Wednesday, May 20, 2015

             Archaeology, it’s a unique blend between mundane and magical. Oftentimes people equate archaeology with the glory and glamour of Indiana Jones or the adventures experienced in The Mummy. Though life as an archaeologist looks and feels quite unlike Hollywood’s vision, the work is never boring. What answers lie beneath the ground compels my curiosity and imagination. The information uncovered through archaeology is exciting. Finding objects made, used, perhaps cherished, by real people at some point in the past provides a sensation other professions cannot. Working to know people in the past, to understand them, to reveal their stories, and to share those stories with others is, to me, immensely more interesting than Indy’s tales.

            As we prepared for the field season at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, we began with the mundane tasks in order to move toward the magical. Our first week involved preparing the site for archaeology. We cleaned and organized equipment. We decided where the screening station would be. We relocated our datum points—established points that never move and that tie all of our units together. We strung our units and we readied ourselves for digging!

 We pull tapes to find more datum points.
Tapes, datums, survey equipment, and the crew
            Unlike past years, Dr. Kathy Deagan from the University of Florida decided to utilize a backhoe to help strip larger areas for excavation and to save considerable time. Kathy’s familiarity with the soil on site, and her analysis of non-modern soil depths from maps made in previous seasons, helped her to determine how deep the backhoe should dig. The machine stripped the sod and modern overburden (or soil related to the 20th century) from two blocks: one 6 meters by 7 meters (Block 1) and the other 10 meters by 10 meters (Block 2).

David, Tommy, and Janet remove sod to make an outline for the backhoe operator to follow.

Beep beep! The backhoe begins to work as Linda measures how deep it digs.


            Kathy selected the block areas for specific reasons. Research questions guide archaeology and our interests were two-fold: first, could we locate units excavated in the 1950s? We have records of the dig, but lacked enough information to definitively tie those excavations into those completed by Kathy. Second, could we locate features (soil stains) that relate to the fortifications of the 1565 Menendez encampment?

Kathy looks on as the sod leaves Block 2.
            With two blocks created by backhoe, we faced the task of leveling these large blocks. With shovels and trowels in hand, the crew began to bring the block areas to the same depth. We battled through shell and slayed roots, large and small.

The pink string shows our first unit!
Janet and Linda schnitting as Tommy chats with visitors.

            At this point, the mundane and the magical merged. We traversed the land, finding the tools we needed and marking areas we needed to know. We guided our backhoe friend through careful, but massive, excavation. We measured and plotted. We schnitted and troweled. We overcame nature to make our units square. With flat floors and straight walls, we looked to the soil. There the next chapter begins…

The 2015 field season spans six weeks and we’re in the middle of the fourth week. You can look forward to more posts about the field season and our finds. In between blog posts, keep up with the dig on the Fountain of Youth’s Facebook page or with the hashtag #FOYarchaeology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Text and photos: Sarah Bennett

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