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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 September 2012

Timucuan Technology Goes Live!

Theodore Morris painting of Timucua.
 We are pleased to announce that Timucuan Technology is live and available for download.  Not familiar with our new program?  Visit the program website or read below to learn how you can get involved in learning about Florida's rich prehistoric past.

Timucuan Technology is one of our many responses to the need for programming as interest in the state's 500th anniversary and our host city's 450th birthday.  We felt it was archaeology's unique contribution to these commemorations to provide context for who was here before Europeans and bring to light Florida's diverse heritage. 

We also saw a void of archaeology related education materials targeted to middle school aged students.  Many of the standards for 6-8th grades require advanced levels of inquiry and literacy, a perfect fit for archaeology.  The lessons average 20 pages each, but we relied on feeback from teachers who told us student's can't read enough at that grade level.

Who were the Timucua?  Timucua is a very broad term we use in northeast Florida to describe prehistoric people going back 4,000 years in our region.  It is important to note: Timucuans would not have identified themselves as a singular culture or people.  They shared a common language group yet different dialects, at least up to 12 different subgroups based on language.  We have grouped them together here for ease of talking about prehistoric, northeast Florida cultures and because we find similarities in how they approached meeting basic needs through technology.

Timucuan Technology is available in a variety of formats.  The most immediate way to get involved is visit the website that hosts free downloads of all 10 lessons, including extra pages with Sunshine State Standard correlates, references, and answer keys.  While they were written with middle school audiences in mind, readers of any age will no double learn something new.  Each lesson has paper-based and hands-on activities and experiments to test the principles put forth in the text.

Inaugural TimuTech workshop participants at GTM-NERR.

Workshops are available for educators wanting instruction in how to use the materials.  Our pilot workshop took place in June of 2012 and was in a word, epic.  Two days full of activities and lectures on prehistoric technology and how archaeologists base their interpretations based on evidence found in the ground.  Will will be offering more workshops over the summer and are available to schools and organizations upon request for professional development opportunities.

Not a teacher but still want to play?  Over the year we will be offering half day workshops focusing on a single chapter of the Timucuan Technology lessons.  In July we offered a Native Plants and Their Uses workshop at Flagler College with the assistance of Dr. Michelle Williams, a paleoethnobotanist from our sister FPAN Center at Florida Atlantic University.  Participants learned about the origin of many northeast Florida plants and practiced making cordage. In September our focus was on fire.  As part of the Crisp Ellert Art Museum exhibit "Before and After 1565," we conducted a Pyrotechnology workshop.  Participants blew up balloons to test principles of cooking before ceramics and cut holes in representative council houses to test which way the smoke would blow.  Pottery was another focus of Pyrotechnology as we explored the idea of Timucuans as master controllers of fire.

Adults practice cordage skills during Plants mini-workshop.

Replicas brought in as teaching aids.
Middle grade home school students simulate cooking with animal hides during Pyro workshop.
We'll be visiting classrooms across the region next month to continue piloting lessons and enhance students' science and social studies curriculum.  Contact us by email to schedule a classroom, library, or learning center visit.  Find out about upcoming workshops by following us on Facebook or check the programs page on our website. 

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff
Images: Generations (Timucua Tribe) by Theodore Morris (check http://www.floridalosttribes.com for artist information), Timucuan regional map by Kelley Weitzel MacCabe, Timucuan Technology lessons by Kelley Weitzel MacCabe, workshop photos by Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

CRPT Spotlight: The Don'ts & Do's of Cleaning Headstones

Ever since we started offering Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT), we field a lot questions about how to care for grave markers themselves.  It's actually a request we love to get, because there's so much advice out there that ultimately causes harm to markers, even if it's trying to help.

Cemeteries and markers are archives of human memory and must be handled with great care.

