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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 November 2014

Heroes of Heritage: Florida National Guard

St. Johns County Commissioners Thank Operation Restore Respect and present FAC's Stewards of Heritage Award.

This week the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners formally thanked the Florida National Guard and Operation Restore Respect volunteers for their year of service in cleaning up San Sebastian Cemetery.  FPAN staff was on hand to add our congratulations and bestow one of our highest honors, Florida Archaeological Council's (FAC) Stewards of Heritage Award.  The bi-annual award is presented to individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to aid archaeological preservation, further research, educate or otherwise promote public awareness of Florida archaeology.  The organization must also not have preservation in the mission, meaning this is a group that goes beyond the mission of their organization to care for cultural resources.  Florida National Guard traces its military heritage back to the founding of St. Augustine in 1565.  Since then, militia men and women have served to defend local communities.

Home Depot volunteers during 4H cleanup organized by Isaac Turner.

It didn't surprise me last year when I heard the National Guard were going to place flags at the grave sites at San Sebastian Cemetery in West Augustine.  It also didn't surprise me that they were appalled by the condition of the veterans graves.  Despite decade-old efforts to clean up the cemetery, it remained in a state of abandonment with little to no control over Florida foliage or care for the headstones.  I can't even say I was surprised when I heard they were going back after Veterans Day to stage a clean up.  We had been out recently to supervise a local 4H chapter that wanted to get involved with a weekend clean up day.   A lot of concerned groups were coming, yet very few stayed.

Wyatt working with D2 to clean and conserve Veteran headstones.
What surprised me was that after their initial clean up day, they came back.  And they didn't just care for the Veterans, they came back knowing that to truly honor the vets buried there they would need to restore honor to all those buried in San Sebastian.  As they battled the Florida foliage, they also took it upon themselves to seek training in managing cemetery landscapes and caring for historical burial sites.  They took advantage of every training opportunity available to them, and in fact hosted one of our Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) day long workshops. 

Operation Restore Respect: CMSgt Steven James, Lt Col Teresa Frank, Mark Frank.
On Tuesday we thanked CMSgt Steve James and Lieutenant Colonel Teresa Frank of the Florida National Guard and Mark Frank, founding members of Operation Restore Respect. They along with other volunteers from the Florida National Guard and National Guard Foundation have worked very hard to clear the 3 acre site.  I wanted the audience to know the larger problem of abandoned cemeteries across the state.  The figure is unknowable but could be in the thousands for cemeteries that are in need of stewards like the Franks.  I wanted to thank the county for it's continued interest in historical resources--not just historic cemeteries--and thank them for future services rendered in care of San Sebastian and other sites.  I also wanted to recognize  the Adjutant General of the Florida National Guard, Major General Emmett Titshaw, Jr and Mrs. Tittshaw.  I happened to meet the couple the week before planting flags at the cemetery for Veterans Day.

Major General and Mrs. Tittshaw placing flags the weekend before Veterans Day.

So Mission Accomplished!!!!

Well, not quite.  The foliage is a never ending concern as frequent visits are required to keep the weeds in check.  There are also a few areas of the cemetery yet to be cleared and explored.  Speaking of exploration, they cemetery is in desperate need of a survey and mapping.  The group also depends on the county's continued cooperation for picking up piles of vegetation that have been cleared and backed up into a driveway.

Want to get involved?  Best way is to join Operation Restore Respect Facebook group page where clean ups are coordinated.  You can also call your local FPAN office to ask about adopting an abandoned cemetery near you.  If you join FPAN's CRPT Alliance Facebook page we try and post current events and issues affecting all Florida cemeteries.  And of course you can always attend a CRPT workshop (next one up is in Orlando December 5, 2014).

Operation Restore Respect consider new flowers and evidence of the community returning to pay honor to loved ones the ultimate sign of Mission Accomplished.  Well, part 1 anyway:)

Also check out Department of Military Affairs article posted earlier this week.

Text and Images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

Take a Walk on FPAN

Take this opportunity to walk all over FPAN! Or all over our inscribed brick paver that is, located at the Southeastern corner of the Visitor Information Center in St. Augustine, FL.

Our inscribed brick joins many others wanting to leave their mark during the historic city's 450th anniversary.

They help to compose the red brick patio surrounding the Coquina Ball.  This unique ball marked the eastern end of the Old Spanish Trail, the first transcontinental road from St. Augustine to San Diego, CA.  The marker was placed in 1928, soon after the road's completion.

The profits from the sale of the bricks help to pay for historic preservation projects in St. Augustine.  More information can be found at the Colonial St. Augustine Foundation website.

Text and Images by Robbie Boggs, FPAN Staff

A Site is Born

"How Do You Know Where To Dig?"

Mmmm, stratigraphy (http://proteus.brown.edu/greekpast/4782)

This is one of the questions that we frequently get asked when interacting with the public. Given the wide expanses of Florida's wilds it's no wonder that the public thinks there is more than touch of luck at play concerning the discovery of an archaeological site. To be fair, luck does play a  role in the discovery of many sites. Sites discovered during construction projects, artifacts discovered on a beach after a storm, and evidence of past human occupation eroding from the sides of a river bank are all examples of serendipity at play in discovering archaeological information. But we are scientists and don't deal in the currency of luck for our day to day work; we take what luck gives us and learn from it. While sites can be discovered by happenstance, more often it is through a careful examination of the landscape coupled with research covering past populations in a given area.

Archaeologists often know where to look for an archaeological site based on their knowledge of how sites are formed. This isn't rocket science. Humans, all humans, need food, water, and shelter. Find spots on the landscape that provide the intersection of those three necessities and the chances are quite good that past peoples used that area at some point. Of course this doesn't hold for all archaeological sites: Humans are weird and have a habit of exploring and trying to live in seemingly inhospitable environments. Deserts, mountain tops, outer space, even NYC, are all places that humans have somehow found a way to survive in. For the most part, however, the model of looking for good intersections of food, water, and shelter seem to work for most humans at most times.

Example of inhospitable environments that human survive in (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/69313281735341663/).

Recently we took some of our Timucuan Tehnology curriculum to the Oxbow Eco Center to talk about archaeological site formation with a group of young students. By understanding how a site is formed the students learned how archaeologists work backward through time in their excavations of a site. Students got a chance to actually make a "site" using "artifacts." Students first learned about the Law of Superpostion and why intact stratigraphy is so important for archaeologists. The students were broken up into two groups. The first group had a certain set of "artifacts" to choose from that would represent a Florida site from the Paleo Period to roughly the Early Archaic. These were represented by some charcoal for firepits, animal bones, stone for tools and some shell. The next group of students came to the site and furnished it with stratigraphic layers representing the Middle Archaic to about the time of Contact. These layers incorporated the previous types of artifacts, but also included much more shell, bits of pottery, and glass beads and metal goods closer to the top. After we were done we had all students come out and investigate the site and make inferences about cultures represented in the stratigraphic layers: What was changing? What had stayed the same? What can we say about these past peoples just by looking at how this site was formed?

The group walked away with a better understanding of how archaeologists work and why site preservation is so important. Cultural resource preservation is contingent on environmental resource preservation and we couldn't have asked for a better host to get that point across than the Oxbow Eco Center.

Text by Kevin Gidusko
Pics, except where url given, by Kevin Gidusko

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