Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Carl Halbirt on Oneida Street
The City of St. Augustine Public Works Department removes the soil of St. Augustine for many projects:  street repairs, waterline replacements, sea wall and sidewalk work.  When that happens in an archaeological zone, Carl Halbirt, the City Archaeologist, is there on the spot, monitoring what lies beneith the ground.  And it could be anything, a colonial fort, a mission church, an old city wall, a pig wallow, an indian bohio (house).  If it represents an archaeological feature, Carl and his volunteers record it. 

Machines Moving Dirt

City Water Pipe Trench
This Fall, the City has been replacing water lines in the Lincolnville neighborhood, along Oneida and Washington Streets to be exact.  The Public Works Department uses heavy equipment to remove the soil quickly.  It would take an archaeologist days to remove the same amount so this represents a wonderful opportunity to record a lot of features in a short amount of time.  But sometimes it's a race to see and record a feature before the workers cover it with backfill.

Onieda Street, west of Lake Maria Sanchez, was once the site of an 18th century Yamassee Indian village.  When the British attacked the Franciscan missions in north Florida and southeast Georgia, many of the Christian Indians fled to St. Augustine for protection.  The City allowed the refugees to establish villages outside the periphery of the city walls.  Two of these villages were located in Lincolnville. Pocotolaca, north of South Street and Paleca, south of Bridge Street.  Earlier archaeological work on South Street had established the location of the Pocotolaca Village.  Carl thought that the current water line work along Oneida might just uncover the location of the mission church in the Pocotolaca Native village. 

Recording a Feature

SAAA Members Screening for Artifacts

Smudge Pot Feature

 Last week Carl and about 6 volunteers from the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA) followed the earth moving equipment as it opened a narrow trench along the curb of the street to drop in new plastic water pipes.  Every change in the color of the soil on the sides of the trench was noted and recorded.  Soil from interesting features was screened for artifacts.  The driver of the earth mover conveniently dropped the soil from the features in piles for screening.  Everyone was interested in what we would find in the screens.

But alas, last week, the site of the Yamassee mission church was not located.  But the work continues next week on Washington Street.  Stay tuned for another possible interesting discovery as Carl and his SAAA volunteers move just ahead of the earth moving equipment.

Photos by Mischa Johns

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