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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 January 2014

GPR Testing At St. Augustine's Fountain Of Youth Archaeological Park

Not too long ago I had the chance to bring a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) unit from Orlando up to the beautiful Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in one of my favorite Florida cities, St. Augustine.  The purpose of our visit was to assist researchers at the site in locating previous test units. That's right, we were looking for old holes!  But these weren't just any test units, these were test units that John Mann Goggin had put in at the site decades earlier.  The recent discovery of documents concerning these previously unknown/little known test units is allowing researchers to draw a more complete picture of a piece of this amazing site.

Initially, FPAN staff joined Dr. Kathleen Deagan, city archaeologist Carl Halbirt, and members of the SAAA, to excavate particular areas in search of features that might identify Goggin's units. The team was successful, but time and money (as is usually the case in archaeology!) prevented further "ground-truthing" at the site. The mapping is not over, however, because GPR will allow archaeologists to continually investigate and monitor the site without actually digging. So, how does the GPR unit help researchers understand better the subsurface features of archaeological sites?

GPR works on a pretty simple principle: Radar waves are propagated or pulsed into the ground via an antenna that is both the source and receiver of these waves.  These are the same radar waves utilized by aircraft to locate other craft in the sky, so nothing most folks aren't already familiar with.  GPR units used in archaeology are generally pushed on a buggy that is pretty much self contained; the battery, antenna and display screen are all connected together via the framework of the buggy.  

Pic by Kevin Gidusko
GPR Unit at Fountain of Youth Park

On the picture to the left we can see the antenna (big gray rectangular box at base of buggy), the batteries (in the black bag) and the readout screen (by the handles).  That yellow box?  That's where the magic happens.

There are many different types of GPR units and different antennas which are used for different jobs.  On the left we have a 250MHz antenna attached, we also had a 500MHz antenna we tried out as well.

The GPR Unit is pushed over a set grid of transects which allows for x and y control.  Think about the Cartesian coordinate systems you had to learn about in school; lay that out on a 40 by 30 meter grid and that's what we're talking about here.  This is incredibly important for all of the VERY extensive processing that occurs after data collection.

GPR Unit Propagating electromagnetic waves into the soil

An important point to note is that GPR does not "see" what is beneath the surface.  In reality GPR can only show anomalies in the subsurface material.  The antenna's receiver is recording the difference in the electrical conductivity of subsurface material.  That is, these electromagnetic waves are going to travel through some material faster than it will travel through other types of material.  Air is a great medium for these radar waves because there is little to no hindrance.  Wet, clayey soils provide not only a lot of hindrance to the radar wave, but also the presence of water attributes to what is known as attenuation, or essentially the loss of the signal in any appreciable sense for the antenna.  This can be dealt with by using different antennas of varying strength, knowledge of the soil matrix so that the GPR Unit can calibrated specifically for a location, and through utilizing processing software.

And now for a sneak peak of what we "saw" at the park:

Do you see those downward pointing hyperbolas to the left and at the middle of the reflection profile?  That is what someone using a GPR is trying to find!  Of course, there's a lot more going on here, but if you've read this far then you deserve to take a break.  Go get a cookie and we'll be sure to update when we get the chance to collect more data.  

Dr. Lawrence B. Conyers is one of the leading archaeologists utilizing and developing software for GPR.  He also has a cool website you can check out if you would like to learn more about GPR applications in archaeology.


Conyers, Lawrence B.
  2112 Interpreting Ground-penetrating Radar for Archaeology. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.
Conyers, Lawrence B.  
  2004 Ground Penetrating Radar for Archaeology: Oxford: Altamira Press.
Johnson, Jay K., ed.
  2006 Remote Sensing in Archaeology. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press. 

Text: Kevin Gidusko
Credit to http://www.environmental-geophysics.co.uk/ for gpr diagram.
Pics: Kevin Gidusko

Sneak Peek: MOSH's Uncovering the Past Exhibit

The Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville has a new exhibit featuring prehistoric archaeology in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas. The exhibit, Uncovering the Past: New Archaeological Discoveries in Northeast Florida, features guest curator Dr. Keith Ashley of the University of North Florida as well as artwork by St. Augustine artist Theodore Morris.