We'll look at how to best clean a grave marker in just a moment, but first, let's start with what NOT to do.  When recording a grave marker:

  • DON'T make rubbings of the stone.  Over time, the pressure and friction speed the wear on the stone itself, gradually rubbing away the parts that stand out.
  • DON'T apply shaving cream to the stone--people have tried this to make the letters stand out more, but the stone absorbs the chemicals in shaving cream, and those chemicals eat away at the marker.
  • DON'T put flour on the stone either!  This has been offered as a less chemical-intensive way to make letters stand out, but flour actually makes a great environment for plants and moss to grow.  Their roots dig into the stone and cause it to break down.

When cleaning a grave marker:

  •  DON'T USE BLEACH.  This is kind of the folk remedy for cleaning headstones that makes us cringe every time we hear it.  We know people do it with the best of intention, and the stone does look pretty and white--at first.  Unfortunately, bleach is a very caustic material.  The salts in bleach soak into the stone (just like with the shaving cream mentioned earlier).  Once they've soaked in, they eat away at the stone itself, producing two kinds of damage: sugaring and an orange tint.  Sugaring is kind of what it sounds like: when the stone starts to erode from bleach salts, it breaks down into tiny particles--I've seen someone gently swipe the top of a bleached stone and come away with a finger covered in white powder.  The orange tint is pretty straightforward too--the areas where a stone has been bleached will eventually take on a bright orange hue.  Neither of these results happen immediately, but they will happen.  Worst of all, there's no way to UN-bleach a stone.  Once the salts have soaked in, there's no removing them.
  • DON'T use other household cleaners.  As with the products we've already discussed, stone usually responds poorly to the introduction of chemicals that were never intended for it.
  • DON'T use a brush that's harder than the stone.  Using a very stiff-bristled brush, plastic or wire, will scratch the surface of the stone, damaging its integrity and sometimes eroding any legible writing.
  • DON'T use high water pressure, even as hard as you could spray from a hose.  It has the same effect as too-stiff brushes, eroding the stone from the outside.
  • DON'T use any sealant on stone.  I've fielded questions about how best to seal a grave marker, I think for the purpose of keeping it clean, and the basic answer is that you don't want to seal it at all.  Remember: stone absorbs water, including water in the ground, and the porous nature of the stone allows the water to escape.  If we seal a stone, we leave the water no exit, eventually causing the stone to crack and crumble.

But finally, DON'T despair!  There are simple things that can be done to clean and protect a grave marker.  When documenting a marker:


Grave marker in Savannah, Ga.  Image on left is original; image on right simply "autocorrected."

  • DO take lots and lots of pictures.  Use sunlight & shade if possible.
  • DO bring a mirror!  Sometimes reflecting light onto the stone makes things show up in ways you wouldn't expect.
  • DO feel free to adjust those pictures once you get them on a computer.  Changing contrast and lighting levels can work wonders for making an old stone legible.

When cleaning a marker:

Headstone before cleaning.
  •  DO clear away any plants growing into the stone by gently clipping them near their base (taking caution not to rip them out of the stone, lest, they cause it to crumble).
  • DO use soft brushes and approved substances to gently scrub the stone clean.  You can use D/2, masonRE B+, or even just plain water!
  • DO start at the base of the stone to wet, apply cleaner, and scrub, then work your way up.  It seems not to make sense at the outset, but it prevents stone from latching on to the dirt washing down from above, so keeps your cleaning job from looking streaky.
  • DO rinse thoroughly at the end to remove any residual dirt.
  • Working bottom to top using soft brushes, D/2, and water.
  • DO feel free to spray with an approved cleaner like D/2 and walk away, if you're short on time.  Even without scrubbing, it absorbs into the stone to kill any biological materials growing on or in it, helping to protect it over time.

DO take pictures before and after (and maybe even a few weeks later if you want to see a more dramatic difference). DO get your community involved!  It can be a great project that both improves preservation at cemeteries and helps to foster a sense of place and past for a local population.  Finally, DO keep us posted--we want to hear about your efforts and continue to help answer any questions.


If you would like more information on cemetery and grave marker care, visit Chicora, which has extensive resources on cemetery care and protection.  Their page on cleaning headstones is quite useful, and includes details on use of D/2 as well as information on where to order it.

