Friday, April 8, 2011

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!

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