the river is in danger from salinization and disputes over water rights. The coordinated effort celebrated this unique river in Florida and continued dialog between the many interest groups that have a stake in the river.

Loading up for underwater project at Crescent Lake, part of SJR.

One of the more interesting sessions was on the ecological value of the river as a destination for residents and visitors. This month Visit Florida launched their new trails website. Consider the river next time you want to get out and active. Ride your bike along the River Walk in Jax, or visit up river to the Palatka area to put in a boat and explore by kayak. Be aware that 15,000 years of human habitation surround you on all sides and link you, no matter where you are, into the greater scale of northeast Florida.

Herb Hiller makes the case for ecotourism in Florida at St. Johns River Summit.
Governor Martinez addresses St. Johns River partners during summit lunch.
Check our website for upcoming "Archaeology Along the St. Johns River" lecture near you!

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