 For information on masonRE B+, visit the Cathedral Stone website.

Close shot of the side of an obelisk in my own family's cemetery near Piedmont, SC.

Skyping Archaeology

Last week I experimented with Skype as a form of public outreach.  It seems appropriate to share the story via social media, because if not for Facebook it might not have happened.

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the National Council for Social Studies meeting in Washington, D.C.  Like a million other posts I put on my personal Facebook page, "Breakfast at Lincoln's Waffle House.  I don't believe he ever ate here," didn't seem to be work related.  But in the networking business be careful what you post, may lead you on a new adventure.

Quick to respond to my post was my friend from undergrad Sarah Bates, now Sarah King.  She couldn't believe we were both in D.C. at the same time, and after a few posts back and forth we realized we were both in D.C. to attend NCSS.  Sarah is a teacher now at Chancellor Middle School in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  We met up at the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse exhibit table and later had a chance to catch up over lunch.

Sarah asked me during the conference if I'd be willing to Skype with her class and this Fall she came through with her request.  Last week I talked to 125 middle school students, and I didn't have to leave my desk to do it!  We had some technical difficulties to overcome at first, but we both agreed it was well worth working out a system.  Here's a few tips I'd recommend for those considering using Skype as a form of PubArch outreach, and feel free to add your own in the comments section:

 Sarah King's classroom in Virginia.

1.  Set up a time for a trial call.

This is one of those do as I say and not as I do, as Sarah and I didn't have time before the big day.  But as an initial step from now on with teachers, it's imperative to work out all the technical kinks.  I didn't realize, for example, that although my laptop has a built in camera that when it was connected to my port at my office that the camera wouldn't work.  I had to either disconnect the laptop from the port, or use my iPad to connect. 

Room with a View?  Not quite.
2.  Have the archaeologist and teacher connected by a land line.

Having Sarah and I connected by a phone line came organically as we tried to overcome the fact they could see me and hear me in the classroom, but they had no microphone and were blurry.  Turns out it didn't matter that I couldn't see them, as long as they could see me.  The more I think about it, having Sarah facilitate the questions and not having to ask students to repeat and repeat questions made the call go more smoothly.  Even if we resolved the microphone issue, I would still request that direct line with the teacher.

3.   Come prepared with object show and tell.

Props used during calls.
I thought ahead of time about having artifacts to show the students, but in a very positive way those were not the props I needed!  Students had more questions about the science and how of archaeology, and I was delighted for them.  By the time I Skyped with the last class I had a skeleton, trowel, and Munsell color book at the ready.  If I had to do over again, I'd be sure my dig kit was at the ready to show them more of the tools, especially a line level as many of the questions had to do with context and mapping.

4.  Be prepared to tell them the coolest thing you ever found.

There was not a single class that didn't ask this question, which is also common on site visits and other classroom visits.  With such little time, it seemed like the more I could steer the coolest object into to objectives Sarah had, the better.  For a history class artifacts that tied in with world events seemed to fit the bill.  We found jet mourner's beads during the Frankfort Cemetery project, and this tied in well with the death of Prince Albert and trends that began with Queen Victoria in the 1860s having a far reaching effect all the way to Kentucky.  This went over better than the sherds I found in the 1565 trench in St. Augustine.  The discussion of artifacts as information came up in different ways, so I could work those artifacts into that discussion.
Some tried and true "coolest" things ever found: a) "housewife" sewing kit, b) mourners beads (black), c) Frozen Charlotte doll, d) late 18th century eyeglasses.

5.  The more times we Skyped, the more effective the archaeologist/teacher partnership became.

This seems obvious, but the method of using Skype was interesting because I could switch up what we were talking about in a way I couldn't maybe do running from class to class to class.  It's not unusual for a school to ask us to talk to 5-6 different classes on a single visit, but this was definitely unique in that it was the same teacher.  Sarah had a better idea of my repetoir of students and could facilitate the questions more effectively to serve her needs.  I had a better idea of what the students were doing on their end as well.  By class 5 I knew that on page 9 of their text book their was a picture of an ongoing excavation, or I knew they were going to watch a movie on radio carbon dating.  I think the more the students were aware that I was interested in what they were learning and could contextualize the information I was speaking, the better the exercise became.

