Monday, June 30, 2014

By now, most of our local field schools have wrapped it up for the summer. I got the chance to visit UNF's excavation at the Grand Shell Ring and UF's excavation at Bulow Plantation. Here's some notes from each!

Grand Shell Ring
This shell ring, on Big Talbot Island in Jacksonville, is the only non-Archaic shell ring on the East Coast! Wo-ow!! It dates to the Mississipian Period, between AD 900-1200. It is about 60x75 meters and about 1 meter high. The shell ring is made of lots of shell, animal remains and a few scattered artifacts like pottery. There's also an adjacent sandy burial mound at the site.

Sorting through lots of shell and faunal remains!



Dr. Keith Ashley and his group of UNF students are trying to solve the ever tough question: everyday garbage or something more significant like ritual? He's put a trench across on part of the ring, a smaller test unit in another area and a few test units in the middle. While the crew found some St. Johns pottery and a few other artifacts, most of the project involved picking fish vertebrae and other faunal remains out of screens full of quahog, oysters and other shells.

Not a bad view from a test unit!
To read more about UNF's field school, check out this Florida Times Union article.


Bulow Plantation
Bulow Plantation, in Ormond Beach, was a sugar plantation between 1821-1836, until the Second Seminole War. US Troops occupied the plantation and its many buildings, including the slave cabins. Seminoles raided and burnt the plantation in 1836. 

Dr. James Davidson and his team from UF are looking at a slave cabin built and inhabited around the same time as Kingsley Plantation. The two sites have several things in common: arc-shaped layout of slave cabins and hardy construction materials (coquina at Bulow and tabby at Kingsley), among other things. Dr. Davidson hopes to compare the slave occupations at both sites to each other, and eventually other antebellum plantations.

Dr. Davidson showing us the remains of a coquina slave cabin.
Fieldwork this season involved working on one cabin, mapping in the coquina brick fall and searching for the building's exact footprint. Students had quite a time mapping, labeling and slowly removing each coquina block to expose the proposed cabin floor level. Dr. Davidson hopes to continue his work in the upcoming seasons, getting a better sense for the layout of the entire site and a better understanding of the people who lived there.

Remains of a coquina slave cabin at Bulow Plantation.

The best part about Bulow? We ran into a familiar face! Amber Graft-Weiss, our lovely past outreach coordinator was a field supervisor at the field school.

 
The gang: Me, Amber, Nick (SAAA President and Toni!

Words and images by: Emily Jane Murray, FPAN staff






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