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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 November 2011

The Site ID Team's Thanksgiving Saga - Another Early Canoe

Turner Family Indian Canoe

Turner Family Lake
Last week we got a call from the Turners,a local Florida family.  They contacted Sarah Miller, our center's Director, with tales of an Indian canoe.  The canoe was exposed on the shore of the family’s lake, which was shrinking drastically in the current drought. The Turner family wanted to record a canoe on the Florida Master Site File (FMSF) and they were concerned about preservation as it was no longer protected by the lake water.
Turner dock now high and dry - formerly used when the lake level was much higher


Turner Family

The Turners, a large extended family, were following a tradition of spending Thanksgiving at the family camp near Putnam Hall in Central Florida.  Sarah referred them to Donna Ruhl, Florida Museum of Natural History at UF and Kevin Porter at the State Division of Historic Resources. Together they arrived at a plan to visit the camp the day before Thanksgiving to assess and record the canoe.

Donna Ruhl, Florida Museum of Natural History and Turner Family dogs
Robin and Donna assess canoe
Donna Ruhl, our state expert on Florida’s Indian canoes, met with the family on Monday at the museum and determined from photos and family descriptions, that it was very possibly a prehistoric canoe. Recording and preserving such rare finds is a priority for us all, and the Turner family has a love of Florida’s history and a commitment to doing the right thing with ancient artifacts.

Toni Wallace, FPAN Site Specialist

So Wednesday of Thanksgiving week Donna Ruhl and Toni Wallace, FPAN Site Specialist, met with  the entire wonderful Turner family and pets at the Turner camp to measure, photo and record the canoe on the FMSF. Donna measured, took a small sample for radio carbon dating and photographed the canoe. Toni recorded the info on the site form. All of the Turner family helped us, providing tools, help with recording and showing us old photos of the lake when it was much larger and deeper.  Even the family dogs got into the act. We also were given a great tour of the family compound which is composed of several houses on 60 acres, purchased by their grandfather more than 60 years ago.

Donna photographs canoe

Donna measures canoe

Donna measures Canoe

Donna takes a sample for radio carbon dating and wood analysis

Sample taken

Canoe bottom
canoe bow

It is truly heartening to encounter Floridians who are conservationists and preservationists, committed to saving Florida's history for future generations. Thank you Turner family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Turner Family and thank you for being great Florida preservationists!

Monday Morning Book Review: America's REAL First Thanksgiving

One of my favorite times to live in St. Augustine is Thanksgiving.  The weather is perfect, the city floods with visitors interested in history, and we get all up in people's faces about America's REAL Thanksgiving.  The Mayor puts out an APB with excerpts from Dr. Michael Gannon's Cross in the Sand (1965), after which he earned the title: The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving."  Robyn Gioia found inspiration in Gannon's story and translated the spirit of his words into her book, America's REAL First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565 (2007 Pineapple Press, Sarasota).  Our Center has a copy and I myself find it a useful resource--more than just for New England taunting!

Sample page 7, map from Plantin Polyglot Bible 1569-1572.

For one, Robyn has done a wonderful job of setting the stage for Spanish settlement of La Florida.  The book begins with chapters on the world of 1565, both Spain and Florida in the 1560s.  The weight of the Spanish is balanced with a chapter on the Timucua, the first Native Americans to encounter the Spanish during Ponce de Leon's 1513 visit and the first group Pedro Menendez encountered when he founded St. Augustine in 1565.  Timucuan tools and ornaments recovered from archaeological investigations are featured graphics throughout the book.  I appreciate the emphasis on Florida's environment, a major factor for both cultures.


Besides a historical narrative, the books offers different ways to digest the significance of the Timucuan and Spanish encounter--literally!  A timeline and glossary are included at the back as an aid to readers.  There are some really great references listed at the back an a long author's note citing Gannon in his own words.  The book also has a recipe for Cocido, a garbanzo bean soup that has become the hallmark of dish of St. Augustine's Thanksgiving.  The recipe includes a mix of Native and Spanish ingredients: garbanzo beans, chorizo, salt poke, savoy cabbage, leeks, onion, carrots, pepper and saffron.  And don't forget the garlic!  Robyn refers readers to other historic Spanish recipes in Maggi Smith Hall's book Flavors of St. Augustine: An Historic Cookbook.

Did I mention the book is fun?  A combination of primary and secondary sources are used to graphically support the text, as well as original artwork by the author, Robert Deaton, Theodore Morris, and David Meek to mention a few.  There are lots of facts and historically researched data, but there are also several interpretive moments that I've used in the past to bring students closer to the past:

If we close our eyes, we can imagine the smell of a roaring fire.  We can envision the Timucua savoring their first taste of onion and herbs in cocido, as well as the flavor of salted pork cooked into the stew.  The Spaniards may be experiencing their first taste of alligator or bread made with corn.  We can smell the fruity aroma of red wine in the cups and imagine the careful passing of food platters.  While listening to the sounds of the day, we can hear the rapid beat of the Spanish tongue and the now-extinct language of the Timucua.  And at dusk, we feel a gentle breeze roll in from the ocean...

