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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 October 2013

Northeast Florida Archaeology Shellebration (Part I)

Everyone loves a pretty seashell right? I know I do. Although their aesthetic qualities have intrigued Florida locals and tourists alike, they're also extremely important resources for archaeologists studying prehistoric coastal and inland waterway occupations.


Beautiful right?


This blend of malacology (the study of mollusks, which also includes animals like squids and octopuses) or conchology (often associated with the amateur collecting of shells) with archaeology has been deemed "archaeomalacology" by scholars both in the United States and in Europe and is considered a sub-specialty of zooarchaeology--the study of animals at archaeological sites. Here in the Southeastern United States, notable scholars include Karen Walker, Douglas Jones, and Irvy Quitmyer (Florida Museum of Natural History), Cheryl Claassen (Appalachian State University), Gregory Waselkov (University of South Alabama), Betsy Reitz (University of Georgia), and Fred Andrus (University of Alabama) and others!


Of course, these researchers do study shell midden deposition and site formation processes similar to archaeologists working in other settings around the globe, but they also consider the biology and ecology of the organism to understand:

Habitat- what kind of environment does the animal prefer? Subtidal or Intertidal? Marine, Estuarine, or Freshwater?

Archaeological Implications: How far did Natives have to travel to capture this resource? Did they have to swim out into the water or just collect on the beach? Where were they finding these species now deposited in a midden? How has the environment changed/not changed since the time these ecofacts were tossed away?

Locomotion and Activity Patterns- How does this animal move about- can it move at all? Is this species diurnal, nocturnal, crepuscular?

Those oysters aren't walking away.
Archaeological Implications: Could these animals be collected year-round or only seasonally, that is, are they available year-round? Do they have any techniques to resist predation by humans? (for example, lightning whelks can bury into the sandy seafloor)

Diet and Predation- Is this animal an herbivore or carnivore? Does it have natural predators?
Horse conch is the state shell of Florida, and they're always hungry!


 Archaeological Implications: Mobile whelks and conchs will avoid particular regions for extended periods of time (sometimes for several months!) because they know when their predators are most likely to be hunting! In turn, this affects their availability to Native populations.

Reproduction and Ontogeny- How many babies do they have? How often to they reproduce, and generally, how many survive? How long until they're sexually mature? How fast does the snail grow, and when does it grow? How long does it live?

Whelk egg casing

Archaeological Implications: Are these critters sustainable? Could Natives collect them at will because there were too many to deplete a population, OR did they have to manage the resource to ensure lucrative harvests in perpetuity?



As we can quickly see, shellfish ecology is of great use to the archaeologist of coastal Florida! Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we will meet--and learn about--several of Northeast Florida's shell residents!

Text and Images: Ryan Harke, FPAN Staff. Full credit to Florida International University (FIU) Department of Marine Biology and Oceanography for the zonation image. Credit to Mike Theiss for the queen conch photo, River Mud for the oyster bed photo, and credit to Karen Checca for the egg casing photo. Full credit to National Geographic and YouTube for the horse conch video.



Ceramics 101: Olive Jars! (Day 2, Part 2)

Early, Middle, Late Olive Jar.
Day 2: Unglazed coarse earthenware (Part 2: Olive Jars)

Olive jars are commonly found on archaeological sites going back to the 16th century.  They were the primary container used for shipping.  Due to deforestation many societies ran out of materials for containers, thus they made ceramic ones.  In America and Spain hundreds of thousands of olive jars were used for storing water and transport.  When the jars got to their destination they were often repurposed for storage.  Some other notable examples of repurposing include Mexican cathedral walls made of olive jars stacked side by side.  This happened here in St. Augustine, as well as any kind of arching or whole patios.



Archaeologically we find three varieties of olive jar: Early, Middle, and Late.  Main way to tell one from another is rim type and body shape.  Modeled on classical amphorae, Early olive jars were used around the Mediterranean in 1550.  When the Spanish started shipping to America they shifted to a more bulbous shaped vessel for ease of transport.  Dr. Deagan states that no one really sure how that worked, how they didn't break.  After 1550 the Middle style, which was already around in Europe, came into prominence.  Finally in 1780, following shipping changes to America, Late form jars start showing up on archaeological sites.  Many of the jars likely originated in Seville, which as only sanctioned trade city had a formidable olive jar industry.


Left to right: Early, Middle, and Late rim types for Olive Jars.

Specimens for practice on reserve at the library (then, not now).

