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.|
|Michael Davis peels off the first layer in Unit 1 as Amber Shelton (left) and Shaza Wester Davis screen for artifacts.|
|Amber Shelton and Caitlin Nuetzi begin the process of mapping the large clam deposit.|
|The fire pit was left in place so it could be mapped.|
|The north side wall profile at the end of excavation of Units 1 and 2.|
|Volunteers and students enter artifacts into the Field Specimen log for identification later.|
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.|
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.|