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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 April 2013

Join Us on a Journey: Cemetery a Day in May

In our Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) class we often tell participants that a visited cemetery is a safer cemetery.  Vandals target cemeteries when they think no one is looking, so one of the easiest ways to protect them is just by being there.  Inspired by this guiding principle, we’ve decided to let our passion for historic cemeteries run wild this month and encourage visitation to these significant archaeological sites.  Are cemeteries really archaeological sites?  Absolutely!  Archaeologists study people of the past and a wide range of places they used or inhabited.  Are all cemeteries historic?  In Florida a cemetery is considered historical if it’s 75 years or older.

So join us through the journey of “Cemetery a Day in May” for a variety of old and new favorite places for you to visit in northeast Florida!

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff.  Image: Jody Marcil featured in Written in Stone: Historic Cemeteries of St. Johns County poster.

"Where Is It???" Wednesday: Timucuan Language Display

For a play on "What Is It???" Wednesday, see if you can place where in northeast Florida this video is on display.  Click to hear English, Spanish, and Timucuan translations of everyday words.


Anywhere else you know of where the Timucua language is on display?  Post in comments below and we'll share when we post the answer on Friday.

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

Communicating with the Past--Entry #6: Reflecting on the Past

Note: this blog post is the last in a series written by Flagler College History students working on site with St. Augustine's City Archaeologist.  This post reflects on a site visit prior to the second blog entry.  You can visit the Flagler Public History blog here.

Kayleigh Gades

As we reached the final days of our visits to the archaeological site at Flagler College's Communications Parking Lot, we began wondering what would be an appropriate way to end this journey.  We decided the best way would be to return where our journey began: the site itself.  The last page in our journey made us all think about what we had learned and offered us all a chance to see the site again--some of us for the first time in months.

 Clayton Junkins

 By the time I had returned to the dig site, almost two months after my initial visit, the landscape had changed dramatically.  Most of the holes were filled in and the dig seemed to be nearing its end; my fears were assuaged when I saw that there were new units being excavated.  Carl, Nick, and the rest of the volunteers were gathered around a deep square hole; they had decided to call it a day early due to the incoming clouds that signaled a rainstorm was on its way.  I managed to arrive at just the right moment.

Shaker Screen at the Communications Building site.  Photo by Clayton Junkins.

 When I peered into the freshly excavated dig site, I was astonished by what lay before me; within the hole was a perfectly preserved Minorcan well.  For weeks I had heard of wells, bones, tools, and pottery being discovered.  The tabby foundation had been partially reburied, so it was nice to see that the crew had discovered something else that was so well preserved.  When discussing it with a friend of mine, who worked for FPAN while attending Flagler, he was amazed to find out that the well was circular--he had mainly seen square-shaped wells scattered throughout the city.

Coquina well.  Photo by Clayton Junkins.

In closing, my time visiting and listening to others discuss the dig site has been an enlightening experience.  St. Augustine is a city rich with history.  If this dig site proves one thing it is that you never know what lies right beneath your feet in St. Augustine.  For years students, faculty, and staff have walked over what they believed to be a simple parking lot, unaware that evidence of a past culture lie only a few feet beneath where they tread.  Through the work of St. Augustine archaeologists I now have a greater application for the city's undiscovered treasures.

Tabby floor or road surface.  Photo by Brittany Martin

 Brittany Martin

By visiting the dig, we learned a lot about the inner workings of the archaeological procedure.  I was particularly fascinated by the idea that people threw things down wells and how the water preserves the items.  We are usually taught that water destroys and the idea that it can preserve seeds from through time is not only strange, but also seems miraculous!  I also learned about the process of making an informed idea of identifying an artifact's age by the popularity of its markings or style.  Determining the type of pottery from its painted pattern and paste (clay from which it is made) is astounding.  Who would have known pottery fads would help archaeologists so much?  Overall, I think this dig really helped us learn about archaeology, but also about the history of the town that we like to call home.  I was extremely grateful for this opportunity and I hope to volunteer with the St. Augustine Archaeological Association again!