From our reading:
Forms of Olive Jars (Goggin 1960:28 cited in Deagan 2002:31)


Early Olive Jar forms (1490-1570)
  • Distinct rim, flanged lip
  • Coiled but smooth with not many ridges on the inside
  • Jar almost flat, could rest against the body
  • Few Early examples found in St. Augustine or North America
  • Thin, thinner5-7 mm thick
  • Smoothed over whitish look to the surface
  • Paste has flesh colored, freckled look, sand tempered
  • Freckling shows through to the surface
  • Rope more on handles for the early.

Early rim, note flanged lip.

Middle Olive Jar forms (1560-1800)
  • Large, very tall, possibly made by putting molds together
  • Rim distinctive, donut shape with inverted rim and almost a hook in cross section
  • Big coils, places where big coils were smoothed but you can still feel
Middle Olive Jar body sherd, note thickness and coils.
Middle (left) and Late (right) rim types for Olive Jars.
Late Olive Jar forms (1800-1900)
  • Very pointy, set them into racks
  • Late style, the coils are more pronounced
  • Rim looks more like a strip stuck on, not sculpted up like Early or donut like Middle
  • Rim is a ring with no indentation
  • Thickness thinner than middle 
  • Can feel more prominent coils, ridges are squared off

Late conicular Olive Jar base.





In sum, all olive jars are coarse earthenware.  For archaeologists we can't often date from body sherd alone, need rim and probably the base.  They can also be glazed, often on the inside.

Beware: not all vessels featuring this flesh, freckled paste type are olive jars!
Tricky! Intermediate Mid/Late rim.

Posers that often throw off archaeological analysts:
  • Hybrids exist, such as one example from Fountain of Youth that features body of an Early form with the rim of a Middle
  • Amphora body sherds, for example other early shipping containers found in Dominican Republic.  If rims are too wide, it's not an olive jar.
  • The French used biot storage jars, which are not considered olive jars.  
  • Sugar molds are often mistaken for olive jars but feature odd bases and tops that might throw an analyst off.  
  • Flat base is indicative of a bacin, again not an olive jar.
  • Thickness not always a help, like honey vessels are small versus water vessels which are larger.

Rim fired, NOT an olive jar.
Not an olive jar, rim too wide.
 
Quiz!  Can you identify Early, Middle, and Late sherds after reading this post? 


Check back next week for 3rd and last installment of Day 2: Unglazed Coarse Earthenware!

Other posts in the #ceramics101 series (will provide link as they are posted):
Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slipware and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

  
Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  


References

Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/)

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Noel Hume, Ivor 1980 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Knopf.

The Gullah-Geechee in Florida

This past weekend, I visited Edisto Island, South Carolina, to take a historic home and church tour. At one of the local churches, I learned of an amazing project: the Smithsonian Museum moved a slave cabin from the island to DC to restore and place on permanent display (read more here). A descendent, who remembers her great grandmother babysitting her as a young girl in the cabin, spoke proudly of her heritage getting so much attention. The presentation grew into a larger discussion of the Gullah-Geechee culture.

Having family in Low Country South Carolina and spending quite a few summers there, the Gullah-Geechee culture has always been known to me. Sweet grass basket stands were always lingering on the sides of highways and orka stew was a staple in many family dinners. But in Florida, I've found the culture less known, even though it stretched as far south as St. Johns County and had impacts far beyond.

Examples of African words that made their way into English language through Gullah.
Gullah is the name of to the pidgeon language spoken by Africans who were brought to the plantations in the Low Country. The word 'Gullah' is derived from the word 'Angola,' a coastal area of West Africa that many people came from. The word 'Geechee' is comes from the Ogeechee River in Georgia. Generally, folks in the Carolinas were Gullah and folks in Georgia Geechee, though the culture is similar throughout coastal areas from North Carolina to Florida.

Many of the Gullah/Geechee brought the culture with them as they sought a better life in Florida, running away from the bondage of their plantation lives. Fort Mose, in St. Augustine, was a large community of these free Africans. When Florida joined the Union and became a slave state, the free black people continued to seek new refuges, leaving with the Spanish to Cuba or fleeing to the swamps with the Seminole.

Map of colonial St. Augustine, showing a "Fuertz Negro," Fort Mose, north of town.

Some of the Black Seminole moved west, ending up in Texas. Many Gullah customs, including a similar language are still found there today.
The Gullah/Geechee culture is a combination of African traditions blended with customs from life in the Low Country. Basket weaving was brought with the enslaved Africans but changed with the new materials and experiences available in the New World.  Traditional foods include those brought with them, like sweet potatos, okra, benne (sesame seeds) and watermelon, blended with what was here: rice, seafood and corn. Tabby, cement made from oyster shells, became a common building material throughout the barrier islands, the technology stemming from African traditions.

Sweet grass baskets, made from sweet grass, sable palm and pine straw.

