Friday, January 4, 2013



Here it is: the last part of my interview with Carl Halbirt, the City of St. Augustine's archaeologist.  If you missed the previous entries, get the rest of the story with parts One and Two. This closing piece reflects on what the job of City Archaeologist itself and what it's like to hold this unique position. 


One of the City's more recent earth-shattering discoveries--Carl and a volunteer examine a feature associated with a 16th-century structure near the Castillo de San Marcos.  This large structure may have been a Spanish fort predating the Castillo.


How has 20+ years as City Archaeologist informed your overall understanding of the City’s past?  

Like anyone who has been in one location for 20+ years you gain an appreciation and understanding of the environment in which you work.  As the city archaeologist since April, 1990, I have learned a lot about the history and archaeology of this unique city.  More importantly, my learning curve is still growing exponentially.   This curve is not limited to just the archaeological resources, but also integrating that information into a format that can be shared with the public (be it through speaking engagements, displays, cooperation with other organizations, etc.)  The position of city archaeologist is not restricted to just doing archaeology, but involves community outreach.


Carl speaks frequently to share his discoveries with the public.  In this photo from last year, he even shares his new office,  offering a reception and tour of the Sue Middleton Archaeology Lab, during its grand opening.




 What are the greatest challenges you face as the City Archaeologist? 

As city archaeologist you are not just involved with excavating sites and preparing reports.  The
position is actually four or five distinct positions wrapped into one job title.  These include archaeologist, volunteer coordinator, lab supervisor responsible for the analysis and curation of artifacts, public outreach, and program administrator.  


Carl checks in on volunteers washing artifacts. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division.

As such, scheduling and allocation of tasks is the biggest challenge faced in this position.  You have to decide what is important during the period of concern and respond accordingly.


Volunteers sort bags of artifacts by provenience. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division.



 
What’s your favorite thing about being St. Augustine’s City Archaeologist? 

There are so many aspects associated with of this position that it is difficult to decide what is my favorite.  Discovering and interpreting archaeological deposits that shed new information about St. Augustine’s cultural heritage (as represented in the archaeological record) is a definite.  Undertaking activities to create an archaeological lab, such as establishing a comparative collection of faunal remains to aid in the identification of animal bones recovered from archaeological sites is another. 


Carl adds to his faunal collection.  So...one of the stinkiest, grossest days of my archaeology career was probably one of his favorites?!?

Developing programs to present to the public is always engaging and rewarding.  Establishing a volunteers corps to aid in the excavation of archaeological sites, analysis and curation of artifacts in the lab, and assisting with public programs is something I enjoy.  


Carl's dedication to his work and volunteers has paid off not only in a wealth of knowledge, but by enriching lives.  Here he is with many of his volunteers, past and present, on the SAAA's "Dress Like Carl" night.


Finally, helping students who are interested in archaeology or pursuing archaeology as a career is something I believe all professional archaeologists should embrace.  These are just a few of the things I enjoy as the city archaeologist.   


Carl works with Sarah Bennett (center alum and current graduate intern at FPAN Northwest) on her independent study project.  Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division


Those were  my questions for our legendary and beloved City Archaeologist.  Anything you still wonder about?  What would you ask him?  Post questions in the comments, or to our facebook or twitter accounts!

If you'd like to learn more about the City's Archaeology Division, visit their website.  To become a volunteer, or keep up with the City's current and ongoing archaeology activities, check out the St. Augustine Archaeological Association.




Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.


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