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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 April 2011

Park Pick: Canaveral National Seashore

Seminole Rest- One component of the Canaveral National Seashore
Resting alongside the Atlantic Ocean, Canaveral National Seashore offers more sights to see and places to explore than an ordinary person can handle in one day! With historical and archaeological significance spanning from prehistoric stories to those of the aerospace program, Canaveral encourages intrigue and the use of imagination. While visiting, you have endless options: swimming, tanning, fishing, boating, exploring the historic Eldora State House, visiting Turtle Mound, Seminole Rest and other mounds, traveling nature trails by foot and vehicle. 
One of the mounds at Seminole Rest

A view of the water from the mound. No wonder people chose to live here.

Beautiful historic home of the Snyder family, an early group of preservationists!

Along the coast of New Smyrna, Oak Hill, Edgewater, Titusville, and Cocoa, the National Seashore harbors fascinating remnants of history and fantastic natural views. There are over 120 recorded archaeological sites in the park. Some of these sites date between 2000-500 BCE (before the common era). I recently visited Seminole Rest, prehistoric shell mound with two historic house structures atop of it. Interpretive displays dot the loop around the site. An archaeological display rests in the heart of the walk-- the historic Instone home. Unfortunately, I visited before the museum opened. Peeking through the windows revealed panels talking about archaeology, excavation, as well as a projected dig.
Signage describing archaeology and excavations of the mound. Hurrah!
As the weekend approaches, Canaveral National Seashore makes the ideal location for relaxation, exploration, and fun education. For more information about the park and things to do while visiting, check out the NPS website.

Park Pick: Castillo de San Marcos

Today's pick is the most iconic structure in northeast Florida's landscape: the Castillo de San Marcos. Located in downtown St. Augustine, the Castillo has watched over the city for more than 300 years. 

The Castillo de San Marcos

Built between 1672-1695, the Castillo is a massive structure made from coquina, northeast Florida's native stone.  It was the tenth fort built by the Spanish to protect the city.  Though it changed hands several times, it was never taken by force. 

Within the walls of the Castillo.  Visitors can tour rooms used for lodging, munitions storage, religious services, and more

Visitors can walk around the outside, through the rooms within, and finally up to the gun deck where cannon are still fired (though the replicas are not loaded). 

A view from the Castillo's terreplein, or gun deck

Every time I tour the Castillo, I'm struck by how much I can see of the people who lived and worked there. From the outside it's easy to just think of it as an structure for protection and military conflict, made up of only stone and strategy. Inside, though, the National Park Service has terrific interpretation that allows us to see into daily life. There's historic graffiti carved into bunk-room walls. Visitors can still sit in the chapel where Catholic services were held. We can even see the rooms in which prisoners--including Osceola and other Seminoles--were held, and get a sense of how bleak it must have been to be trapped within the Castillo's walls.

Even years after my first visit, some of the Castillo's rooms give me chills--they are intriguing, inspiring, unsettling.  You can take my word for it, but you know what I'm going to say by now.  Go experience it for yourself!

For more information on the Castillo de San Marcos, visit its NPS site.

Park Pick: Fort Matanzas

To continue celebrating National Parks Week, I've chosen Fort Matanzas-- a fan favorite in my family. For us, the fort is not only hidden away in an area surrounded by a lovely nature walk, picnic tables, oaks trees begging to be climbed. In addition to all these fabulous things, visiting Fort Matanzas requires a short boat ride across the Matanzas Inlet with an all access pass to explore the "baby" fort's history.

View of Fort Matanzas on the boat ride across the inlet.

