Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy New Year 2013
Happy New Year St. Augustine! The year 2013 is here and we St. Augustinians have survived the dawn of a new epoch in Maya time, the beginning or seating of the 14th Bak'tun. A Bak'tun is 144,000 days, almost 400 years, a long time.  The Maya started the beginning of their calendar count in 3114 B.C., the day of creation.  The 13th Bak'tun ended on December 21, 2012 and some people thought this portended the end of the world.  But we are still here, alive and well, and looking forward to another fascinating year for archaeology in St. Augustine, Florida.  The 14th Bak'tum is actually said to be the start of a very favorable epoch in history.  And the year holds many promises. 

St. Augustine Archaeological Association
This is the year that the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) will hold its annual conference in St. Augustine, "From Ponce to the Ponce"  hosted by the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA).  The conference will be held at Flagler College's Ringhaver Student Center, May 9 through 12, 2013.  In addition to a full day of academic papers and posters on Florida archaeology, we will be treated to archaeology tours on a trolley, a boat and on foot along the streets of the old City.  A banquet in the style of Henry Flagler's 1888 opening day dinner will be served in Flagler College's Tiffany Dining Room in the Ponce Hotel.  Workshops and meetings hosted by the major archaeology organizations in the State will be offered.

The old City of St. Augustine in colonial times
The next weekend (5/16-5/18), the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation will host its annual statewide preservation conference, at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine.  This conference is entitled "Rediscovering La Florida:  New Experiences in the Oldest City".

A week later (5/24-5/26), the Florida Historical Society will hold its annual meeting and symposium on board the Carnival Sensation cruise ship which will leave on a three day chartered cruise to the Bahamas.  This is entitled "500 Years of La Florida:  Sailing the Path of Discovery".   Papers and workshops will be scheduled on board as well as a tour of the town of Nassau on shore.

The spires of the Ponce Hotel, Flagler College
But 2013 holds even more experiences in and around St. Augustine.  Two very significant and interesting anniversaries will be commemorated.  This year will see the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Ponce Hotel by Henry Flagler in 1888.  The Ponce Hotel is now the landmark center piece of the Flagler College campus.  The college plans a full year of events, exhibitions, lectures and banquets to celebrate this significant anniversary.  Flagler College's kickoff event in the Discover First America series will be a program entitled "Hotel Ponce de Leon Turns 125" to be held on January 9, 2013 at 7:00pm in the Lewis (Flagler College) Auditorium.  The following Saturday, January 12th, at 9:30am, Flagler College will recreate the grand opening of the Ponce Hotel, with free public tours guided by Henry Flagler himself and other Gilded Age hotel guests and staff.

And who can overlook the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon sighting and naming La Florida.  No one knows for sure where Ponce de Leon first stepped ashore in 1513.  But that controversy has not prevented communities up and down Florida's East Coast from claiming the honor and scheduling events including another program in the Discover First America series sponsored by the Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park, "Juan Ponce de Leon Finds Florida" at 7:00pm, January 23, 2013 in the Lewis Auditorium.

City of St. Augustine Archaeological Lab
But are there any actual archaeological digs this year?  Just last year the City of St. Augustine celebrated the 25th anniversary of the passage of its Archaeological Ordinance (See the blog article of 12/21/2012 for a description of the Ordinance).  City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, has a full schedule of City digs planned for this year as mandated by the Ordinance.  One of the most interesting will be at the site of the proposed Flagler College Communications Building on the corner of Cordova and Cuna Streets.  This dig on an archaeologically sensitive area at the inner edge of the Rosario Line (old city wall), will possibly last six months and should prove to reveal some very interesting new information on the history of the ancient city.

A City Dig

Carl Halbirt, City Archaeologist

So St. Augustinians, friends and visitors, prepare yourself for a fascinating year of meetings, lectures, banquets, commemorations and digs.  The year 2013 should prove to be one of the best years ever exploring archaeology in our old city.

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