 Kayleigh Gades

Carl Halbirt prepares to cover a site before the rain.  Photo by Kayleigh Gades.

Work continues at the old Communications parking lot of Flagler College.  Since I was last at the site, old digs have been filled in and new ones have taken their place.  In fact, they will soon be moving the dig from the back of the lot to the front, filling in the old sites and digging new ones.  Though it is bittersweet to see the sites filled in, there is much information the archaeologists have gained from the digs.  Still, we may never know the answers to the mysteries of the chicken burial or tabby foundation--but that is part of the process as well.

Dig site where the knife and another well were found on my first visit, now covered.  Photo by Kayleigh Gades.

One of the most substantial finds at the dig site is also one of the newest and here there is no mystery.  there is clearly a well in the site and it is almost completely preserved; from its rough outer edges--which the residents would not have seen while the well was in use--to the smooth inner shaft of the well.  The find is amazing, but it could also be temporary.  Since Flagler College has plans to build in the area, a plan must be created to save part, if not all, of the well.  A few ideas have been discussed with the school, including a clear flooring placed over the well so people could view it as they walked by or removing part of the well and placing it at an above-ground location so it can be enjoyed by others.  Personally, I think walking over the well on the way to class would be amazing, but that could just be the nerd in me.  Either way, the find is remarkable and should be preserved in some form or fashion.

Coquina well with smooth inside and rough exterior.  Photo by Kayleigh Gades.

Erik Hendricksen

As a group, we returned to the site for a final meeting to see what has happened since we all last visited.  The dig team had come a long way since I had last been to the site with the discovery of an entire well.  Previously they had found signs of wells in various different units within the Communications Building parking lot.  This well, however, was completely intact.  Now the team has to make a decision on what to do with the well since construction is going to take place in the near future.  One of the ideas that struck me the most was to put a clear glass covering over it so that, after the construction, people could still see the well underneath their feet.

Intact well.  Photo by Erik Hendricksen.

St. Augustine was one of the first cities to enact a law that made it mandatory for an archaeology team to inspect a proposed construction site.  Now many cities in America  have followed in their footsteps to preserve history that may otherwise have been destroyed.  Right in the back parking lot of the Communications Building at Flagler, there's a well that's hundreds of years old that may have been destroyed in the building process if not for the archaeologists.

Meghan Crawford

Being able to watch and learn what the local archaeologists were digging up was such a treat.  I found myself eagerly looking forward to what they found and the photos that my fellow group members have taken.  I learned so much about how a dig works.  It is far more than digging.  Unearthing a lost past is so thrilling and I look forward to keeping up with future digs.  St. Augustine has so much to offer--you just have to look underneath the surface.

Archaeology blog team: Erik Hendricksen, Brittany Martin, Clayton Junkins, Kayleigh Gades, and Meghan Crawford.  Photo by Nick McAuliffe.

Want to find out what you missed?  Read the blog team's previous posts at the following links:

Entry 1
Entry 2
Entry 3
Entry 4
Entry 5

Communicating with the Past: Entry #5

Note: this blog post is part of an ongoing series written by Flagler College History students working on site with St. Augustine's City Archaeologist.  This post reflects on a site visit prior to the second blog entry.  You can visit the Flagler Public History blog here.

Meandering through the streets of St. Augustine, one is bound to walk by the Flagler College Communications building.  Unimpressed, many people go about their day without realizing what may have been there in the past.  Now that it is time to replace the building with a new structure that is able to meet the needs of Flagler College and its students, it is time to bring out the archaeologists who hope to discover the stories that this site has to share.

A section of the excavation area--City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt is in the far unit.

During a recent visit to the site, I found many exciting things were going on.  Many more wells have been discovered, as well as some postholes.  A posthole is a hole that has been dug into the ground in order to hold an upright post.  Once the post is inserted into the hole, the space is backfilled with dirt or other material, such as shell or trash.  All that remains of the post/postholes at the site are dark stains in the soil.  This may indicate that these were wooden posts that have decayed over time and the hole silted up.  These postholes are important to archaeologists because they indicate a former location of some kind of a structure--in this case, possibly a fence.

