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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 2012

Clifton Cemetery in Jacksonville's Arlington Neighborhood

Baxter Family Monument.Picture is of  Oran Baxter 's side.
In October, FPAN Northeast issued a cemetery challenge asking for photographs and stories of our favorite cemeteries. For this intern, Clifton Cemetery immediately sprang to my mind. It is a small cemetery set amidst a historic Arlington neighborhood.  The cemetery has old oak trees, billowing with Spanish moss, and is ringed by flowering shrubs. It is also full of urban wildlife, especially birds and squirrels. They are the source of continuing cheerful background music, adding to the tranquility of the place. Many of the burials are of prominent Jacksonville citizens from a bygone era in the city’s history. Wife to Zephaniah Kingsley, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, along with her daughters, Mary and Martha are interred at Clifton Cemetery. Anna's grave site is unmarked. Mary married John Sammis and Martha married Oran Baxter. Many of the couples’ children are also buried near their grandmother, Anna. The Baxter family monument, the cemetery’s oldest from 1841, is for Julia Baxter, age 6, the daughter of Martha and Oran Baxter. Nearby the cemetery, is the privately owned, historic 1850’s Sammis home overlooking the St. John’s River.

Here is the inscription for young Julia on the Baxter Family Monument. Sadly,  her mother was laid to rest last, and and her side was never engraved.

The Baxter Monument is on the left.

    Clifton Cemetery is well cared for, however the ground is rapidly reclaiming many of the  headstones. The Sammis grave markers in particular are knocked over and in bad condition. Their deterioration has happened in the past decade, as photographs from that time show them all upright, with little cracking. The last official recorded update on the Historical Cemetery Form filed with the state of Florida was in 2001 and 25 markers were documented. There may be missing or buried stones since that time. On my most recent visit, I could easily spot only about 18 markers. This cemetery is full of historic significance for the city of Jacksonville. For these reasons, I am nominating the cemetery for a Cemetery Resource Protection and Training (CRPT) Workshop by FPAN to clean and document the cemetery! 

Emile V. Sammis, and Martha Sammis, son and daughter of Mary and John Sammis. Both of these Sammis children died as young adults. Emile was 21, and Martha was 28.

In this picture is the tombstone of Lizzie Sammis, married to Edward Sammis, and her daughter Maude. Lizzie was about 28 years old. It seems the case that she and her daughter died due to complications from childbirth. It is  the only standing headstone of the Sammis series of headstones.

The Sammis headstones are the foreground. Lizzie's standing headstone is on the right. The Baxter Monument is in the background.

Learn More:

To find out more about the Kingsley family and why Kingsley Plantation is truly an insight into the plantation period of Northeast Florida, here’s a link to last week’s blog post by Amber.

Interested in attending a CRPT workshop? Read all about it here first.

Read Anna’s story in the book by historian Dr. Daniel L. Schafer Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley,African Princess, Florida Slave, and Plantation Slaveowner (2003).

"What Is It???" Wednesday: No Chunk of Chalk

A few weeks ago I traveled 100 miles round trip to take a look at Dot Moore's collection of the following.  Particularly specimen A....WHAT IS IT???  What does it tell us about Florida's past?

Correct answer gets a DVD on the topic!  I'd tell you what it is, but then you'd know what IT is.


Specimen A

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

Giving Thanks For...the Mary Peck Yard

The last entry on my decidedly abridged list of favorite sites is the Mary Peck Yard.  This is probably not a site that you've heard of (or so you think), but it holds a special place in my heart.  The Mary Peck Yard, located in what is these days the Colonial Quarter, did not hold any earth-shattering discoveries.  As such, it provided the perfect space to give fourth graders hands-on experience with archaeology. 

From 2007 through 2010, I collaborated with the City of St. Augustine's Department of Heritage Tourism to conduct archaeology camp (initially as an employee of the City's Archaeology Division, and later with FPAN).  We offered two one-week long sessions that featured field trips to the Castillo de San Marcos, lessons on scientific principles like context and classification, and a little time each day to work on a real archaeology site.

Campers work on site at the Mary Peck Yard.

Luckily, City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt was on hand to determine where we should place units, having carried out a shovel test survey previously.  We placed a single 1x2-meter unit (typically one per summer) for campers to excavate in pairs.  Each group rotated through a few stations: excavation, wet screening, artifact washing, and field skills.  

Campers excavate a unit as volunteer Nick McAuliffe provides assistance.
Wet screening artifacts made for some muddy fun!
FPAN intern Sarah Bennett advises a camper washing artifacts with a toothbrush & water.
Counselor Rosalie Cocci & FPAN volunteer (now intern!) Jennifer Knutson help campers lay out a test unit.