Two hundred years before the fort was constructed, the inlet witnessed a mass slaughter of Frenchmen. In August of 1565, French and Spanish forces reached Florida's northeastern coast. The French presence posed a threat to Spanish settlement. Enraged by the French action, and their Protestant beliefs, the Spanish Crown enlisted Pedro Menéndez de Aviles to remove the French from Florida. An untimely hurricane wrecked French ships, and the reinforcements, south of Daytona Beach. Menéndez proceeded to attack Fort Caroline at the same time. Weakened by the missing troops, Menéndez defeated the resistance and took the lives of most troops at Fort Caroline. Within the next few weeks, the Frenchmen who were shipwrecked during the storm began to appear as they sought Fort Caroline. Menéndez intercepted two different groups at the inlet. Here, Menéndez demanded the French renounce their Protestant faith and adopt Catholicism or accept death. True to their faith, most men denied Catholicism, electing death instead. These bloody encounters are the source for the name Matanzas, which means slaughter, Inlet.

Why my family nicknamed Fort Matanzas the "baby" fort.

The Spanish recognized the need for a defensive post along the inlet. Before the fort, a watchtower guarded St. Augustine's back entrance. Repeated attacks showed that the area required more permanent protective measures. Spanish troops began constructing the coquina fort in the fall of 1740. Completed by September 1942, Fort Matanzas withstood multiple planned attacks.

Over time, the fort fell into disrepair. No longer necessary to fortify St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas was considered to possess only historical value. Fortunately wealthy visitors successfully encouraged Congress to preserve both Fort Matanzas and the Castillo (called Fort Marion at that time) in 1916.

Yours truly, wedging herself through the hole to the upper deck of the fort-- a worthwhile experience.
I consider Fort Matanzas a gem hidden among the beautiful scenery of A1A's Scenic Byway, the ocean, and the inlet. Get out there and enjoy the sun, the fresh, salted air, the immense history of the Fort! Perhaps you, too, will see the young owl fledglings while visiting. After all, National Parks are free this week. What better time is there to visit?

The owlets currently at the park.
For more information about the fort's history and other amazing attributes, visit the NPS website.

Park Pick: Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve

A view from Fort Caroline

To celebrate National Parks Week, we decided to highlight one National Park per day from our region.  Today's park is a doozy--Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve.  Quite a name, right?  The preserve lives up to it, with three sites that explore major cultural impacts on the area.

Recreation of a Timucuan structure and dwelling area

The first of these culture groups left its mark throughout the area, but may be most evident at our first stop--Cedar Point.  The Timucuan people and their ancestors lived in northeast Florida for about 6,000 years.  They left behind shell middens (trash heaps) and even structures like shell rings and mounds.  Visitors can glimpse remnants of these shell deposits throughout the preserve.

Entrance to the Ft. Caroline National Memorial

Our next stop, chronologically speaking, is Fort Caroline National Memorial.  Fort Caroline was the first outpost established by France in their attempt to create a presence in the new world.  Built in 1564, the site saw immense hardship early on and was shortlived.  Little more than a year after Fort Caroline came into being, Pedro Menendez established St. Augustine.  The French and Spanish immediately pursued one another in battle.  Ultimately, Fort Caroline was destroyed and the French were driven away.

Replica Cannon at Fort Caroline National Memorial

Despite the persistence of local archaeologists, the original Fort Caroline has never been discovered.  Some speculate that it has been lost to the St. Johns River.  This memorial was built from historical maps and documents.

Our final stop, and my personal favorite, is at Kingsley Plantation.  Located on Fort George Island, this site was a plantation for about 150 years.  It is named for Zephaniah Kingsley, who owned the land for 25 years.  During his tenure, his slaves built the tabby slave cabins and tabby barn that can still be seen today. 

Slave cabin excavation under way during a UF field school.

Like the other sites in the preserve, Kingsley has great historical interpretation and beautiful views.  But it also has active excavation.  For each of the past four years, the University of Florida has carried out fieldwork to learn more about the enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation.  Some of their discoveries have been interpreted on signage near the cabins, but if you visit the park during the early summer you may just get to see some archaeology in action!

Each part of the preserve features beautiful wildlife and fascinating pieces of northeast Florida's past.  But don't take my word for it--go see for yourself!