Sarah & Sarah @NCSS2011 meeting up in exhibitor hall.
Based on this experience, I would highly recommend any archaeologist to make themselves available to teachers via Skype.  Many may be doing this already, but this was my first time.  If you are a teacher in Florida, you can contact any of the FPAN centers by looking up what region serves your county at www.flpublicarchaeology.org.  If you happen to live in northeast Florida, you can contact us directly.  If you are in another state or country, I have two recommendations.  The first is to look up Project Archaeology and see if there is an active PA program in your state.  If so, there is a state coordinator who may be the best person for your Skype quest.  The second recommendation is to contact any one of the professional archaeology organization (Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America), all of which have public archaeologists interested in reaching new audiences.

And keep us posted!  If you have a tip, post it for others below.  If you try it out an have a cautionary tale of something that didn't go well, share!  My next challenge is to conquer Skyping from the field....I'll keep you posted!

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff
Images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff except class pictures by Sarah King and artifact pictures from various projects for Kentucky Archaeological Survey taken by David McBride.

FPAN: The Odyssey

FPAN Northeast keeps quite busy, but once in a great while we find the time to go explore our region as a group.  This summer, after seven months of hard work on all manner of events, including no fewer than eleven workshops, center staff made time to do just that--we set out on a journey to try and visit a site in every one of our seven counties in a single work day.  Let me recount to you the great monsters and curiosities that we met along the way...

Looking back toward the portentous skies of St. Augustine (from Fort Matanzas).
Meeting up bright and early on a summer morning, we piled into the trusty FPAN Escape and headed south in pursuit of the lesser-known Spanish fort of St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas.  Fort Matanzas was built between 1740-42 in order to thwart British sieges from the south--and provided an almost immediate effect, preventing just such an attack by Governor James Oglethorpe in 1742. 

The lovely, calm waters of the Matanzas Inlet.
We arrived just in time for the very first tour of the day, only to find we'd have to travel a little further.  Two kind rangers ferried us across the River Styx Matanzas Inlet.  It was a long, strange journey of nearly five minutes, but eventually we spotted our destination.  If I'm being completely honest, we could actually see it before we ever left shore.  Nevermind that.

The quiet protector to the Old City's south.

Our vessel approached the fort cautiously, wary of the vigilant sentry--an egret who stood (perched?) guard.

An egret guards the fort, clearly very concerned about our intrusion.

Turn back now, lest he get your toe!

 Clearly there was to be plenty of ecology with our archaeology in these travels. We pressed on, barely escaping the myriad crabs that threatened our progress (well, scurried through the grass).

Finally we reached the fort, ready to hear tales of life as a young soldier at the fort.  A savvy fellow facing our crowd of four women, plus a Michigander dad &; his young son, the ranger also shared what life was like for women in St. Augustine.  Unlike their counterparts in British colonies, Spanish ladies could own property and  have agency for themselves after their husbands died.

A little presence goes a long way.

Most importantly, our guide revealed that Fort Matanzas not only warded off attacks, but regulated commerce and travel toward and through St. Augustine. 

 Then we were turned loose to explore the small but mighty fort!  We climbed a ladder through a truly tiny aperture to reach the fort's upper deck, where the view on all sides was breathtaking.

Gazing homeward from the deck of Fort Matanzas.
Armed with little more than shortbread cookies to sustain us, our little band of adventurers took our leave of the fort, determined to make it through only six more counties!  In a virtual eternity of 4 1/2 more hours! Our little Ford Escape carried us through winding roads along beaches, through canopy roads, and finally into a thick forest...

It appeared, at first, to be a forest without end.

...but finally the woods gave way to our next adventure.

Ruins at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park.

Like Scylla, the many-headed Music Video Crew met us at every turn.

