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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 March 2011

Hikers and Bikers, Oh My!: Touring Spruce Creek Preserve

As FAM 2011 neared its end, I anticipated our visit to Spruce Creek Preserve in New Smyrna Beach. Besides being gorgeous, the Preserve offers an excellent place to bike, walk, and photograph, while also harboring two of our favorite things: native plants and archaeology!
A kiosk describing the Preserve-- and its archaeological significance-- greets visitors.
As a resident of New Smyrna, a nature enthusiast, and a lover of archaeology, my anticipation for exploring Spruce Creek Preserve through an archaeological lens was high. Embarking down the path with the many hikers and bikers, I was eager as them to know more about the land and the people who used it. Mark Wheeler, a native plants specialist, led the group to the mound. Along the path, Wheeler spotted wild blueberry, saw palmetto, cabbage palm, beautyberry, live oak, red bay, spanish moss, muscadine grape, and coontie.
Wheeler describes Florida's native plants and how native peoples used them.
 Native Americans used beautyberry as a treatment for skin and stomach disorders as well as colic. Red bay could be utilized as to relieve pain and, occasionally, as a "love potion." Native peoples understood how to harvest beneficial qualities of plants. Learning which plants could be used for what purpose, however, was not an easy process. Coontie, for example, provides a flour-like food AFTER boiling the roots to remove the toxin cycasin. While learning about how native plants can be used for food, shelter, clothing, and other purposes, it is best not to make the experience a hands on one! Tasting and experimenting plants can be dangerous. Native peoples learned how to use plants as sources of food, clothing, and shelter over time with experimentation that surely ended in unexpected health conditions, sickness, or death.

Amber and the group pause to enjoy the scenery. 
Hikers approach the heavily vegetated mound.
The mounds, closed to the public for preservation purposes, sit just off the path overlooking Spruce Creek. Although the area's history spotted with archaeological investigation, the mound remains shrouded in mystery.
Sarah talks about the mound's history.
 A.M. Harrison's 1874 investigation led him to believe natives constructed a 40 foot high, irregularly shaped mound from "borrow pits" that are 8 to 12 feet deep. Natives removed sand in trench-like pits to build up the mound. Surprisingly, only half the dirt needed to build the mound came from these pits. Since 1874, at least three archaeological excavations were conducted at the mound with the most recent done during 2005. Unfortunately, the site has been repeatedly damaged in past years. Locals, for example, would bring visitors to dig at the mound for entertainment in the late 1900s and, in more recent years, the larger mound served as a dirt bike ramp. While archaeologists can continue to investigate the mounds, the information lost in previous, non-archaeological excavations damages interpretations.
2005 map shows the mound with a smaller mound to the
west and a canoe ramp from the creek.

The bikers learn that the mound dates to St. Johns IIc period,
characterized by the appearance of European artifacts in mounds.

Two bikers hike the trail at the end of an amazing tour.

If you are interested in learning more about the Preserve, plants, or mounds in Volusia County, visit these online resources:

Website for Spruce Creek Preserve: http://www.volusia.com/sprucecreek/

Native plants and their uses: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw152

Mounds in Volusia County: http://volusia.com/history/natives/

"What Is It???" Wednesday

Roaming the Museum of Florida History last week I saw several artifacts that make for good WIIW fodder.  These two object are not cannon balls, they are stone tools found commonly throughout and world.  These were found in Florida and are currently on display.  They probably measure three to four inches in diameter.

Roll up your sleeves and flex your archaeological muscles to show off if you know what they are, how they were used, and when they were used.

And because I'm obliged to do so, I must shout:


Timucuan Technology

 This week I traveled to Tallahassee to participate in a process that has become near and dear to my heart: DHR grant hearings.  While this post is dedicated to the project I went to defend, I'm also feeling sentimental about what the grants hearings have come to mean to me, and want to encourage more to participate.

First, the grant!

Timucuan replica hut at Ft. Caroline National Park.
"Timucuan Technology" was born from a conversation with a teacher during a Project Archaeology teacher training at Silver Springs when she turned to me and said, "You know, most of this falls into what I teach, biotechnology."  I knew archaeology was multidisciplinary, but I never considered striking out in a uniquely biotechnology arc.  Several months later we sat down in her classroom (and what a classroom it was!!) and discussed the ways in which our subjects overlap.  Those common places became the basis of modules intended to target middle school students.

Biotechnology classroom at Sanford Middle School.
If funded, our wish list consists of science modules for middle school grades based on prehistoric Timucuan technology. While some lessons will focus on geology, chemistry, and genetics, a large emphasis will be placed on biotechnology as the use and adaptation of natural materials by humans. Through this study students will explore human interaction with the environment and changes made over time by humans to meet their basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter—through biological products. Lithic and ceramic technology will be emphasized, as well as domestication of plants and animals for subsistence. Lessons will draw from the archaeological record of northeast Florida and use sites accessible to the public for potential field trip venues.