For directions and to learn more about the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, visit:   http://www.nps.gov/foca/index.htm

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Maritime Edition

A couple of weeks ago some of the FPAN staff visited the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  While there, Director Chuck Meide and Conservationist Starr Cox showed us a few of the items currently being cleaned and preserved in their lab.  One in particular caught my eye:

Our item of WIIW intrigue rests atop the bucket of solution that, for the time being, is its home.

LAMP worked with Flagler Hospital's Imaging Center to get an x-ray of the iron concretion, and this image emerged:

X-ray of an iron concretion found during LAMP's maritime archaeology field school.

So...what is it, landlubbers?

UPDATE: Our last WIIW post 

Bola stones have been found in archaeological sites the world over.  Used as weapons for capturing animals by binding their lower legs, the stones would have been tied to opposite ends of a leather strip.  The user would hold the center of the strip, swinging the bolas around before releasing.

For examples of bolas found in the archaeological record, here are a few sites to check out:

Aucilla River Paleoindian Site in Florida: http://www.archaeology.org/9703/newsbriefs/aucilla.html

Winners' Circle:

Our latest winner, Ralph, won one of our WIIW entries all the way from Nottingham, England!  Chime in and you, too, could bask in the glory of FPAN swag!

We sent Ralph some Florida sunshine along with his spiffy FPAN gear.

Searching for a World-- Fernandina's Bicentennial, Part II

One of the best things about archaeology is the chance to get your hands dirty…even better when the archaeology is almost in your backyard. Chances to work on projects like the dig in Old Town Fernandina are what make Florida archaeology so unique. We get to investigate questions about those who lived right here.

The UNF Archaeology Lab provided us an opportunity to work with a donated collection of pottery sherds so we could begin to piece together – literally – the puzzle of what the village in Old Town looked like and how it fit in with the culture of Florida about 1000 years ago. We spent all semester looking forward to excavating a shell midden during the Bicentennial of Old Town. Our previous shovel tests on the site confirmed that we would find St. Johns II and Ocmulgee pottery. Both of these types point to a settlement of native people that lived around AD 900-1250 who were a part of a culture that was found around the mouth of the St. Johns River. We believe these people had a strong connection to the Mississippian Culture that spanned the eastern half of the US during the same time, despite having different political structures and subsistence practices (that is, what they ate).

Dr. Keith Ashley lays out the grid for Units 1 and 2 on the first morning of the dig. The road was cut into the midden and there is about a three foot drop.
We excavated a 1 x 4 meter unit and a 1 x 2 meter unit. The artifacts were consistent with what we expected to find: St. Johns II ceramics, Ocmulgee ceramics as well as other native pottery types like Orange. Given that the property has had human occupation for a few thousand years, we expected to find a large array of objects and weren’t disappointed. The Light Bright pegs and modern building materials (aka legos) were in abundance in the first layer.

Michael Davis peels off the first layer in Unit 1 as Amber Shelton (left) and Shaza Wester Davis screen for artifacts.
 Once we got past the majority of the modern disturbance we were able to make sense of the composition of the shell midden. Mostly comprised of oyster shell, we also found quahog clam among others and a large amount of bone. Most of the bone was small mammal and fish. However, we did find a large vertebrae and possible a few associated ribs at the bottom of the midden. Early speculation was that it was dolphin. In the north wall, we found a large deposit of clam shell, perhaps one of the first clam roasts in Old Town!

Amber Shelton and Caitlin Nuetzi begin the process of mapping the large clam deposit.
 All of this will tell us what their diet was like. Unlike the Mississippian culture to the north, early northeast Florida natives did not have large scale agriculture and corn had not made its way this far south yet. So the question of diet plays an important part in understanding how they lived. Judging from the amount of shell, they did pretty well! The marshy environment appeared to have provided the people with a wealth of food. However, compared to the maize cultures to the north, villages would have remained relatively small to avoid depleting their food sources.