And the passage goes on to connect the five-sense experience the group may have experienced in 1565 (Gioia 2007, p. 38 and illustration p. 39 by Robert Deaton).

Robyn getting hands on at lithic workshop.
On a more personal note, I have met the author a few times and am always encouraged by the activities she pursues to bring an authentic experience to readers.  She has attended our Project Archaeology and Coquina Queries workshops, as well as attended Jon Endonino's lithic workshop last January.  Being around her is a wonderful whirlwind of creativity as she finds surprising themes and frames books around those inspired insights.

My only word of caution is the use of the 16th century Le Moyne drawings.  The drawings are a great resource, but you have to use them with caution.  We now know Le Moyne re-used drawing composition and themes regardless of geographic location.  Keith Ashley in a talk last year made the comparison to clip art...women arranged in the same seated positions for South American tribes are repeated for the Florida drawings.  In addition, some features are exaggerated or lack common sense.  You might want to check out the Pelotes Preserve's website to help you navigate through some of these issues, Le Moyne Drawings.  A potentially great teachable moment awaits you by deliberating with your kids or students over the likelihood of historical accuracy for the drawings.

For more information check out the Robyn Gioia official website, or this 2007 USA Today article:
Florida teacher chips away at Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving myth.

The book can be purchased in local book store or on-line at Barnes&Noble or Amazon.  I just noticed when I looked up the ordering information that there is a teacher's manual available for the book...will check it out an report back!

Archaeology Comes to Jacksonville!

The Southeastern Archaeology Conference held its annual meeting earlier this month.  The meeting moves from place to place each year, but this year it found its way to Jacksonville!  Seizing the opportunity to share our fascinating work with the public, FPAN West Central 's Rae Harper got approval to hold a SEAC Archaeology Public Day.  Partnering with the Museum of Science and History, we enlisted the help of other SEAC members to put on quite an event!

We were so excited to have participating archaeologists from other states.

Two organizations represented North Carolina. 

The Research Laboratories of Archaeology at UNC-Chapel Hill brought a terrific pottery decorating & mending activity.

The Exploring Joara Foundation came through too, with a fun archaeobotany activity--sift through soil to find seeds, then research what plant the seeds come from and their uses.

Georgia brought a legend of Public Archaeology: The Archaeobus.  The Archaeobus is a movable festival--it carries several hands-on activities that can be set up on tables, but for a real treat step inside to see a variety of interactive displays that teach about excavation and fields within archaeology.

Since it was our home turf, it was only fitting that FPAN make a showing too:

Southwest helped kids map anchors, and displayed
an impressive array of shell tool replicas.
North Central brought an Observation & Inference activity,
as well as more replicas--including a firestarter!

West Central brought a terrific underwater archaeology
activity and our favorite--Archaeo Cart (more on that later).
Northwest brought a Munsell soil color activity and the
ever popular Build A Boat!
Northeast shared tables with the St. Augustine Archaeological
Association to provide local flavor, including a coquina display
and making pet rocks!

In addition to table activities and displays, we had three special events:

FPAN West Central's Roz Crews gave parents and kids a
hands-on introduction to the ArchaeoCart.

Our own Sarah Miller gave her talk, "Archaeology Along the St. Johns River."

Dr. Robert Austin offered a workshop on prehistoric stone tools.

Honorable mention goes to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, from the University of Memphis.  Though at the last minute they were unable to join us, their participation inspired Dr. Austin's fantastic workshop.  We appreciate their spirit of willingness--if I'm ever in the neighborhood, I fully intend to drop by!

A special thanks to everyone who helped make it such a great event! 

Mount Royal gets a makeover!

If you haven't been out to Mt. Royal in a while, new interpretive panels posted at the end of 2010 are a welcome site to visitors of the one-acre park. 

 When I first visited the site in 2006 it looked like this:

Ready for the reveal?

Now the site looks like this!

Nice job Division of Historical Resources/Bureau of Archaeological Research!  If you want to visit the Mt. Royal site you can find the preserved 1-acre park at Mount Royal Airpark off County Road 309 at the corner of Indian Mound Road and William Bartram Drive outside Welaka , Florida.  For more information about the site check out Amber's blog from the archives A Mound Fit for Royalty? or read more on the Divisions website: Projects--Mount Royal Indian Mound.

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Bonafide mystery

Like Law & Order episodes, this week's WIIW is ripped from the headlines...of an email anyway.  Over the week we got a call and follow up email from a Florida resident who found some suspicious looking objects in the side of a creek.  Are they artifacts?  If so, what are they? If not, what are they?  


Thanks to those who chimed in last week.  As William Pier guessed, it is indeed the gates of St. Augustine! Located in the Visitor Information Center the miniature view is St. George Street looking southeast through downtown.  Adam Cripps and Lianne Bennett also guessed correctly on Facebook, so we'll be sending all three of you the Great Floridians 2000 booklet.  Didn't win?  View select Great Floridians on YouTube on the Department of State's YouTube channel.

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