The entrance to the exhibit! Get excited for the great things coming!

The exhibit takes a look at 6,000 years of native history in the area, from a pre-ceramic period to missionization. The displays feature artifacts, many from sites in the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve as well as paintings of Timucua peoples, reconstructions of their homes and more.

A collection of ceramics.
The exhibit also explores how we study the past. All of the panels for each section focus on what the people left behind and how archaeologists learn from it. The exhibit also features posters about current research (including environmental!) happening at sites around town. An additional section features several of DeBry's etchings. Sliding panels show how the drawings may not depict the past as truly as we think they might at first sight.

Was DeBry correct about the Timucua hunting alligators?
Almost but not entirely!

My favorite section is the kids section, of course! The exhibit teaches kids the importance of mapping and stratigraphy. Kids (and adults!) can use the rulers and sheets provided to map a site and answer a few questions.

Important archaeological tools: ruler, pencil and clipboard.
Because who wouldn't want to?!

The exhibit also has some great take-away resources including a book list and suggested sites to visit. Overall, the exhibit gives a great look at Jacksonville's buried past and how we study it. You have lots of time to get out to see - the exhibit runs through August!

To learn more about the exhibit or for hours and admission information, please visit the Museum of Science and History's website.

Words and images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN staff.

Archaeology and the Media: How do we Connect?

In today's fast-paced, media-driven world, journalists, broadcasters, and other non-specialists are often requested to write or report on subjects with which they have little familiarity. Probably due to its adventurous and exciting nature, archaeology is frequently one of those topics. However, most news articles are covering the token aspects of archaeology--the long hours of fieldwork in the hot sun, the "thrill of discovery", the ancient artifacts and cities, and so forth. Less frequent are those articles dealing with the federal and state laws governing archaeological practice, and the ethical codes of archaeologists. Legal issues pertaining to the sciences can be difficult for both journalists and the general public to interpret and digest, partially because the entire scope of the story can never be captured, and partially because the subject matter is too dense to be printable/accessible media.

I raise this issue because for the first time, I had to explain the part of the story outside the scope--in multiple messages of 140 characters or less via twitter. Let me elaborate, I tweeted my displeasure to the Tampa Bay Times in lieu of a recent article, "North Florida Arrowhead Sting: What's the Point?."  (You will need to read the piece to understand fully the rest of the blog.)

I was surprised when the article's author contacted me directly to discuss the report. A series of opinionated--yet friendly--tweets followed, bringing each person's biases to the table. Becky O' Sullivan of FPAN's Tampa office also chimed in. I feel that the author's writings (despite being very well-informed and researched) present only one side of the coin, exposing the disconnect between specialist and non-specialist, an intimidating degree of separation that forms the core of both complete misunderstandings and failed relations between all parties.

 I'll dissect some key points to illustrate my thoughts:

A) Distinction between Looters and Ethical Amateurs? 

The line between an amateur archaeologist and a looter can be a blurry one. While there is little doubt a "looter" conjures up an image of someone digging into a Native mound for fancy artifacts to sell, an ethical amateur archaeologist is probably many things to many people. An archaeologist's idea of such an individual likely corresponds to someone who documents their findings, participates in fieldwork with professionals, and contacts authorities when they stumble upon a site. There are plenty of active, field-trained "amateur" (non-degree holding) archaeologists that do the job well, such as the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA) here in St. Augustine, and the Arkansas Archeological Survey, which co-sponsers an annual field school aimed at amateurs. Archaeologists are in tune with such programs and practices, but its important to remember that the general public is not. Therefore, an ethical amateur to a layperson might be something totally different--perhaps someone who casually collects arrowheads, selling and trading them because of their interest in the past.

