About Me

My Photo
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/
Powered by Blogger.

Blog Archive

Archive for August 2012

Making Peace with Dinosaurs: 5 Ways Archaeologists and Paleontologists Are Alike

A few years ago my husband gave me this button from Cafe Press, a perfect inside joke from one archy to another.  Time after time I have to gently correct the misconception that archaeologists dig dinosaurs--that's paleontologists.  Yes, we use the same methods.  Yes, we dress the same.  Yes, we like the same beverages.  But there the similarities stop.  Archaeologists are only interested in the human past: things made or used by people.  Paleontologists study dinosaurs and animals from the past.

Or so I thought.  Turns out we both sciences have a lot more in common when addressing myths and misconceptions about our respective scientific fields.  At a recent event at MOSH in Jacksonville (see previous post 1 and 2) I had a chance to sit down with an honest to goodness paleontologist, UNF professor Barry Albright, and find out for myself the challenges of public paleontology.  I originally wanted to write this post up as an interview but one year later I don't want to misquote Barry (any mistakes are all mine), so instead I offer up:

Top 5 Ways Archaeologists and Paleontologists Are Alike 

1.  Few people seem to understand what we actually study.

Ask any 4th grade class what we study and you'll get dinosaurs, or artifacts, or things of the past.  The exact definition of what we do is study people of the past, period.  While archaeologists have to overcome the misconception that we dig dinosaurs, paleontologists have to overcome the myth that they all dig up dinosaurs.  Little did I appreciate until talking to Barry that reptiles are just a small part of the large field of paleontology.  Some study vertebrates, like fish and mammals.  Some study invertebrates like worms or molluscs. And not just mammals, but plants and pollen too.  Paleontologists try to pull together all these different data sets to understand the interaction and adaptation of the environment over time.

2.  Both fields are Fantastic, meaning conceived with unrestricted imagination.

Simple truth, people often misidentify objects and when they care so passionately it is difficult to tell them otherwise.  For example, a few years ago at an FPAN outreach event similar to this one someone brought in a skull from a dolphin thinking it was the head of a pterodactyl.  Apparently she could not be told otherwise, even though they showed her pictures to compare the two skulls.  Barry shared similar stories and summed up the issue from a paleontologist's perspective: bones that aren't bones.  At an event like our artifact day Barry met people who brought in rocks, thinking they were bones or dinosaur eggs.  Always dinosaur eggs!  And of course they're just rocks.   Or today someone brought in what they thought was a dinosaur skull and teeth but are rocks.  Sometimes they bring in meteorites thinking they are dinosaur bones.  They're not bones, but they're still really cool! 

3.  Archaeology and paleontology are done all over the world.  Even Florida.

I think another challenge for archaeologists is many people think that archaeology only takes place in the Old World, that because I'm an archaeologist I must study ancient Greece or Egypt.  Archaeology takes place right here in Florida, or anywhere people have lived at any time on earth.  Paleontologists maybe don't have this issue to the same degree, but people expressed surprise when finding out that Barry worked in Utah as well as Mongolia and Antarctica.  Arguably more so than archaeology, paleontology takes place all over the world.

4.  Too often, our data is loved to death.

The illegal collection and trade of archaeological remains a major ethical issue in archaeology, and the same goes for paleontology.  One problem that comes up at public events such as our Artifact ID day is people want to put a price on artifacts.  For both sciences objects are only worth information.  Barry said paleontologists face a similar challenge in dealing with the illegal trade of vertebrates and commercial collections.  I was not aware of the federal Paleontological Resources Protection Act but have since looked it up and found it reads very much like the Archaeological Resource Protection Act.  Permits are required and work conducted by professional paleontologists before federal undertakings.  It is different in that it appears to allow casual collecting of fossils.  For those that abuse the "casual" nature of collection there are stiff criminal and civil penalties.

As an aside, if you find an artifact in Florida and want to report a site, call your local FPAN office and we'll help steer you in the right direction.  What's really cool is if you find a fossil, the Florida Natural History Museum offers a free fossil identification service.  Send them a picture and they'll try and help you out.

5.  We both must share our findings with the public.

In many ways archaeologists could learn a lot from the paleontologist.  Did you know the 3rd annual National Fossil Day sponsored by the National Park Service is in October and has been been a part of Earth Science Week since 1998?  The first National Archaeology Day was sponsored by the AIA (and supported by many professional organizations) just last year and has not yet been officially recognized by Congress.

