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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 April 2012

Canoes Keep Coming for the FPAN Site Team

The Florida drought continues, the lakes keep shrinking and the ancient canoes keep appearing.  Last November Toni Wallace from the FPAN -NE Center and Donna Ruhl from the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) recorded a canoe in Putnam County (see blog of 11/30/11).  Since then several more recently exposed canoes have been brought to the attention of the site team.  Now this is really a two edged sword.  The FPAN Site Team loves to go out to a canoe site to record as many canoes as possible to increase the data base on Florida's ancient canoes.  But the downside is that exposed canoes quickly deteriorate when not protected by lake water.  Preservation is expensive and there are not enough repositories for large artifacts like an ancient canoe.  Which only leaves the option of recording the canoe and hoping for rain to refill the lake.

Little Lake Johnson at Gold Head Branch State Park

Early in 2012, the Center received a call from the park staff at the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights, Clay County.  Little Lake Johnson in the park had shrunk to two small shallow puddles killing a lot of the fish and exposing a canoe.  So Toni Wallace grabbed her camera, measuring tape, water-proof boots and Florida Master Site File forms and headed for the park.  Although Donna was not able to accompany her this time, she forwarded a museum canoe form and requested a wood sample be sent to the Museum to be radio carbon dated and analyzed for wood species. 

Toni Wallace, Site Specialist, FPAN - NE

Brenna Van Ness, Acting Park Manager
 Brenna Van Ness, Acting Park Manager, drove Toni to the shrunken lake.  The canoe was about 10 meters from the old shore line but getting to the canoe proved to be a unique experience. The lake had dried into foot sized blocks of mud that wobbled and dipped like a carnival fun house floor. A walk across the mud blocks to the exposed canoe threatened to pitch Toni face down into the dead fish laden mud bottom.  As we wobbled our way closer to the canoe, the mud softened, again threatening to sink our boots up to our ankles.  But we made it to the side of the canoe and photographed, measured, and removed a wood sample from the gunwale area of the starboard side.  The canoe was a large one measuring 6.2 meters in length.  The bow and stern were in fairly good shape but sun and wind exposure had negatively impacted the middle portion of the canoe resulting in collapse of the sides.  Sadly continued exposure would surely result in further deterioration. 

Stern of Canoe

Bow of Canoe

Deteriorated Middle Portion of Canoe

But the Little Lake Johnson Canoe has now been recorded on the Florida Master Site file, #8CL01533, along with maps, a report, site drawing, photographs and a FLMNH canoe form.  The wood sample was mailed to the Museum.  Soon we should have another entry in the inventory of ancient Florida canoes with the radio carbon date obtained and wood species identified.  But there is one last piece of good news.  The recent rain has partially refilled Little Lake Johnson almost completely covering our ancient canoe.  Keep your fingers crossed for continued good rains in the area.  And stay tuned for additional field adventures recording Florida's ancient sites in the Florida Master Site File.

"What Is It???" Wednesday: Getting to the Point

I'll be traveling down later today to visit an elementary school in Volusia County to see this specimen in person.  Photo was sent to me by a 5th grade teacher who thinks it may be part of a projectile point.  I'm not so sure...any guesses?

text and image: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

Five Reasons to Visit Soledad

Mural on Aviles Street Celebrates Spanish Origins.

Map of Old Town found on Aviles city gate.
With the 450th rapidly approaching, many people want to know where to go to experience the 16th century.  While there are no standing remnants from the 16th century, I suggest you start your quest at an empty parking lot on St. George Street.

 Kathleen Deagan and her FSU crew made an unexpected discovery at this site in the 1970s.  During her survey of St. Augustine to look for evidence of colonial daily life, every test conducted in this area turned up fragments of human remains.  She had found the cemetery associated with the Nuestra Seniora de la Soledad.

Why would you start your visit with a trip to a cemetery?  Soledad provides a unique opportunity to summarize life in 16th century St. Augustine.  Every theme for St. Augustine colonial history is reflected in the burials found in the 1970s.  Here are five things I learned about St. Augustine while studying reports and articles on the archaeological investigation of the site.

Source material for this blog entry.
1.  St. Augustine residents lived in poverty.  Throughout the historical records we can read the requests and pleas of the Spanish officials for more money and resources.  This historical interpretation is confirmed in the fact that the Spanish burials at Soledad lacked worldly possessions.  In fact only one person was found buried with a personal object (a rosary).  The Spanish buried their dead in ancient custom: interred in bare earth with a simple shroud.

2.  Colonial St. Augustine was conservative.  From the burials at Soledad we learned that for over 200 years people were buried much in the same way with little to no change over time.  One interpretation I read credited the Catholic traditions brought by the Spanish that maintained the 16th century way of life.  Beyond burials, St. Augustine remains conservative with little changes in ceramics, glass, and architecture.

Casta drawings showing Spanish diversity.
3.  St. Augustine was diverse.  From the parish records and estimates based on the rate of burial, over 525 would have been buried at Soledad.  The majority were Spanish men, but Spanish women and at least one child was present, as well as men and women of African descent.  At least one "mestizo" man was buried here.  The only individuals missing that we know lived in St. Augustine at the time are in fact Native American Women.  Why?  We don't honestly know and more research by historians and archaeologists is needed to answer.

4. People cared about one another in St. Augustine.  From the burials archaeologists confirmed people were living long lives.  Their bones showed signs of arthritis and hard work, but also care for each other.  Analysis of the teeth confirmed close family connections among those buried at Soledad.  And care of the dead by Catholic custom suggests bereaved family members tending to the dead.

5.  Every aspect of life (and death) gets turned on its head in 1763.  When the First Treaty of Paris changed possession of Florida from the Spanish to the British, life changed in every way.  Burial of the dead was no exception.  Where the Spanish buried their dead primarily in the north side of the lot, the British made use of the western side.  The arms of the deceased were no longer placed over the stomach in "prayerful pose," but with the arms to the side.  The British deceased were not laid to rest in shrouds, but rather wore clothes and ultimately placed in hexagonal coffins.  The British even buried their dead in the opposite direction of the Spanish.
All you see today- no headstones- just unpaved parking lot across from Church.

Thanks to the St. Augustine Archaeology Association there is more to visit at the site than a parking lot.  Last month the organization placed a marker with images and information about the Church, Hospital, and School.  Read the St. Augustine Record article for more on the marker unveiling.

(Note: all burials were studied with the utmost professional care and reburied according to Catholic custom)

For more information I highly recommend reading Kathleen Deagan's Spanish St. Augustine: The Archaeology of a Colonial Creole Community (1983), especially Joan Koch's chapter on her bioarchaeological analysis of Soledad.  Or visit the site (don't expect much- marker is only evidence for site) next to Villa Flora at 241 St. George Street, St. Augustine. Map to Soledad

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

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