Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Note: this blog post is the second of an ongoing series written by Flagler College History students working on site with St. Augustine's City Archaeologist.  You can read the Flagler Public History blog here.

Seen from the street, the old Communication Building at Flagler College is unimpressive.  However, under the surface lies a whole world waiting to be discovered.  From the 1650s to the Gilded Age and beyond, the daily lives of common people are waiting to be uncovered.  Unlike much of written history, archaeology tells us about the common man.

Some of the greatest sources of information are wells found on sites.  One such well has been found behind Flagler College's Communication Building.  When wells--like this one--dried up, people would throw their trash into them.  Even better, many artifacts are found below the water table, where they were remarkably well preserved.  What exactly will be discovered at the bottom of this well?  We will have to wait to find out.

Upon my arrival, volunteer Nick McAuliffe was excavating the well and a bone knife fell out of the wall.  Don't worry though, only the handle has survived the years.  Though finding the knife handle was exciting, there was much more found at the site.  One of the most prevalent items found at the site were pipes and pipe bowls.  The location may either have been home to a group of prolific smokers or possibly an artisan who created or a tradesman who sold the objects.

Probably the most intriguing part of my visit was the discovery of a chicken burial.  Bones themselves can tell archaeologists a lot about a specific site; they can tell archaeologists what type of food was in the area and what people preferred to eat.  For instance, the British--despite being near an ocean and being from an island nation--detested fish.  However, this chicken is unique because it was given a full burial.  The body was fully intact--no bones were pulled apart--and the chicken was laid on its side over one hundred years ago; the question now is why?  Possible reasons include a ritual killing, the death of the chicken by disease or the chicken was killed by a predator and mangled so that when it was recovered there was nothing left to consume.

The mystery of the buried chicken may not be solved, but other mysteries may be.  Remember the tabby foundation from our first entry?  More has since been uncovered and its narrowness, paired with the length of the foundation, indicates that it was most likely a part of a road.  Since the road appears on no maps it was most likely an alley between homes.  It will only be exposed to the world above for a short time as the archaeology team prepares to move to the front half of the Communication Building's parking lot in the coming weeks.

Text and photos by Kayleigh Gades

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