 Check out the National Fossil Day website.  Holy buckets people, they have a National Fossil Day song, A SONG!!!  Archies, we've got to get on it!  As best I can tell there is no specialization for public paleontologist, but they do have the same ethical responsibility to share their findings with the public and in the national day format they are kicking our trowel toting patooties! 

After the MOSH event where I met Barry I took my family to the Jacksonville Zoo to celebrate my own dinosaur peace accord.  Professionally I still want to grab everyone who walks by and yell, "People!  I study PEOPLE!"  But as a member of the public I can proudly say out loud that dinosaurs are pretty cool too and definitely worth anyone's interest.  We have a lot more in common than I previously thought, and frankly lots we can borrow and learn from an outreach point of view.

 For Fun
Misconception alert: these pictures depict an archaeologist enjoying a paleontological exhibit!

Making peace with the dinosaurs.

Robotic T-Rex nest-- little cuties!

Hilarious- picture shows dinosaur dung with bits of keeper boots and equipment:)


Above and below:  My own daughter, on a dinosaur dig?!?

And we wonder why we're so dino-confused.

The dinos having the last laugh.

Videos- I tried to post some of the ones I took that day but Blogger had a fit, so linking to some taken by others at the DinoAlive exhibit last year.  The sounds were the best part, to hear them huffing and purring.  Misconception alert: reporter mentions "archaeological dig," but we all know better!

Special thanks to Barry for putting up with all my questions and to MOSH for organizing event.
Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff Dinosaur pin and other amazing archaeology wear available at Cafe Press.  DinoAlive is long gone from the Jacksonville Zoo, but if you hurry you can still check out the Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibit at FLMNH through September 3rd.

Site ID Team: Lake Front Find


FPAN - NE's Site ID team has had a busy year checking out old cemeteries, plantation sites, mounds, prehistoric canoes and, just last week, a possibly very old--as in Archaic--lake front site.

Native Americans occupied the Florida peninsula at least 12,000 years ago.  There is building evidence that they may have been here as early as 15,000 to 18,000 years BP.  The Paleo-Indians in Florida hunted the large megafauna, mammoth, mastodon, giant buffalo, during the last Ice Age.  Florida was considered a refuge from the glacier covered lands to the North for both the people and the large animals.  In the following ancient period, the Archaic, Florida became a dry savannah with die off of the really large animals, but the Native Americans stayed in Florida, gathering around limestone sinkholes to hunt the herd animals as they watered at the sinkholes.  Archaeologists find evidence of this Archaic occupation in the form of lithic (stone) tools around the sinkholes and ancient camp sites. We can determine that Archaic people lived here by the form of the stone tools, large spear points, scrapers, knives, and drills.

Archaic stemmed and other points found along the lake.

Some of the lakes in Central Florida have sinkholes at their center.  Families living around these lakes have reported finding stone tools over the years as the lake shores rose and fell with the rains and droughts.  Recently we received a request to visit a beach front on one of these lakes to view the stone points discovered by local residents.  The water level had receded revealing an ancient beach with occasional stone points appearing in the old sand. 

The FPAN - NE Site ID Team met the neighbors and were amazed to be shown chert and agatized coral points, scrapers, drills and flakes.  We will record the site on the Florida Master Site File, and, if it proves to be really old based on the form of the lithics, perhaps a professional archaeologist can obtain a State permit to conduct archaeological investigations of the site.   Volunteer participation from the lake front friends could be a part of this work.  These folks did the right thing.  They noted the locations of the lithics and called in FPAN to record the site.   That's how we continue to discover and study Florida's ancient history.  Thank you for the invitation- you may have made a very important discovery.

Note: Names and places withheld to protect the sensitive resource until it can be further studied and understood.

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Name those points!

Break out your Bullen guides and help us ID these points!  Image from a local landowner and FPAN is helping to record the site.  Send in your guesses and your ID may be included in the site form!


More info on our site visit to be posted to the blog tomorrow, but note site location intentionally withheld.  No location information please.

New Archaeology Lecture Archive!

Did you know that FPAN Northeast now has a Storify account?  Let me give you the skinny.