On the surface, there appears to be little harm in this line of thinking. But, the problem is, the sale of illegally-obtained antiquities is estimated at 200 MILLION dollars worldwide. In the case presented here, the artifacts seized by Operation Timucua (OT) were estimated to net two million dollars on the street, a figure that even if halved, is nearly eight times the Florida Wildlife Commission's budget for this investigation (~$130,000). The (frankly) outrageous prices--FWC spoke of single points being worth in excess of $10,000--of these goods is fueled by collectors and dealers who participate in a market of state-owned property. Whether or not someone ever stuck a shovel into state soil, they're directly supporting those who did, and further driving the commodification of Native American heritage while simultaneously eradicating it. Diggers and collectors are not mutually exclusive--an extreme example can be seen here in the St. Louis Riverfront Times.

B) Distinction between Federal and State Land, Private Property

There is a very clear distinction between the regulation of artifacts on federal, state, and municipal lands versus private property, often glossed over by media. Federally, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 required all projects on federal land to consider archaeological resources, and laid the framework for section 106 process for National Register eligibility. The Archaeological Resource Protection Act or ARPA (1979) made a permit necessary to excavate on federal or tribal lands, and made it illegal to solicit excavation by others, and also to sell artifacts across state lines. All states adopted versions of both of these laws for state-owned properties shortly thereafter. More recently, some cities, particularly those historic in nature (e.g., St. Augustine, Colonial Williamsburg, Alexandria and others) adopted municipal archaeology ordinances. However, currently, there is little protection (if any) provided to sites on private property.

 Because these regulations have been around for decades, the archaeological community is well aware of the permits and professional credentials it takes to excavate sites on government land. Conversely, the public is not familiar with these laws; they do not always know what constitutes state, federal, or private property etc., much less the charges one might face for digging or dealing in state-owned property. For example, Florida's rivers and springs are state property, and thus, cultural resources that are protected by Chapter 267 of the Florida statutes. This is relevant to the Operation Timucua case because numerous artifacts were reported to be recovered from the state's riverbeds. The (important) difference here is, collectors--who are engrossed in the entire process--are well-versed in the laws governing archaeological resources and choose to ignore them. This is unfortunate, particularly in Florida's waterways, because the anaerobic (no oxygen) environments provide for excellent artifact preservation, and have yielded some of the state's most important archaeological sites (e.g., Little Salt Spring, Windover, Wakulla Springs).

C) Who was really targeted by Operation Timucua? 

The article argues that those arrested were law-abiding citizens with no prior criminal record, and that the state has historically turned a blind eye, only to come down swiftly in order to make examples of these folks. First, one does not require a criminal record to be accused of a crime. Second, record or not, FWC staff spoke to a group of over 100 archaeologists at the annual meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) about the sheer number of misdemeanors and felonies committed by those who were charged, at least one of which possessed photographs of himself collecting on state property. Although there is an ongoing investigation of suspects in this market of illegally-obtained, state-owned property, FWC clearly stated that for the performed arrests, only the "ringleaders" were targeted, in order to dismantle the artifact trade throughout  northern Florida and across state lines into southern Georgia (which they feel confident that they accomplished by the way).

D) Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? 

 There is an observable distinction between archaeological and market value. Archaeologists see artifacts as individual pieces of a puzzle, parts of the whole that make an archaeological site. This archaeological site is an irreplaceable piece of our collective human history, one that once removed, can never be replaced. Although a collector may too be intrigued by and share a love for the past, he/she either knowingly or accidentally contributes to its destruction. Who owns the past is a complicated question that cannot be addressed here, but it's my opinion that it shouldn't be those that seek it for personal financial gain.

Both the avid collector and mainstream society usually cannot separate monetary value from archaeological or historical value because it is often only comprehensible in reference to monetary value (Shows like Pawn Stars, American Diggers, and others only perpetuate this). Likewise, our country's judicial system adjusts the legal repercussion to positively correlate with the monetary value of the commodity (i.e., you're going to face more intense charges for stealing a 1-karat diamond than if you steal a loaf of bread). However, how does one place a dollar amount on Cahokia Mounds? The Pyramids of Giza? Or even a humble Florida projectile point? Further, how do you place a value on a story that can now never be told because a site was looted? Short answer--it's tough. Long answer--you can measure income from Florida tourism to parks, museums, sites, and you can evaluate natural (e.g., plant and animal species) and cultural resources protected in the implementation of state-managed lands, which are directly linked to countless profiteering methods.

