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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 September 2013

Bridging the Gap: Archaeology Meets Ecology

Regardless of your stance on human-induced global warming, pretty much everyone agrees that our climate is constantly changing, and has done so for as long as humans (and before!) have walked the planet. The effects of climate change have long been studied by biologists, climatologists, geologists, environmental scientists, and countless others.

It hasn't always looked like this! 

Over the past decade or so, archaeologists have become increasingly aware of their unique position to study both past environments and human ecological impacts through time.This exciting research intersects with the above mentioned 'natural' sciences, and the interdisciplinary potential is immense. As these studies continue to be published, we're learning that prehistoric (and historic) populations altered their environments far more than we ever imagined. 

For example, archaeologists can study shell and bone chemistry:  

When shells grow, they record the environmental parameters around them, including temperature, salinity, vegetation, waste & pollution, and more

Human bones can highlight what sorts of animals, fish, and plants people were eating, revealing what sort of environment they were exploiting

Coring deep into archaeological sites: 
Coastal stratigraphy can tell archaeologists about sea level fluctuation, climatic events like hurricanes, and many other environmental impacts

Studying premodern animals and plants: 

Zooarchaeologists can compare past animal populations with modern ones to learn about sustainability, speciation, changes in local trophic levels, and other human ecological impacts 

Paleoethnobotanists study historic and prehistoric plant use by people, revealing what past vegetation would have been like 

The take-away is that through the knowledge of the past, archaeologists can work together with other fields to address modern environmental problems, right here in northeast Florida. FPAN staff strongly support such collaboration, and we are working to establish educational and public outreach partnerships with local facilities such as the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) , Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, the Jacksonville Museum of Science and Industry, and Daytona's Museum of Arts and Sciences

Text: Ryan Harke, FPAN Staff. Images: NASA, Ryan Harke, Beth Blankenship, Michele Williams, Rob Tykot, and Emily Jane Murray

Following in the Bartrams' footsteps...

After going to Putnam County’s Bartram Trails Workshop earlier this summer, I thought I’d go find Bartram myself.  I set off one day last week to follow the driving map put out by Putnam’s Trails and have a bit of an adventure that Bartram might have appreciated.

First stop: Downtown Palatka!

Both John and William Bartram visited Palatka while cruising down the St. Johns River. They apparently stopped for some watermelon sponsored by the locals and learned just one of these reasons that Florida is so great: 

Mr. McLatchie invite me with him on a visit to an Indian town [Palatka] about twelve miles distant from the trading-house to regale ourselves at a feast of watermelons and oranges, the Indians having brought a canoe load of them to the trading-house the day preceding, which they disposed of to the traders.   

This was a circumstance pretty extraordinary to me, it being late in September, a season of the year when the citruels [watermelons] are ripe and gone in Georgia and Carolina.  But here the weather yet continued hot and sultry, and consequently this cool, exhilarating fruit was still high in relish and estimation. 

If you visit, make sure you check out the murals downtown, one featuring Bartram’s Ixea, a flower he named in his travels through Florida.

Second Stop: Ravine Gardens State Park

Ravine Gardens is always one of my favorite places to visit in Putnam County. The ravine is a naturally formed crater with lots of trails through it and bridges across it. The park also has a driving path around the rim, allowing for great accessibility for all.

Third stop: Welaka Vineyard

In the true nature of the Bartram’s exploring spirit, when I saw a sign for a vineyard, I pulled over! I found rows and rows of muscadine grapes, a Florida native.

In fact, William Bartram came across them in his travels in the area too, though I think I’ll opt to disagree with him about the grape’s taste!

“It is really astonishing to behold the Grape-Vines in this place. From their bulk and strength, one would imagine, they were combined to pull down these mighty trees, to the earth, when in fact, amongst other good purposes, they serve to uphold them: they are frequently nine, ten, and twelve inches in diameter, and twine round the trunks of the trees, climb to their very tops, and then spread along their limbs, from tree to tree, throughout the forest; the fruit is but small and ill tasted.”