The fire pit was left in place so it could be mapped.
While we were excavating, we found a possible fire pit. This contained a large amount of burned shell and bone. We took this part out separately, bagging it so we can water screen it at the UNF Archaeology Lab. We will run water through a smaller screen to find tiny bones, seeds and charcoal that will allow us to figure out what this actually was.

The north side wall profile at the end of excavation of Units 1 and 2.
After we reached the bottom of the shell midden, we leveled the floor and mapped the side walls. This will give us a way of seeing how the midden was shaped and if there were any features that stand out. We noticed that the upper portion of the midden was very disturbed and had a lot of crushed shell. As we got more towards the center of the midden, the shell was mostly whole and unbroken. This was also where we found most of the large sherds.

Volunteers and students enter artifacts into the Field Specimen log for identification later.
After each level is dug, the artifacts are entered into a log so we know where they came from when we are analyzing them back at the lab. Knowing where each piece comes from will let us reconstruct where the most pieces were found and what types. This could tell us where on the property the greatest concentration was and where they threw most of their trash. Typically they created shell middens near their settlement and so finding the midden is very important to discovering where they lived. Maybe one day we will be able to excavate a structure!
Units 1 and 2 were excavated to the end of the midden which was about 30 cm below the surface. The side walls were mapped and then we filled it back in.

Unit 3 had some interesting features in the floor. The color to the left is possible native. However, the dark square may actually have been a previous excavation or a modern structure. The dimensions were about 55 cm by 50 cm.
Unit 3 had Orange pottery, which is about 4000 years old as well as modern artifacts such as pottery that was used by Europeans after the establishment of the historic site. It also had some interesting features in the floor. The rectangular dark stain may have been a previous excavation given the dimensions or it may have been the edge of a modern structure. The color change was consistent throughout the profile.

After such a successful dig, we take the artifacts back to the lab and analyze them. Each piece is identified by its pottery series (for example, St. Johns II or Ocmulgee) and then weighed, measured and given its own catalog number. Sometimes, we get lucky and two or more pieces fit back together. After we mend them, we get a better picture of what the vessel would have looked like. It is so cool to hold a part of a pot that the last person who held it may have been making fish and oyster stew for their family!

Amber Shelton and Shaza Davis analyzing pottery sherds in the UNF Archaeology Lab.
Post and photos by: Shaza Wester Davis and Amber Shelton, University of North Florida

Trowels in the Ground-- Fernandina's Bicentennial, Part I

On April 2nd, Fernandina Beach celebrated two historic events that occured two hundred years ago. The Old Town Bicentennial tipped its hat to the naming of the area by Spanish Governor Enrique White on January 1, 1811 and the platting of the town on May 11, 1811 under Governor José Estrada's instruction. Amidst the face painting fun, musical and dance perfermances, booths, good, games, cemetery and nature tours rested ARCHAEOLOGY! 
FPAN and UNF's celebration excavation.
 FPAN Northeast and the University of North Florida Anthropology program joined together to excavate a privately owned lot in Fernandina during the celebration. Keith Ashley of UNF, along with his undergraduate students, began working at the site a few weeks before April 2nd. The joint effort provided a wonderful opportunity for people to witness a live excavation, ask questions, and participate by screening for artifacts. At the same time, Amber and I served as the interface between the excavation and the public. Neither of us could imagine a more ideal situation!

Amber explains the excavation

as other watch UNF students dig.

As with any career, archaeologists know and develop their own vocabulary and lingo. Unfortunately, the public does not always know what archaeologists are talking about. Amber and I were excited because we could serve as the "interpreters" of the excavation by describing the purpose of the dig, the process, artifacts, and the significance of the site in a way non-archaeologists could understand.

 One may wonder, what was the site all about?