Test unit showing partially excavated holes.

In addition to the digging and sifting through dirt for items, workers were making profile maps of each unit.  A profile is the vertical wall or section of an excavation unit.  Through the profile, archaeological features and stratigraphy can be seen.  A profile map gives a graphic representation that can include soil color, features, and content.  They also include many layers that have developed over time.

Hand-drawn unit profile.

The dig is still in full swing, and many new discoveries are found every day!  Who knows what this site contains; the possibilities are endless.  If you find yourself taking a stroll through downtown St. Augustine, stop by the com lot and watch what is happening. You may be lucky enough to witness something exciting or spot something that has not been seen in many, many years.

Text and photos by Meghan Crawford.

Mystery Points Identified

Mystery Points Identified  - They are Pinellas Points
Three weeks ago "What is it Wednesday" posted a request for help identifying two mystery points recently brought to our attention in Putnam County, Florida.  No one responded to the request!  However, since that time, the writer has become aware of a wonderful new resource, publicly available, to answer just such a question. 

Back in the 1960's, Dr. Ripley P. Bullen, an archaeologist and Curator of Florida Archaeology at the University of Florida's Florida State Museum, conducted a study of Florida projectile points.  He produced from this study a classification system and type collection containing 43 point types which he presented at the 1967 Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society.  In 1968, the Florida State Museum (it is now the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida) published his "Guide to the Identification of Florida Projectile Points".  The publication became a classic and so popular that Bullen revised it to include 50 point types and had it published in book form by Kendall Books in 1975. 
Revised Edition 1975
If you have access to a copy of this classic in your library, you are in-like-Flynn.   If you can't get your hands on a copy (only one is available at Amazon for $65.00), well, you could try to locate experts in the field of Florida projectile points and enlist their help.

But now, just in the last few weeks, the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) has produced a wonderful new tool to increase visual access to Bullen's type collection.  FLMNH has photographed and digitized 600 projectile points from the Bullen collection and put them on a web site entitled "The Bullen Projectile Point Type Collection".  Anyone with a computer can now access this complete digital gallery of the Bullen Type Collection. 

Images of points from the Bullen Type Collection

In addition to the 600 images covering Paleoindian to contact period points organized by type/subtype and temporal period, the web site contains a glossary of lithic terminology, composite location maps by county and additional references and links, a great resource!

Counties with Paleoindian Points

The Florida Museum of Natural History website can be accessed at the following link:

Text by Toni Wallace, FPAN-NE Regional Center
Photos (except for the 1st one) from the Florida Museum of Natural History web site.

Communicating with the Past: Entry #4--The Pipe Smoking Dog

Note: this blog post is part of an ongoing series written by Flagler College History students working on site with St. Augustine's City Archaeologist.  This post reflects on a site visit prior to the second blog entry.  You can visit the Flagler Public History blog here.

Blog author with archaeology team

The dig behind the Communications building was in full swing when I arrived.  Tarps covered the parking lot and you could just see the tops of the archaeologists' and volunteers' heads as they peeked out of the tops of these massive holes.  The first stop on the tour of the dig site was the beginnings of an excavation into one of the many wells on one site.

Top of well shaft with artifacts

This find could be a treasure trove of information on the site as many people of the time would throw garbage and whatnot down the well shaft after it was no longer used as a well.  The water would preserve many things, from a pair of shoes to seeds of plants that were buried in the area.  The well had not been opened yet, so the findings have yet to be unearthed.

The next stop on the tour of the site led us to the previously discussed tabby flooring.  The team had found that the floor was much longer than they had anticipated and was divided into a section.  Ideas on the purpose of this structure ranged from stable to storage.  The team is working to discover the true purpose of the tabby floor and the structure it was part of.