Topics may include:

• Aquaculture modifications in marsh and marine environments

• Specialization and production sites for transportation (i.e. canoes)

• Medicinal use of plants and animals

• Social application of biological products for feasting or rituals (i.e. Black Drink)

• Adaptation of living environment with emphasis on shelter

• Exploring human genome project and isotope analysis as they apply to prehistoric populations

• Forensics and paleopathology

Whelk adapted for cooking from Lake Monroe Midden.

• Applied biology and experimental archaeology (i.e. mosquito control)

• Adaptation and solutions for climate change (i.e. rising sea level)

• Evidence for biological selection in technology (i.e. sponge spicules in St. Johns pottery)

• Domestication for subsistence (i.e. corn and dogs)

• Adaptations for agricultural purposes (i.e. pesticides, herbicides, insecticides)

• Bioethics

Of course, the lessons will address the state’s existing science and social studies standards.  In addition, the modules will meet the criteria as a historic preservation education program for school children and support the Viva Florida goal to educate a significant target audience.

Pottery holds clues to selection of clays with small sponge inclusions,
or biological materials used for decoration.
So, how did we do? 
For Community and Education grants, we ranked #2 just below the statewide application for Florida Archaeology Month 2012. A true win/win for us. Thanks to Barbara Hines in the North Central FPAN office for coming to stand up and support our application, and to Leslee Keys to show solidarity for Flagler College. Thanks also to the men and women who not only listened tirelessly to the 60+ grant applicants who converged on the hearings, but actually read and read thoroughly the mountain of applications. Just take a look at the long list of applications submitted for the 2012 grant cycle.

Community Education and Survey & Planning Panel reviewed and ranked projects.
But we're not done yet....

Funding to all of the Preservation grants are in danger.  While the state Senate and House are debating the amount of money to put into the grant program as we speak, rumor among the hearings was the Governor's office may zero out all funds.  Let your Representatives, Senators, and the Governor know that funding for historic preservation is important and contributes to the economic growth of our state.  Take a look at the list of archaeology projects undertaken in the past, and try to imagine the resident or visitor experience of Florida without the contribution these project have made.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning stops by to thank panelists, applicants,
and urge us to contact elected officials in support of grants.
For more information on the Division of Historical Resources Grant program, check their website.  For more on the purpose and goals of Viva Florida visit: http://www.flheritage.com/grants/vivaFloridaOrganizationalGoals.pdf

The Ravishing Ravine

Archaeology Month is in full bloom.

Tuesday we hopped on our bikes once again to tour a favorite site in northeast Florida.  Ravine Gardens State Park is a lovely place for a ride, and is itself steeped in history. 

Park partner Alfred Bea greets FPAN staff and our first cyclist to arrive.

We arrived at the park to find perfect weather--a sunny, breezy day--and the azaleas approaching full-bloom.  It was so wonderful to see another active park, full of walkers and cyclists getting out to enjoy the landscape and fresh air. 

 Ravine Gardens amphitheatre--part of the historic landscape of the park.  It was created in the late 1930s to host the wildly popular beauty pageant during Azalea Fest.

Our tour group hopped on bikes and rode the paved path through the park, stopping at historic features of the park, lookout spots, and interpretive signs.  We discussed the history of the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Park development played a significant role in helping Palatka recover from the Great Depression and promoted tourism.

Our tour discussed people who lived along the St. Johns River, from prehistoric mound builders to the recent past.

We also spent some time talking about local archaeology--though there's not much evidence of prehistoric habitation in the park itself, ample evidence exists of people living along the St. Johns River for thousands of years.  In keeping with the Florida Archaeology Month theme, "Native Plants, Native People," we discussed prehistoric plant use and how it emerges in the archaeological record. 

Palatka's Water Works diverted some of Whitewater Creek to provide water to the entire city from 1886 until 1986.

The tour went on to explore the more recent past, including Spanish and British activity in the area as well as the Seminole and Civil Wars.  Interpretation ended by the Water Works, a plant that provided water for Palatka from 1886 to 1986.

Before our trek back up the ravine's path, we stopped at the very bottom to linger by the water.  There we saw native azaleas in bloom, cypress lilies, and took a quick trip across one of the park's suspension bridges.  We just spent a few minutes and let the park speak for itself.