The UNF students excavated a prehistoric midden-- basically, a trash heap-- dating to the St. Johns II period (approximately 1,000 years ago). Artifacts found ranged from an intact 1902 quarter to Orange Period ceramic pieces that date to 4,000 years ago. Most artifacts, however, were related to the St. Johns II period-- shell and animal bone from the midden, along with ceramic fragments. Also, they found a feature! The dark, ashy soil led the group to believe the found a cooking pit in the midden area. All of the new information will help UNF students determine the extent of the St. Johns II village.

Students work in the unit closer to all the midden trash.
Keith Ashley excavates around the cooking pit feature. 
UNF and Flagler College students start off screenng.

Archaeologists-to-be have a hand at screening for artifacts.

One volunteer already has the archaeologist screening stance!

Site supervisor, Ms. Kitty, helps Dr. Buzz Thunen with paperwork.

Students map the unit, talk to the public, and screen.
We wrap up the day by backfilling the units.


By the end of the day, more than 500 people saw a live excavation and learned about archaeology and the site. Fernandina's Bicentennial, I hope, is as memorable to others as it will be to me. Keep an eye out for a blog update from two of the UNF students who excavated in Fernandina!

St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA) Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

Happy Birthday SAAA
SAAA members really know how to party!  The 25th anniversary of the founding of that venerable St. Augustine institution provided the raison d'etre for a rousing good time.  On Saturday afternoon, March 26th, almost 100 current and early members of SAAA gathered at the St Augustine Lighthouse and Museum for a party and old fashioned pig roast.

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum

The SAAA was founded by a small group of professional and avocational archaeologist in 1985 to provide the City and County with archaeology volunteers.  At that time, the City was considering an archaeological ordinance to preserve its archaeological heritage from rapid development.

The early years remembered

The 25th celebration guests arrived at the Lighthouse around 4:00pm.  After an initial glass of wine or beer, the party began in earnest in the Keepers House.  Chris Newman chaired a panel of founding members who reminisced about the early days of the SAAA.  Old T-shirts were worn and displayed; old scrap books were perused and tales were told of those early years when parties (proms) happened regularly and trowel carrying/kazoo playing members performed precision marches in the Easter parade.  Dr. Kathleen Deagan presented a slide show with old photos documenting the early fun filled days.  Mary Willis, one of the first SAAA presidents, remembered with fondness, the early volunteers.  Bruce Piatek, our first City archaeologist, spoke of the City Ordinance and early digs. Valerie Bell, one of the original founders, remembered the impetus behind creating an archeological association composed of professional and avocational members.  Pat Griffin spoke of the early professionals such as her husband, John Griffin, who worked at the Oldest House when the organization was founded.  Other members in the audience offered their memories and when the program was over, kazoos were passed out and Charles Tingley led the group in a kazoo march downstairs to the dinner.

Pig on a spit!

Cortney Boran carves the pig

Sam Turner, pig roaster extraordinaire! 
 The dinner was an old fashioned pig roast with all the fixins catered by one of our oldest restaurants, Aunt Kate's on the river.  The wild boar was prepared by LAMP archaeologists Sam Turner and Chuck Meade, and County Archaeologist Robin Moore and his assistant Cortney Boren.  The boar was cooked for 10 hours on a spit over charcoal.  Aunt Kates provided chicken purleu, cheese grits, beans and rice, greens, cole slaw and datel pepper corn bread.    A keg of beer and wine provided ample libations.  The meal ended with a large cake decorated with the SAAA logo and an excavation unit.  The pieces were "excavated" with a trowel.

Lala Smith and Sam Turner, Jr. excavate the cake
People lingered into the night, enjoying old company, reminisicing about the good times and finishing the beer and wine.  Thanks goes to the St. Augustine Lighthouse for providing the perfect venue, the wild boar chefs for their hours of preparation, Aunt Kates for the great fixins and the Program participants for all the memories.  And a good time was had by all!

Phil enjoys a beer!

SAAA looks forward to the next 25 years assisting the City and County to save its archaeological heritage and we will surely have a rousing good time in the process.

The SAAA Board aka party planners

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