Bracing ourselves for the stoic, lonely ruins of the Second Spanish Period plantation and sugar mill at Bulow State Park, we faced quite a surprise--an onslaught of gear and staging by the dreaded Music Video Crew.

They blocked our path, meeting us at every turn, as they set up to film a romantic scene for a country music video.  Undaunted, we persevered.

Our determination was soundly rewarded with visions of some of the most extensive sugar mill ruins  in Florida.  We wandered among the remains of the 19th-century sugar mill, taking in the sheer space and organization required to process dense, woody sugarcane.

In this part of the mill, juice from crushed cane was boiled down to make a thick syrup.  This process used five separate kettles.
Not to be outdone by our little expedition, this plantation had a misadventure of its own during the Second Seminole War.  After John Bulow made clear his preference for Seminoles over U.S. military forces (by firing an empty cannon toward approaching troops), he was held prisoner on his own plantation for a month as troops made a base of it.  They fortified the perimeter using bales of the cotton he had intended to sell!  Seeing that the U.S. had established a stronghold there, the Seminoles had little choice but to attack, setting it ablaze.  According to historical accounts, the fire burned so brightly that people could see it 30 miles away in St. Augustine.  For more about sugar mills and the Bulow story, check out this lesson from Coquina Queries.

Despite the calamity that befell them, the majesty of these ruins is intact.
Eventually drawn like the Lotus Eaters back to our carful of cookies, the FPAN crew set out to our third destination, Samuel Butts Youth Archaeological Park and Recreational Trail.

The park was established by the City of Daytona Beach in 2004, ten years after avocational archaeologist Samuel Butts submitted his extensive finds there to the Florida Master Site File. The park is surrounded almost entirely by a pond, requiring us to traverse a bridge to reach various areas.  We made a beeline for the peninsula as if beckoned by Sirens.  Luckily, we discovered just in time that we were careening toward a backhoe and other active construction equipment, making a narrow escape.  Averting that imminent peril, we encountered interpretation through the rest of the park that covered much of the site's archaeological story:

Butts found evidence of the area's prehistoric past, including megafauna remains...

...and pieces of the historically African American neighborhood's recent history.

The park has seen better days to be sure.  But the range of this multicomponent site, which also features a prehistoric mound, remains impressive.  Having taken in all we could given construction and an increasingly achy broken-foot-on-the-mend, our group set out for a most important leg of our journey: a very late lunch.

Setting our sites on Jacksonville, our merry band would soon encounter its most terrifying foe of the day: a Florida Storm.  The skybound Charybdis spewed a tempest, turning roads to rivers in only minutes.  The terrible Storm made an impressionist work of our windshield and assaulted our ears.  In Florida, raindrops the size of small children reach terminal velocity before crashing to the earth.  Meteorologists don't measure the scope of the Florida Storm in terms of inches; they measure in decibels.

Impressionist landscape, courtesy of a gentle Florida storm.  Photography using glass, water.
Undeterred by the watery onslaught, we made our way to shelter at Jacksonville's Queen of Sheba Restaurant.  It was 2:30 and we found ourselves the only patrons.  We feasted on injera and other tasty fare, unaware that destiny was to offer up a doleful coincidence.  We paused, puzzled as upbeat Ethiopian tunes gave way to a single, authoritative voice, which carried on loudly for several minutes in a language unknown to any of us.  Finally one of the restaurant's staff came over to check on us, explaining that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had died rather unexpectedly only hours before.  We had unwittingly stumbled from the ruins of our own local past into the historic calamity of another nation.

Our enthusiasm thus tempered, our bellies full, and--let's be honest--some of our kids about to get off the school bus, we conceded the day--but not defeat!  We had taken on all manner of beasts, outmatching all foes but Father Time.*

Returning to my car, I crossed paths with several bullfrogs celebrating the storm's passing.
Give us another dozen workshops to rebuild our fortitude--we'll embark to master the region another day!  In the meantime we'll have to live vicariously: I challenge you to sally forth and create your own adventure.  We can't wait to hear what site(s) you visited and what strange encounters befell you. 

*Note: not formally acknowledged in The Odyssey.

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