If you'd like more information on Ravine Gardens State Park, visit: http://www.floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens/default.cfm

To learn about Putnam County's most famous site, visit: http://dhr.dos.state.fl.us/archaeology/projects/mountroyal/

And for more on prehistoric people who lived along the St. Johns, see:
http://dhr.dos.state.fl.us/facts/reports/contexts/index.cfm (in particular, look at the "Archaic" and "East and Central" entries)

To see all of our pictures from Ravine Gardens and other Florida Archaeology Month site visits, check out our photo gallery: http://flpublicarchaeology.org/gallery/nerc/

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Owl

This owl totem is one of a kind and comes from a site near and dear to us in northeast Florida.  You may think this is easy peasy for WIIW, but we're adding a layer of difficultly. 

First to tell us the following wins an FPAN t-shirt:

A) What it is
B) What site it is from

Hint- owl in photo is a replica at original site, original owl is not even in the same county.  Answer and winner will be posted Friday.  Contest winners can post comment to blog, Facebook, or Twitter. 



East Meets West at FOY

Did you know that the Fountain of Youth Park (FOY), a popular tourist attraction, is arguably the most significant archaeological site in St. Augustine?  Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the city's founder, landed at this very spot in 1565 with 800 soldiers and colonists.  This is also the site of his first encampment among the Timucuan Indians who occupied a village at the park under the Cacique Seloy.  A few years later, the Franciscan friars established the first Indian mission of Nombre de Dios close by.  Many important first events in our City's history happened at the Fountain of Youth Park.

We know this because Dr. Kathleen Deagan, Distinguished Research Curator of Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, has been conducting excavations here for 35 years.  She has documented a thousand years of Timucuan Indian occupation at this site, as well as the first encampment of Pedro Menendez and the initial location of the Nombre de Dios Mission.  

Dr. Deagan in the field at Fountain of Youth in 2006.

It was also at Fountain of Youth that I first learned of Dr. Deagan appreciation of Tai Chi.  When I asked her if this rumor was true, she credited the martial art with her agility needed to do archaeology.  Makes sense!  We do need to bound in and out of units, and hold our positions from feet up to our shoulders as we trowel down on delicate features.

In the spirit of Florida Archaeology Month, join us this Wednesday, March 16th starting at 10:30 am for an update on archaeology out at Fountain of Youth by City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt.  Taking a page from Dr. Deagan, the lecture will be followed by a Qi-Gong/Yoga class led by Steve Shomo from Syner-Qi at 11 am.  (Qi-Gong, as I learned from Steve, is an earlier form of Tai Chi). 

Bring your yoga mat!

City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt also contributes to archaeology at FOY.

Feature found during the 2006 field season.

View from the water screen at FOY.

Go to our web site at http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org/ and click on the northeast regional tab events page for further details or contact aweiss@flagler.edu.  You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at FPANnortheast.

Outside the (Defensive) Lines at Camp Milton

Saturday we headed to Camp Milton for our second site adventure of Florida Archaeology Month. Located in western Jacksonville, Camp Milton was the site of a fortified Confederate camp during the Civil War. Today the site is managed and preserved by Jax Parks.

Gathering at the trailhead before the tour.

Sarah and I arrived to find perfect weather and a really active site! Even before people arrived for our guided tour we saw couples and families on the trails. Camp Milton’s a great place to stretch your legs—in addition to a boardwalk with interpretation of the camp, a Rails-to-Trails path connecting Camp Milton and Baldwin runs through the park.

Our group prepares to ride!

We set up a table that one of our favorite volunteers agreed to staff for us. Jennifer was such a good sport, directing people to where we were and frequently setting our displays back up as they were blown completely over by the wind.

Sarah and one of our cyclists flank St. Jen of the Windy Table.

As the tour started we were joined by some avid cyclists, some local history buffs, and parks staff. We biked the boardwalk trail, which runs through the woods and allows a view of the earthworks that are intact. Just a small section remains, but the defensive earthworks once extended for 3 miles! We discussed the importance of Camp Milton to the Confederate effort in Florida as well as the site’s archaeology and what it told us about how the earthworks were constructed, as well as land use throughout the site.

Sarah shares the site's archaeology with the group.

My favorite stop along the path tells the story of the pine cone battle that took place at Camp Milton. Visit the park for full details, but the story involves one regiment stationed at the camp “battling” another with pine cones that they’d lit on fire. We do NOT recommend that you make this part of any historical reenactments you might take part in. I love that story because it’s something I could see my husband, brother, and (male) friends doing in a similar situation. But it also makes me think about everyday life at the camp, and during war generally. Once the camp’s protected and you’ve drilled and drilled and drilled on tactics, what do you do in the time left over? Soldiers were (and are) still people—they’re not just weapons that spring to life when duty calls. They have wants, needs, disappointments, and as I think this story shows, certainly the challenge of boredom.

Tera Meeks of Jax Parks and one of our participants listen to the tale of the flaming pine cone battle.