The great thing about this site for use with a camp is that, because of prior testing, we had an idea of what to expect.  We did not have the gift of clairvoyance, though--after the first year's unit (near what was then the No-Name Bar) became a little too interesting, yielding an early 20th-century trash pit, we moved to the west, placing units in part of the site that was known to have been disturbed by garden activity.  We found lots of artifacts and could detect some changes in the soil (one notably from prior archaeology), but very little would be threatened by our activities. Our campers got the excitement of discovery, the rigor of scientific fieldwork (eventually we even had them keep field notes), and we did document the site as we would any other.

Measuring depth at the corners of our unit.  Gotta keep it level!

It was rigorous work--only at each station for about 15 minutes, campers stopped to measure depths of their units at least twice when they were excavating.  But despite the requirement for meticulous methods, we did still allow them to have a little fun.

Shhh!  Don't tell them, but I'm probably having even more of a blast than the kids.

I know that some archaeologists have recourse to greater organization, so it wouldn't matter so much what the site was.  But for the manpower we could pull together, the Mary Peck Yard made the perfect setting for our camp.  Those kids had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, doing archaeological excavation in the nation's oldest city.  I guess I had an eight-times-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wouldn't give even a day of it back.

Oh--and the thing that makes me most thankful about summer camp in the Mary Peck Yard?  That Carl didn't situate us a little farther east.

All photos courtesy of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

Giving Thanks for...Kingsley Plantation

Next on the list of sites close to my heart is the one that lead me to a career in archaeology.  As an undergraduate I loved every subfield of Anthropology, and really enjoyed my major in English Literature too.  I never had a problem thinking up something to do for a living--it was the narrowing down that gave me fits.  That is, until I went to Kingsley Plantation.  Visiting Kingsley as part of a University of North Florida course on Historical Archaeology, I was overwhelmed by the dearth of information about the people who had lived in the cabins.  The disconnect between being able to  walk amongst their still standing homes, yet know next to nothing about them confounded me.  It drove home how valuable archaeology could be to developing an understanding of the lives of enslaved Africans.

My favorite site on the planet (thus far) and I've been able to help with excavations!  Who's got two thumbs and a lot of luck?

Historical archaeology is sometimes thought of as a study of people who were not considered important enough to document--women, enslaved people, the poor.  That claim has held stunningly true at Kingsley.  Earliest excavations there took place through a University of Florida field school in 1968, under the guidance of Dr. Charles Fairbanks.  In fact, that marked the birth of Plantation Archaeology (now, more broadly, archaeology of the African Diaspora).  Fairbanks excavated the two cabins, seeking evidence of African cultures.  Greatly disappointed that he did not see such evidence, his research focus pivoted as he moved on to other sites.

Some limited excavations occurred in the 1980s, but it was not until almost forty years after Fairbanks's efforts that the UF field school returned under Dr. James Davidson and cracked the Kingsley code. 

Students at UF's 2009 Historical Archaeology Field School screen for artifacts at Kingsley Plantation.

If you ask Dr. Davidson, he will tell you that a chicken was the key to it all.  While trying to establish a signature for wall foundations and doorways in 2006, Dr. Davidson's field crew came across a chicken burial beneath the tabby wall of one of the cabins.  The burial was an evident sacrifice: situated atop an iron concretion, an amber glass bead and an egg, the hen lay with her head facing north and an eye to the sky.  (2006)  Davidson interpreted this sacrifice as a ritual to protect the home, possibly appealing to Ogun, the Ibo god of iron-working, hunting, and warThe iron concretion may have been dedicated to Esu, who carried messages between people and the gods.

Chicken sacrifice found beneath the foundation of one of the west cabins.  Note the iron concretion too--located just above the north arrow.  Photo courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

This discovery opened the rest of the site to interpretation with an eye on ritual; though the chicken was the only complete animal burial, a deer tibia found beneath the front door of another cabin took on new meaning. (2007)  Iron farming tools buried in rear doorways may represent another sacrifice to Ogun, or perhaps Oko, god of the farm. (2006) 

Iron hoe head buried behind a cabin, halfway between two footers for a back porch.  Photo courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

All of these ritual items have in common a degree of ordinariness; iron farming tools and concretions, blue beads,  and stones all take on new meaning, allowing Kingsley to be interpreted for the first time through the lens of religious practices derived from West African cultures.