Fourth Stop: Mount Royal
Mount Royal is a great archaeological site in Putnam County. The site features a huge mound and a Spanish Mission occupation. Some of our earliest documents of the site are from the William Bartram’s notebooks.

About noon we landed at Mount-Royal, and went to an Indian tumulus, which was about 100 yards in diameter, nearly round, and near 20 foot high, found some bones scattered on it, it must be very ancient, as live-oaks are growing upon it three foot in diameter; what a prodigious multitude of Indians must have laboured to raise it? To what height we can’t say, as it must have settled much in such a number of years, and it is surprizing where they brought the sand from, and how, as they had nothing but baskets or bowls to carry it in...

The site is nestled in the middle of an airpark neighborhood but is open to the public. There’s even a guest book for visitors to sign! Check out our blog post about the site to learn more about the mound.

The ride home...
Heading back home through St. Johns County, I decided to try a new route for me, but one that the William Bartram might be proud of...

 State Road 13 weaves along the St. Johns River from 207 up into Julington Creek. The drive is peaceful and beautiful, with old oak trees, pine flats and marshes. I think I might have gotten a glimpse of the Florida the Bartrams' knew and loved so many years ago.

To learn more about the Bartram Trail in Putnam County, visit their website.

Texts and Photos: Emily Jane Murray, FPAN Staff

Read between the Lines: Stewardship and Signs

Two months ago I traveled over 2,500 miles for 10 days in two states. Packing, airports, TSA, car rental, and a grocery store stop later, I arrived in Bozeman, Montana. "Why," you might wonder? Project Archaeology selected me to participate in the annual Project Archaeology Leadership Academy (PALA). Over the course of three days, I would become a Master Teacher of their curriculum and prepare myself to return to Florida and begin training teachers, archaeologists, museum specialists, and anybody else interested. My Mom traveled with me and we decided to make the most of our 2,500 mile trip. We wanted to see Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
We made it to Yellowstone! I stand at the original entrance to the park.

You might wonder what National Parks in Montana and Wyoming, along with the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy, have to do with Florida archaeology. As we traveled and as I learned at the PALA, a theme stuck with me: stewardship. Project Archaeology designed their curriculum with the aim to provide Enduring Understandings (big ideas that students will remember in five years, in twenty years).  Of the four Enduring Understandings, the last mentions stewardship, reading "Stewardship of archaeological resources is everyone’s responsibility." One of the later lessons introduces Luisa, a young girl who stumbles upon an archaeological site. What should she do? Students, by understanding their responsibilities as stewards of the past, should decide to examine the site from afar, perhaps documenting it, and then reporting it to a park ranger or an archaeologist.
Soda Butte, a geological feature in Yellowstone National Park.

After completing the Leadership Academy, we headed south and entered Yellowstone. On our second day of driving and exploring, we came across the Soda Butte geological feature. As an archaeologist, I wasn't drawn to the butte's geological story. I noticed the sign asking visitors to respect the site. That sounded familiar to me!

SIGNS! This one talks about the mound, its formation and fragile nature.
Like archaeological sites, it's illegal to tamper with the site.

Archaeological signs calling for awareness and respect of archaeological sites and features appear all over Northeast Florida. Those signs of stewardship read very similar to the one at Soda Butte.

Being a steward is an easy job, though also an incredibly important one. It simply calls for all of us to care for the resources we have, whether cultural, natural, geological, or some other sort. Within the past year, FPAN-NE posted an album on Facebook called Signs, Signs, Everywhere Archy Signs. Many of these photos highlighted wording that emphasized protection of sites and encouraged visitors to act as stewards.
A sign greets visitors before they hike the
shell midden. Shells can be artifacts too! 
Venture to Volusia and enjoy natural beauty and
cultural heritage at Hontoon Island State Park.

I love this sign! It mentions ARPA and explains
the perimeters of the Act. Kudos to Pensacola Naval
Air Station.

This sign appeared in the museum at the Crystal
River Archaeological State Park. Its message is as
true on the west coast as it is on the east coast.

How have do you act as a steward of the past? Do you see signs set out to protect cultural resources? If so, share with us what they say and where they are.

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