Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Installation depicting excavation of the canoes at Newnans Lake.

What does an archaeologist do on her day off?  Last week was spring break in St. Johns county, so Ellie and I packed up in the car each day and headed out to museums and sites to enhance our stay-cation.  At the top of my list was a visit to the new prehistoric canoes exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History. (Ellie also ranked the museum high, not for the canoes but for the butterfly garden).

You all must RUN, not walk to see this exhibit.  Motor, not paddle!

The exhibit space was divided into two sections.  On the left hand side, displays featured canoe and water culture around the world.  This was impressive on its own, but I stood agog in the second section dedicated completely to the 101 canoes recovered by archaeologists at Newnans Lake.

WOW.  Take a look for yourself:

Entrance to the exhibit.
Actual canoe and paddles recovered by archaeologists on display.

Exhibit panels featured comprehensive historical resources featuring
canoes including drawings, descriptions, maps, and artifacts.  I'd seen many
before but amazing compilation with images properly cited.

I OBSESSED over this interactive panel.  Doors opened to reveal artifacts
associated with canoe manufacture, navigation, or impact on daily life.
Panel with open doors.  Interpretation includes not just object,
but what site the artifact came from.  I WANT ONE!!!
I will limit myself to posting just one, but they were all great.

At this station Ellie got to play the role of a paleoethnobotanist
and identify wood from one of the Lake Newnans canoe.
Peer into the microscope!
After thorough examination, Ellie determines the sample is White Pine.
"A hundred and 1 canoes found at Newnans Lake?  Get Ryan on the phone!" 
State Archaeologist Ryan Wheeler talks to visitors about the importance
of reporting sites and the archaeological process.
Field forms (printed on it!) show the public what and how information is collected.

At another hands-on station Ellie drew the planview of a canoe.  And stars. 
Admittedly, she drew lots and lots of stars on her map.

SPECIAL "What Is It?" Wednesday!!!  (You didn't think I'd forget?)  What are these tiny canoes?

For videos and more information check the official exhibit website.  The museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 and Sunday noon to 5.  Admission is FREE but parking was $4 cash on a weekday.

Thanks to Ellie, a true sport for humoring her mother for precious hours on Spring Break.

Text and Photo credit: Sarah Miller, Florida Public Archaeology Network

2 Responses so far.

  1. Congrats about the report!
    Do you have more photos about the panel with open doors?
    I´m writing from Brasil, becouse I´m on a study about dugouts.
    Peter Santos Németh

  2. Hi Peter- I took quite a few photos, you can contact me at for more. Or if your interested in the display and fabrication, you may want to contact the Florida Museum of Natural History. A curator there ( might be able to help you too.

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