Blue beads found in the Kingsley cabins. The first three were found in a row, in a front doorway.  Photo courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

The 2011 excavation of a well behind two cabins in the east arc produced this stone, possibly a dedication to Yemoja, Yoruba goddess of fresh water and fertility.  Photo courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

Ironically, looking back on Fairbanks's work, he too found some ordinary objects in locations consistent with these later discoveries, including iron tools buried in and near a rear doorway.  He may have had ritual right in front of him--but he lacked a buried chicken.

Davidson's fascinating interpretation of religious identity aside, much more can be understood from the fieldwork that has recently taken place at Kingsley.  Other surprising discoveries include evidence of private space--away from the eyes of a plantation owner--and indications that the enslaved Africans at Kingsley were thoroughly armed. (2007)

With evidence of a back porch, this padlock cover demonstrates that some residents of the Kingsley cabins may have had a measure of private space.  Photo courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

Evidence of armaments found in several Kingsley cabins included these gunflints and an ornate dragon sideplate for a firearm.  Photos courtesy of the University of Florida and Dr. James Davidson.

Careful study and excavation also revealed the location of the slave cemetery at Kingsley in 2010.  

In the time that has passed since my first visit to Kingsley, archaeology has answered so many of the questions that unsettled me.  What's even better is this: since UF has excavated the site so meticulously, Dr. Davidson and his students can pursue so many more questions using the information they've already acquired.  As they press on, our picture of life on Fort George Island becomes ever more elaborate.

Have you visited Kingsley Plantation?  What was your experience like there?  What would you like to learn about the people who lived there?

Learn more:
For more information or to visit Kingsley, visit the Timucuan Ecological and Heritage Preserve website.

To read more (firsthand!) about recent finds at Kingsley, visit the UF Historical Archaeology Field School page.

Read about the slave cemetery found at Kingsley.

References cited
 Davidson, James M.

2006    University of Florida Historical Archaeological Field School, 2006 Preliminary Report of Investigations, Kingsley Plantation (8Du108), Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, National Park Service, Duval County, Florida.  Submitted to the United States Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, Southeast Archaeological Center, Tallahassee, Florida.  Unpublished report.  Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville.

2007    University of Florida Historical Archaeological Field School, 2007 Preliminary Report of Investigations, Kingsley Plantation (8Du108), Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, National Park Service, Duval County, Florida.  Submitted to the United States Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, Southeast Archaeological Center, Tallahassee, Florida.  Unpublished report.  Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Giving Thanks For...La Punta

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, many people turn towards counting the blessings in their lives.  Trust me--it's all over my facebook page.  I love that practice, and as I was dreaming up a blog post for this week, it occurred to me that I could take this opportunity to express how thankful I am--and why--for a favorite archaeology site.  Of course, that's a little like choosing your favorite child.  Or, since I'm an aunt, choosing my favorite niece or nephew.  As a result, please enjoy this week's mini-series on my favorite sites.

I'm thankful for all kinds of sites--and getting to share them with the public!

First up?  A site that makes me thankful for St. Augustine's Archaeology Ordinance.  The site at the south end of Tremerton Street in St. Augustine brought discord during its excavation in 2004.  In the course of excavating a site that slated for condo development, the City of St. Augustine's Archaeology Division unearthed the remains of a mission church.  As was common at the time, members of the mission--largely Yamassee people from South Carolina, had been buried in the church floor when they died.  

City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt followed the guidelines of federal law governing unmarked burials (NAGPRA) and the direction of the State Archaeologist.  He and his cadre of volunteers from the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA) carefully excavated to determine the extent of the burials.  Though this was done in order to make sure that no burials would be threatened by construction as a result of being "missed," some people did not believe any excavation should have taken place at all.  They considered it to be disrespectful.

Halbirt and the SAAA, from which he draws his crew of volunteers, on "Dress Like Carl" night.

Why would I be thankful for such a controversial discovery?  To me, it highlights the importance of archaeology.  I can understand concern for respecting the dead and embrace it--and in this case, I think excavation was perfectly in concert with that reverence.  Had no archaeology taken place, our first knowledge of those burials would have been at the blade of a backhoe.  Some burials would certainly have been damaged, if not destroyed altogether.  Excavation yielded both protection of the site and an increased understanding about the Yamassee people living in the mission.

The mission burials at La Punta are at rest today, protected as green space.

Furthermore, City Archaeology worked with the property owner and SAAA to protect the burials.  They developed an easement that protects the site as green space, while allowing some financial relief for the owner's loss of profitable, build-able land.  In fact, if you go down to the end of Tremerton Street today, you can see not only a green space, but a plaque that interprets the site.  Though the burials once faced the threat of disturbance, they are now known, recorded, and protected because of the City's efforts.  