The tabby floor lay only a few feet away from a much deeper and larger rectangular hole where the team had uncovered a few pipe stems, the edge of a structure's foundation, and the burial of a medium-sized dog.  The team and Carl Halbirt were working diligently to unearth the edge of a structure as well as the dog remains.  The dog had been buried, suggesting it had been a beloved pet.  The running gag about the pipe stems being located right above the dog burial was that it could be misconstrued that the dog's pipe smoking had led to its demise.  This was, however, very far from the truth.  As to the structure's use, at the time of my visit little was known.  The team, however, will be sure to uncover its purpose.

Partially exposed dog skeleton

Lastly, I was brought to the sieves, where dirt had been separated from some interesting and exciting finds.  First I was shown a few pieces of pottery that had the most beautiful blue and white paintings on them.  The patterns of each piece could help the team identify the time period it was created, as they could match the style of pattern to the time when it was most popular.  These pieces of pottery dated back to the British Period--and even to the First Spanish Period.  Next was a piece of Native American pottery.  It had a much darker brown color and thin raised lines that covered its surface.  The Native Americans themselves would not have used the piece this fragment belonged to; it would have been made by the natives for use by the Spanish or British who commissioned the work.  I was also shown the jaw of the dog, which had been removed from the pit.

Screen showing a variety of artifacts, including partial pipe bowl, pottery and glass door knob

 The Communication Building dig has already found many interesting things about the past of St. Augustine, and has so much more to offer.  The team is working hard to unearth the rest of the site's secrets, and soon we will know even more about the uses of this lot before it became part of Flagler College.

Text by Brittany Martin
Photos by Moises Sztylerman and Nick McAuliffe

Communicating with the Past: Entry #3--Parking Lot Archaeology: History Right in Our Own Backyard

Note: this blog post is the third 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.

If you were to pass through downtown St. Augustine, you may run into the Flagler College Communications building on Cordova Street.  Currently there is planned construction behind the building in its parking lot, but before any construction can begin, archaeologists, under city ordinance, must take an archaeological survey of the site to look for anything of importance.  The team found multiple points of interest during the survey.

Here we see Nick McAuliffe conducting a plumb bob test.  The plumb bob acts like a line level, but for vertical measurement.  This helps the archaeologists to keep track of vertical positions.  The test is essential to the archaeological dig to help keep records.  This specific excavation site was found when signs of construction were found during the survey.

These are some of the indicators of construction that archaeologists look for.  These specifically are stains in the dirt and are believed to be post holes.  The wood in the post would cause a stain in the earth.  This marker indicates that there might be something of more importance in the general area.

The stained earth in this unit (different from the previous picture) indicated that there was a well that had been built right where the concave area is seen in the site.  Wells are interesting because they often serve as trash pits when they are no longer of use.  Trash pits offer all kinds of insight into the daily lives of the people who used to live here.  The well had been discovered prior to my visit to the site, so the team was already in the process of going through what was found in it.

When a well is discovered the muck found within the well is put through a sifter.  Well points are often used in this process, but the team was waiting for one to arrive when I visited.  Anything larger than the screen mesh remains on top of the sifter.  On the day that I visited, the team had already found some artifacts: sherds of pottery, coquina blocks once used to create walls and buildings, and a piece of leather.  The leather had been found prior to my visit and had been in pristine condition due to the climate of the well.

 Here are some of the things found in the well.  The well provides a great climate for preserving artifacts.  This sherd of pottery retains most of its color even though it is hundreds of years old.  Also, this clay pipe was found in the well with small inscriptions on the side.  These are just some of the things people may have discarded into the well.  I found the pipe interesting because it had a personal feel to it.  It was once someone's personal belonging, with inscriptions and all.

 This dig is still going on and much more has been discovered since my visit.  In a city as old as St. Augustine, there is bound to be something of historical significance in the parking lot of the Flagler Communications building.  The archaeologists believe the site was once a larger piece of property than it is currently.  The well indicates it was someone's private residence, with the possibilities of a stable somewhere in the area.

Text and photos by Erik Hendricksen 

Communicating with the Past: Entry #2, “The Knife That Fell”

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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