Thursday, May 14, 2015

For many people, the most wonderful time of the year relates to a favorite holiday—presents beneath the Christmas tree, an annual birthday bash, Mom’s Thanksgiving turkey. For me, the excitement of a field season at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park brings pep to my step and a twinkle of excitement to my eyes. Some people dream of the aroma of Christmas ham. I dream of the smell, and the occasional accidental taste, of dirt. Some people anticipate colorful Fourth of July fireworks and their powerful, resounding booms. I anticipate dirt stains on my hands and chatty peacocks. Some people countdown to dying and searching for Easter eggs. I count down to the art of archaeological investigation.

Under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Deagan from The Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, archaeologists began working at the Fountain of Youth (FOY) during the mid-1970s. For many years, students learned about archaeology and excavating from Dr. Deagan at FOY. In recent years, professional archaeologists began to dig at the site with Dr. Deagan. For the past two years, I have been privileged to be one of those archaeologists.

The 2014 crew goes strong into 2015. We miss you, Greg!

Archaeology is scientific and excavations always seek to answer a research question. The 2014 field season answered few questions, but raised many more. This partially led me to my state of excited, archaeology-infused stupor. We would return to the site! We would be able to answer our questions! I’d spend the day in the dirt, finding features and artifacts! We’d have peacocks and peahens as company! People visiting FOY would see archaeology in action! Field season at FOY—it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Sketch map of units and features from 2014

This year the dig will focus on two areas and our interest relates especially to soil stains, or features. John Goggin, an archaeologist, briefly dug at FOY during the 1950s. Archaeology and excavation methods were immensely different at that time. As Goggin’s team dug, they did not screen much of their dirt, left features intact, and made notes and maps that will be helpful when tied into Deagan’s excavations. In many ways, Goggin guides our current digging plans. The questions that guide us include: where were Goggin’s units? If we find features, are they related to the 1565 Menendez encampment? If so, are they related to the encampment’s fortifications? Past digs offered much information about the area in which the Spanish lived. Where was the settlement boundary and how did it look?
Block 1—searching for evidence of Goggin’s units or post holes related to Menendez’ fortifications
Block 2—in search of Goggin’s 1950s units and Spanish features
The 2015 field season spans six weeks and we’re working toward the end of the third 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 photo credit: Sarah Bennett; thanks to David Underwood for the last picture.

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