This historical marker stands in front of the La Punta mission church site on Tremerton Street. Photo courtesy of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association.

For more on the mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario de La Punta and what St. Augustine Archaeology learned, visit the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division's website.

Photo credits: Florida Public Archaeology Network (unless otherwise noted)

Sister Springs Cemetery - A Best Practices Place

Sister Springs Baptist Cemetery Interlachen, FL

Florida is full of cemeteries, many of them old, abandoned and uncared for.  One of the goals of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) is to record as many of Florida's cemeteries as possible on the Florida Master Site File (FMSF).  This provides a form of protection for our old cemeteries as it maintains records on cemetery location, condition and information in a publicly accessible format.  Old cemeteries have a better chance of not getting lost in time as memories fade, vegetation obscures or development erases these historical treasures.

Last week, I traveled to Interlachen in Putnam County to assist a cemetery preservationist to record her church's cemetery on the FMSF.  What I found was a gem of a cemetery where almost everything was done correctly, an example of best practices in cemetery care and preservation.  The cemetery was an old one, first established in 1878 by the Baptist Church in Interlachen.  Some of the head stones had disappreared or decayed but records were maintained and old parishoners were interviewed so that those buried there were not lost to time.

Headstone erected to commemorate missing headstones

Names of those buried but burial locations lost

The church's congregation erected a common headstone for those known to be buried in the cemetery but the burial location was unknown.  For those who had lost a marker but the location of the burial was known, the church placed a small headstone on the grave with the name and dates of birth and death.  In this way, a memorial marker was erected for all those loved ones who were buried in Sister Springs Cemetery even if the headstone had disappeared.

Replacement marker when original headstone was lost but location was known
Sister Springs Cemetery is well maintained.  Once a month, the cemetery grounds are lovingly cared for.   Vegetation is controlled and headstones are cleaned according to best practices using products that do not destroy the stone or erase the inscriptions.  Last October, members of the Church Cemetery Committee invited FPAN to present a CRPT Training workshop on cemetery maintenance.  Only recommended cleaning products and methods are now used to preserve and maintain this cherished old cemetery. 

                                     IMAGES OF SISTER SPRINGS BAPTIST CEMETERY

If you have a cemetery that you care for or know of one that could use a little loving care, call or e-mail the Florida Public Archaeology Network or visit our website.  We will assist you to record your cemetery on the FMSF and we will be happy to schedule a Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) workshop in your county.

Call Toni Wallace, Site Specialist, FPAN - Northeast Regional Center @ Flagler College 904-501-9449, twallace @flagler.edu, or Amber Grafft-Weiss, Outreach Coordinator, FPAN - NE, 904-819-6498, aweiss@flagler.edu.       

Let's have all of our old Florida cemeteries cared for and protected with a listing on the Florida Master Site File.

Images by Amber Grafft-Weiss

Dig into Reading: Top 10 for Young Readers

Last month we learned that the theme for the 2013 summer reading program will be “Dig into Reading.”  As archaeologists who specialize in working with the public, we are excited about the potential of partnering with our local libraries.  In addition to sending out a list of our standard programs for youth and adults, we put together a top ten list of books they may want to consider adding to their catalog or pulling from the shelves for table top displays.  

1.       Archaeologists Dig for Clues by Kate Duke, HarperCollins, 1997.

2.       America’s REAL First Thanksgiving by Robyn Gioia, Pineapple Press , 2007.

3.       Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, Little, Brown,  2010.

4.       The Timucua Indians : A Native American Detective Story by Kelley G. Weitzel, University Press of Florida,  2000.

5.       Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom by Kathleen Deagan and Darcie MacMahon, University Press of Florida, 1995.

6.       Journeys with Florida’s Indians by Kelley G. Weitzel, University Press of Florida, 2002.

7.       Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979.

8.       Shipwreck by Claire Aston and Peter Dennis, Fast Forward series by Barron's, 2001.

9.       Archaeology for Kids: Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past by Richard Panchyk, Chicago Review Press, 2001.

10.   The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells: A Book about Archaeology by Jack Posner, Scholastic Inc., 1997.

Libraries: please help us promote the stewardship of Florida’s archaeological resources.  Our ethics do not allow for us to place monetary amounts on objects (artifacts are worth information, not money) or to encourage the public to dig unsupervised, as archaeology is a precise science with much more activity than just digging.  Sites on state—and often county and city—property are protected by law because of their fragile nature.  We want to encourage the public to learn about their past in an effort to protect these places for the future.

Have a favorite not on our list?  Share it with our readers in our comments section!

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff. Image compiled from Google image search of titles.

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