Next, we stopped at the bridge over McGirt’s Creek. It’s odd to think that such a narrow, shallow waterway was so important to transporting materials and protecting the site from attacks. Sarah talked about how creek crossings can leave great archaeological remains. In addition to bridges, makeshift crossing materials can leave evidence for archaeologists to interpret. One such crossing, called a “hard,” is little more than some boards laid next to one another, not bound by any other materials.

Our youngest tour participant bikes past cones representing campfires found during 2003 archaeology.

For the final stretch, we made our way over to the Rail-Trail and headed back to the park entrance. There we finished up around the campfire—sort of. The park has marked several spots around the parking lot where archaeology showed that campfires once burned. We stood near one of the conical markers and thought again about a soldier’s life and the making of a home away from home.

If you want to explore the site on your own, make sure you follow the directions!

For more on what we discussed, check out these sites:

Mandarin Museum (which has a hands-on Maple Leaf display): http://mandarinmuseum.net/

FPAN's Destination Civil War Site: http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org/civilwar/

On Civil War Medicine: http://civilwarmed.blogspot.com/

Florida in the Civil War: http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com/

First person account of life at a Confederate camp: http://www.civilwarhome.com/campfires.htm

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Prehistoric Ceramics

Recenlty we volunteered for a day on a project in southern St. Johns County.  Based on the generic sand-tempered ceramics found at Princess Place in field seasons past, we didn't expect to find much exciting in the way of prehistoric sherds (fragments of pottery).  Turns out I was wrong!  A greater variety of types were encountered, showing off the long period and diversity of early St. Johns and Flagler County residents (prehistoric and historic.) 


Exhibit A

Exhibit B (above and temper hint below)

Exhibit C- Large sherd, big checks.

Exhibit D- Tiny sherd, little lines.

Care to guess? Looking for decoration or paste type, ceramic typology name if you know it.  Best guess gets you a Florida Archaeology Month poster and a bike blinker to boot!

For more on prehistoric pottery, read Keith Ashley's article on refining ceramic typologies in northeast Florida (click here for Florida Anthropologist article), or read generally from the National Park Service's on-line information on the Woodland and Mississippian/Late Prehistoric periods in the Southeastern United States.

Blinkers on Board for Tour de Guana

Bike blinkers for our Archaeology Month bikers!
Sixteen bikers assembled at the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR today to tour the archaeological sites of the state owned park on bike.  Our leader for the day was the ever gracious Chris Newman who originated the Tour-de-Guana offering and gave freely of her time today.  I knew Chris was a stellar archaeologist with much experience in our region, but I didn't realize she helped write the National Register nomination for the site (that is now listed!) and did numerous testing within the preserve. 

Paleoethnobotanist Michele Williams from FPAN-Southeast joined us to tell us what was what.
Several park staff members and other archaeologists joined us for the day and helped give the latest interpretation of prehistoric shell rings and middens, Minorcan wells, British indigo plantation features, and maritime landing sites.  The tour took two hours and ended with byo-lunch at picnic pavilion.  There Chris repeated highlights and gave 6,000 year culture history talk for those who opted to explore sans bike.

Group gathers round Chris at the Minorcan well.
Riding at the back, I was struck by the spirit of the event.  Many of us attended Michele Williams's SAAA lecture last night (to a packed room of 115!) and continued to deliberate over the information from last night with new information from today.  At different stops along the way, people fell naturally into different groups for conversation.  By the end we had not only raised the archaeological literacy of all present (myself included!) but could recognize a community of people sharing an experience on an archaeological site. 

And we didn't have to break out the shovels to do it!

Chris tells of the earliest excavations at Sanchez Mound and NERR staff share preservation strategies.
So to those who came out with us today, thank you for truly the most enjoyable day of work I've had so far this year!  If this event was any indication, it's going to be a long, glorious month.

Surface find is identified, appreciated, then left on-site to preserve environment (and follow the law!). 

Chris Newman is my local hero of the week!  THANK YOU CHRIS!!!!
And did I mention the PLANTS?!?  See some of the stars from the Native Plants, Native People theme:

Indigo remnants from Governor Grant's successful 18th-century plantation.

Indigo seed pods (hey honeys!!)

Native sugar cane.

Air plant, native people may have used this or similar plants for skirts.

Wax myrtle, fruit and seeds used for medicinal purposes, as documented at Windover site.

For more on:

Florida native plants, Michele recommends:
50 Common Native Plants Important In Florida's Ethnobotanical History by Ginger M. Allen, Michael D. Bond, and Martin B. Main

Sanchez Mound check out Amber's Sanchez Mound blog post from last year FAM

Archaeology: It's Out There! events check the program page on our website or events calendar.

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