The question then remains, as raised in the article. What's a reasonable jail-sentence for these interrelated (digging, dealing, selling) crimes? Should they even go to jail? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer. I am not a politician, law enforcement, or a judge. As an archaeologist, this is the problem--asking what an artifact is worth  is an extremely obscure question, one most are not sure how to answer. I see only stories of the past; I do not see dollar signs. This creates a conundrum where archaeologists are simultaneously the best- and worst-suited to determine the "value" of cultural resources. On one hand, archaeologists understand the great wealth of information artifacts can provide, and on the other, it seems incomprehensible to place a monetary value on them, much less determine the charges one should face for stealing one.

Final Thoughts

As with 99.9 percent of all things in modern society, media is all about money, and the public's perception of the objects most closely associated with the money. At present, many people do not see the significance or importance of protecting our state's prehistoric and historic past. In my mind, this is odd, given how difficult it would be to find a state that relies more heavily on tourism than Florida. And of course, museums, parks, natural springs, and other cultural-environmental centers are major tourism attractions and income generators (though its difficult to compete with Disney!). If mainstream media has any lesson to teach archaeologists, it is that now, more than ever, is the time to explain how we can protect cultural and environmental resources (what we want) and create sustainable profits for our state (what they want).

Please look here for FWC's photos of their press release and more information concerning this investigation.

All text and opinions herein are those of Ryan Harke, and do not reflect the opinions of the Tampa Bay Times, nor its staff. Full credit to TBT for their article, and to Becky O' Sullivan for her supportive insight and commentary on Twitter. Credit to SAA for the "Thief of Time" photograph.

Monday Morning Book Review

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. and the Atlantic World: Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator


Daniel L. Schafer

University Press of Florida, 2013

     If you have lived in northeast Florida long enough, there is no doubt you have heard of or perhaps even visited Kingsley Plantation. It is located on Fort George Island and is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. University of North Florida retired professor Daniel Schafer has worked on the story of the Kingsley Plantation inhabitants for many years. At long last, this major work was published this past November based on life of Zephaniah Kingsley. Previously, he wrote the biography of Anna Kingsley, Zephaniah's wife. The Kingsley's lived at Kingsley Planation from 1813-1849.  I was very happy to finally have my copy and thought I would review it here for you.

       Zephaniah Kingsley is a man of controversy. He is an Atlantic slave trader, a believer in paths to freedom from slavery, and was the head of a large polygamous mixed-race family. The life narrative of Zephaniah Kingsley (1765-1843) is a story which not only spans the early history of northeast Florida, but much, much more on an Atlantic scale, as the title implies. Scholars and readers alike can learn about the causations and correlations around the Revolutionary War,  Patriot War, and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Schafer weaves the tale of Kingsley's life in painstaking detail based on thorough knowledge of primary and secondary sources. Schafer is explicit in his descriptions of shipping in the West Indies and the Sea Islands, including the port cities of Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington. Farming techniques and yields from this historical period are also described for the reader. Kingsley's own writings are also featured, including his interview with New York abolitionist Lydia Child, and his Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society.  Archaeological excavations undertaken by University of Florida's Dr. James Davidson at Kingsley Plantation are also brought to light. There's even a surprising connection to the Maple Leaf shipwreck in the St. John's River!

In order not to give too much away, let's just say that I learned a lot more about history with this read and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it.

To buy Daniel Schafer's books visit the University Press of Florida.

For more about the archaeology at Kingsley Plantation on the FPAN Blog, search Kingsley Plantation or start with this post by Amber Weiss.

For more information about Kingsley Plantation or to plan your visit, go to the Timucuan Ecological and Heritage Preserve website.

Text: Jen Knutson, University of West Florida Historical Archaeology Graduate Student

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