Baskets made by the Black Seminole using a similar technique.
For an opportunity to see the culture in person, check out the Ritz Theater and Museum's current exhibit, "Word, Shout Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner, Connecting Communities Through Language." The exhibit features a display about Turner's life as well as videos, artifacts and panels about the Gullah-Geechee and the Black Seminole. The museum is also sponsoring special events including a sweet grass basket weaving demonstration and workshop and several speakers. Visit their website for more information.

To learn more about Gullah-Geechee culture, please visit the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website. To learn more about the Black Seminole, including current efforts to find their archaeological footprint, check out USF's Looking for Angola project.

Text and images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN staff

Ceramics 101: Unglazed Earthenware (Part 1: Prehistoric)


Comparing two pastes: San Marcos up top, St. Johns below

Day 2 – Unglazed Earthenware

Part 1: Prehistoric

On Day 2 we spent the first hour looking at prehistoric sherds of Northeast Florida.  The two more prevalent Timucuan types are St. Johns and San Marcos.  They were made by Native people who lived in this area more than 3,000 years ago. 





 St. Johns (AD 900 - 1250/1300)

Beginning around 900 AD the Timucuan started making St. Johns Pottery.  The most obvious feature is the texture, very sold and chalky.  Chalky texture is result of sponge spicules found in the clay.  No obvious aggregate is observed in the clay.  From 3,000 BC to 500 AD pottery in this area was plain and sand tempered, but ca. 500 AD they started making check stamped as well.  Why did they start stamping?  Could be to increase the surface area so vessels could hold heat longer.  Mary Herron asked the question and had the UF Physics department cut stamped vs plain and measured rate at which heat was lost.  They found the rate much slower in stamped samples.  Could also be stamping made the surface more tactile, easier to hold. 


San Marcos (AD 1625-1650 - 1702* ending dates are tentative)

San Marcos pottery (also known as Altamaha when found in Georgia) is assigned to the Guale people from coastal regions of South Carolina and north Georgia.  Their pottery is markedly different from Timucua. San Marcos pottery is thick but heavily tempered, gritty, and rough with lots of decoration.  They sometimes used sand and broken up shell in the temper.  The reddish treatment found on some sherds is indicative of firing process, where there was more air in open firing pits.  Decoration includes stamping, punctuate, whole away but also plain and stamped.  Overall San Marcos is heavier, denser, harder, grittier, with sand and shell.
Chunky San Marcos on top.





Timucua traded with Guale around 1500 AD, and St Johns pottery is also found in Guale region.  While looking at pottery found between the regions may lead you to think they were trading pots, more likely they were trading goods contained in the pots.   

For more information on prehistoric ceramics in Florida, check out Florida Museum of Natural History's Ceramic Technology Laboratory.  Or you can read more in free digital version of these articles assigned for class: 




Refining the Ceramic Chronology of Northeast Florida

Check back next week for second installment of Unglazed Earthenware (Part 2: Olive Jars)!

Other posts in the #ceramics101 series (will provide link as they are posted):
Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slipware and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

  
Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  


References


Deagan, Kathleen and David Hurst Thomas (eds)
2009   From Santa Elena to St. Augustine: Indigenous Ceramic Variability (A.D. 1400 - 1700).  Proceedings of the Second Caldwell Conference.  New York: American Museum of Natural History.

Ashley, Keith
2008  Refining the Ceramic Chronology of Northeast Florida.  Florida Anthropologist Vol 61 issue 3-4: 123-132. 


Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/)

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Noel Hume, Ivor 1980 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Knopf.

Ceramics 101: Week 1 - Introduction

Studying for ceramics final!
This time last year I had the opportunity to sit in on Dr. Kathleen Deagan's Historic Ceramic Analysis class taught at Flagler College.  I couldn't believe my luck that after all my years stalking Dr. Deagan that she agreed to teach one night a week in my backyard.  Her dedication to St. Augustine and to historical archaeology knows no bounds.  It was a dream of mine to turn my copious notes and photos from the class into a series of blog posts to share with the public.  Dr. Deagan graciously gave her blessing, I hope to not let her down.  So let us begin!




Day 1 – Class Notes

The first few weeks we focused on the "what" of historic ceramics.  While it's critical for us to know our data, it's also critical to know the how's and why's too.  Dr. Deagan began the class with a review of processual and post-processual archaeology, historical archaeology, and examples of the far ranging sites archaeologists study.  When it comes to considering a whole site and what it means, artifacts are the bridge. 

"Where have you worked?" was the first question asked by a student enrolled in the class.  Dr. Deagan modestly answered with a short list of sites in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and St. Augustine (downtown and at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park).  I will keep my veneration as brief as I can, but know Kathy Deagan wrote THE book on ceramics in our part of the world.  She's authored 8 books, 65+ professional articles, and received the Society of Historical Archaeology's highest honor the Harrington Award for lifetime achievement.  You can read her bio and CV on the UF Department of Anthropology webpage. 

The class took place at Flagler College located in downtown St. Augustine.  Our city, she argued, is the best place to learn historic ceramics as we have all the time periods represented here: Spanish, French, Dutch, English, American.  "No matter where you go after 1492, global world goods were exchanged all over the world; they became regularized."  Given the time period of sites around the world, you get some of representation of historic ceramics.  Dr. Deagan emphasizes that here in St. Augustine you get ALL historic ceramic types.  After this class students should be able to go anywhere and do a historical ceramic project.  We will first focus on ceramic analysis- things you always do like count and record.  Then we will have an opportunity to focus on one type for an end of term project and dive into deeper questions.


The assigned text book for the class was Kathy Deagan's Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean, 1500-1800: Ceramics, Glassware, and Beads.  You can pick up a copy on Amazon or through your local library.  It is currently out of print, so copies are rare. The other assigned book was Ivor Noel Hume's A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America, namely the slipware and stoneware sections.  

Don't fret if you can't find a copy of Deagan's book- the primary resource we used throughout the class was the Florida Museum of Natural History's Digital Type Collection.  This free on-line resource allows you to browse the list of types, view specimens (such as my favorite, San Luis Polychrome), and view pages of examples of each type (SLP alone has more than 60 images posted).  The database comes from original specimens physically curated at the museum.  While access to that area is restricted, they've done a wonderful job in making the information readily available to the public.    


Screen cap of my favorite page on the Internet.


People and Pottery

With essential resources added to our ceramic analysis toolbox, we tackled the issue of why ceramics are so important to archaeologists.  Selection of bullets from my notes:
  • The primary reason ceramics are of utmost importance is because pottery preserves well.  It doesn't degrade, which is critical.  
  • Ceramics have also been intensively studied.  More than just cooking and eating, ceramics can tell us about the intentions of people who used them.  Someone in the past had the idea of purpose in mind when making and using pottery, ceramics are the expression of that.  "Why does Chinese porcelain have gardens, temples and pagodas but English pottery gets historical scenes of ships?"  
  • Context is important, we need to consider what is going on at the time of deposition.  Ideology is important- what's interesting to a culture, what are they supposed to do.  To borrow an example from prehistoric pottery, why are some St. Johns sherds plain but others are stamped?  For holding ability when stamped an add more friction, or to add more surface space during firing.  
  • What can vessel form tell us?  Used for serving?  Elements are not just for fun, they are intentional and tell us about function.  
  •  Then we considered a range for ceramic forms: pots, tea cups, figurines, pipes.  Economy, trade networks, social connections, and symbolic meaning can be further understood by studying ceramics.  Dr. Deagan ended the lecture by asking us to consider: What would a tea cup mean in a prehistoric burial? 
 Ceramic Typology

 The class followed a syllabus organized by ceramic type.  Dr. Deagan defined types as a set of ceramics that has a specific and unique combination of physical attributes.  Three key attributes: paste, surface treatment, decoration. Paste is most important. 
There are four categories of paste.  (text taken directly from my notes)
1) Coarse earthenware.  Terra cotta, refers to low fired clay at temps 800-900 degrees.  Majority of human history everywhere is coarse earthenware.  Grainey, porous, hard and fired, and will stick.
A) untreated, unglazed
B) surface displacement (checks, punctuates, incising)
C) scraping, polishing, smoothing
D)painting, pigment or adding a mineral to the surface
E) lead glazing
F) slip
G) tin enamel, only on course earthenware



2) Refined earthenware, 1790s introduced.  Higher temperatures up to 1,300 degrees. Thinner, harder, tongue doesn't stick.  Bite it. Usually a lighter color, more compact.  Hardness of the paste.  Thinner, really even. Always lead glazed.
               E) Lead glaze surface treatments, that's it








3) Stoneware, since late medieval times.  Salt glazed. Klinky, scratchy.  Other types are not salt glazed.
               H) salt glazing
               Or can be untreated or unglazed
               Can have surface displacement, only a few kinds that display that







4) Porcelain.  Asian, fired at 1300-1450 centigrade.  Closest pottery to glass.  Special white kaolin clay.
     Lead glaze, really looks the same (clear)









Check back next week as we dig deeper into the first paste type, Coarse Earthenware!

Other posts in the #ceramics101 series (will provide link as they are posted):
Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slipware and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

  
Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  


References

Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/)

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Noel Hume, Ivor 1980 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Knopf.

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