Almost since we opened an account on twitter, we've used a second account to live tweet the interesting things we learn during archaeologists' talks at various events.  Once in a while, someone says, "I wish I could have come to that talk, but..." Sometimes life gets in the way.  When that happens, we direct them to that second account--@FPANLive--so they can read the tweets for themselves.  On more than one occasion, I personally went through and took screenshots of every talk, put them in a Word document, and sent them to the interested party.

That's a little cumbersome for everybody involved.  So when someone directed us to Storify, we found it offered the perfect solution!  After a talk, I can easily archive all of the associated tweets in one story.  Better yet, it's available to anyone at any time.

Our profile on Storify

Why am I telling you this now, in the middle of summer, when all of the groups that invite archaeologists to speak are on vacation?  Well, sometimes I figure you just miss learning fascinating stuff about Florida's past.  If that's the case, you can head over to our Storify account right now and read up on 11 archaeology lectures & topics that we've posted since March!  This includes lectures, workshops, and twitter topics, including:

"Culturally La Florida" Keynote Speech by the legendary Dr. Michael Gannon

Our recent Timucuan Technology Workshop on Wild Plants:


Chuck Meide's fascinating update on the Storm Shipwreck excavation

(just prior to this field season)

Take a look at our Storify page and see what strikes your fancy.  And don't forget to check there if you miss any talks or workshops in the future!

Amazing May

Save the dates!  If you love history and archaeology, the second and third weekends of May, 2013 will knock your socks off in St. Augustine.  On May 10, 11, and 12, the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS)will hold its 65th Annual Meeting at Flagler College hosted by the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA), the local FAS chapter.  The following weekend the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation will hold its 35th Annual Statewide Conference at the Casa Monica Hotel.  The week between the two conferences will have field trips, tours, workshops and special events sponsored by both organizations.
                                                                                                  In May of 2013, the City of St. Augustine will also be offering events focused on the Viva Florida 500th commemoration and the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine.  Romanza St. Augustine, a 450th arts organization, will be presenting a week long arts and music festival in St. Augustine May 14 through May 20, the very same week between the FAS and Florida Trust conferences . 
St. Augustine between May 10 and May 20 should be a time to remember!

From Ponce de Leon to Flagler's Ponce Hotel - that is the theme of the 65th    FAS Annual Meeting.  The meeting will kick off with a reception at the Fountain of Youth on Friday evening, May 10.   The reception will be catered by Chef David Bearl of the First Coast Technical College, School of Culinary Arts. Colonial period hors d' oeuvres, wine, and beer will be served.  Tours of the Menendez landing site and archaeological exhibits based on Dr. Kathleen Deagan's University of Florida excavations will be conducted.

On Saturday, May 11, academic papers by local, state and regional archaeologists will be presented at the Ringhaver Student Center at Flagler College.  Saturday evening, a banquet in the Ponce Hotel Tiffany Dining Room will be catered by Chef Bearl.  His menu will reflect the meal served opening night at Henry Flagler's Ponce Hotel on January 10, 1888.  Dr. Kathleen Deagan will be the keynote speaker.

Sunday, May 12 will offer an early morning boat ride on the Matanzas River narrated by Robin Moore, a local marine archaeologist and County Archaeologist.   Later in the day, Carl Halbirt, St. Augustine City Archaeologist, will narrate a trolley tour of St. Augustine's rich archaeological heritage.  Tours of the Lighthouse Maritime Archaeological Museum and the Tolomato Cemetery are also being planned.

To find out more information about these fabulous May, 2013 events, check out the following web sites:
St. Augustine Archaeological Association  http://saaa.shutterfly.com
Florida Anthropological Society   www.fasweb.org
Florida Trust for Historic Preservation  www.floridatrust.org
Romanza St. Augustine   www.romanzastaugustine.org
Florida Public Archaeology Network  www.flpublicarchaeology.org

Hope to see you at some of these history making and archaeology exploring events!

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

Name that Wreck!

The photo above depicts a model of a famous Florida shipwreck as it appeared to archaeologists on the sea floor.  Guess this one correct and we'll mail you out a Florida's Shipwreck Preserves poster!  Want more information on Florida shipwrecks?  Check out the Florida Maritime Heritage Trail and the Division of Historical Resource's Underwater Archaeological Preserves webpage.  This particular wreck is not on the trail, but would make a good candidate someday.


For a bonus point, where is this model on display?

Text and image: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

- Copyright © Going Public - Skyblue - Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -