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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 2016

America's REAL First Thanksgiving


Cover of Robyn Gioia's book "America's REAL First Thanksgiving"

The above illustration depicts America's REAL First Thanksgiving.  Please note: not one pilgrim is to be found in that picture!  The more typical holiday image conjured in one's mind usually looks something more like this....

If you did not grow up in Florida, you most likely didn't learn that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States.  And you definitely didn't learn about it's first Thanksgiving!

On September 8, 1565 Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles ceremoniously landed on the shore of present day St. Augustine, FL.  In 1565, it was the village of Seloy in which Menendez set foot, one of about thirty Timucuan villages located throughout Northeast Florida.  Menendez and his men undoubtedly were full of tremendous gratitude for their safe arrival to the new land (which of course was immediately claimed for Spain!)   A Mass of Thanksgiving was then followed by a feast for the Spanish with the Timucua as invited guests. The Spanish provided the feast, but it is very possible that the Timucua contributed some of their own native fares (to name a few: deer, corn, squash, shellfish, mullet, shark, and gopher tortoise).

America's First Mass
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine proceeds the Pilgrim's landing on Plymouth Rock by 56 years!
So, why did I wear a Pilgrim's Hat in my 4th grade Thanksgiving class play and not a Spanish conquistador helmet?

Well, history is written by the victors.  England eventually became the dominant culture in the United States so it is from their viewpoint that much of our history is told.
Gopher Tortoise: Good food for the Timucua, but not good for you

We now enjoy our English Thanksgiving traditions of turkey and pumpkin pie.  But perhaps this holiday you can surprise your guests with a dinner from America's REAL first Thanksgiving: Spanish stew, hardtack and shark (disclaimer: we do not recommend serving the Timucuan dish of gopher tortoise; That is now illegal and you will go to jail!)



To learn more about Robin Gioia, her books, and teacher resources, visit Robin's websiteAmerica's REAL First Thanksgiving can be purchased through the Jacksonville Historical Society  or on Amazon.

Whatever tradition you chose to follow, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!



Text:  Robbie Boggs, FPAN Staff
Images (in order of appearance): illustration by Robert Deaton, picture located on colonialsense.com, illustration by Robert Deaton, photo located on pinterest, photo located on UPI.com

Conversations about Conferences: SEAC 2016

The 73rd annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference took place Oct 26-29 in Athens, GA. I had the great privilege to attend and present a paper on our St. Augustine Archaeology Pub Crawls. When I got back, I talked with Megan about the experience.

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Megan: What did you expect in attending SEAC 2016?

Emily Jane: I expected to hear some great research, catch up with friends and colleagues from throughout the southeast and maybe do a little sight-seeing while in Georgia.

M: What did you hope to get out of it?

EJ: I was hoping to network with archaeologists in Georgia and other close states. At FPAN, we're definitely focused on Florida but we do have to remember that the state line is a pretty recent invention. Many of the cultures we study moved past this line -- and many of the issues we're dealing with do as well, from legislation harmful to archaeology to sea level rise and coastal erosion. I was hoping to chat with folks about how they're working on these issues.

M: What did you actually learn?

EJ: I was amazed at the archaeology in South Florida. Funny that I go to Georgia to foster a new appreciation for Florida sites, huh?! Several papers in the "Ancient Water Worlds: The Role of Dwelling and Traveling in the Southeastern Archaeological Record" symposium detailed the monumental shell architecture of Florida's southern residents. I didn't really realize just how impressive these sites were until now.

M: What was the hardest past of attending SEAC?

EJ: The hardest thing this year was choosing what to do! Many of the sessions I was interested in were scheduled at the same time so I had some big choices to make. Do I go to a session on consulting with Tribes or one on regulatory archaeology? And then I couldn't make it to the lightning session organized by fellow FPANers because I was presenting during the Public Archaeology and Education session scheduled at the same time.

M: What from this SEAC will you bring back to the public for their benefit?

EJ: Well, a literal answer for this question - I talked with several archaeologists who have done work in Florida and hope to bring them in to speak at events next year so the public can hear about their work. But, less tangible terms, I hope to become a better advocate for archaeological resources in Florida. We've had conversations at several conferences recently about how legislation and regulation affect archaeology. At SEAC, I realized that Florida is one of the only states in the Southeast that has a statute to protect archaeological resources on state property or affected by state-funded projects. I hope to do more to bring raise public awareness about these laws. Both so Floridians understand and appreciate the protection that we give archaeological sites but also to get them out to visit and enjoy the resources. That's why they're protected in the first place - so everyone can enjoy them.

M: What sessions or activities did you take part in?

EJ: I presented in the general Public Archaeology and Education session. I went to sessions on: environmental studies and climate change, Florida's watery landscapes, state and federal regulations on archaeology, and shell middens. I also checked out some posters and jumped around other sessions to hear papers of interest. And I took a stroll in one of the historic cemeteries in Athens, of course!

M: Anything that surprised you?

EJ: This year's SEAC was the biggest ever! Registration was over 700 people. There were eight concurrent rooms of papers on Thursday and Friday, plus poster sessions. And there were four sessions on Saturday that lasted all day. It was great to see such a turn out - and to hear about such diverse and wonderful archaeology.

M: Got plans for next year's conference?


EJ: I do! I'm excited because it will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I've never been out west (to someone who hasn't crossed the Mississippi, this is indeed "out west!").  I look forward to seeing some of the amazing archaeological sites out there, like Spiro Mound. I also hope a lot of the conversations on shoreline changes, regulations, tribal consultations and public archaeology continue into next year's conference.

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For more information about the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, including next year's meeting, check out their website.

Words and text by Emily Jane Murray and Megan Liebold, FPAN staff.

How to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout: Part 1 - Why monitor archaeological sites

How to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout Series
Part 1: Why monitor archaeological sites

HMS Florida is a public engagement program and systematic reporting system initiated by the Florida Public Archaeology Network that includes a growing number of partnering institutions, professional archaeologists as Mentoring Scouts, and now more than 50 Heritage Monitoring Scout volunteers. Over the next few months, Scout Mentors will be posting as part of this how-to series resources to encourage you to get out there. Part 1 will focus on why we monitor. Images post-Matthew do more to express the need to monitor and why the need is so urgent. The images document changes seen at the site over time, the goal of site monitoring.

Shell Bluff Landing at the GTM-NERR (blue the week before Matthew, orange the week after):

Shell Bluff Landing at GTM-NERR, open and interpreted for the public.


Minorcan well, just one of the many components of the Shell Bluff Landing site.

Top view of Minorcan well pre and post Matthew. 

Sarah points to intact midden and failing (then failed) stabilization webbing at Shell Bluff Landing.

Emily Jane as a scale to show damage of uprooted tree, note eroded soil from roots post Matthew.

Rebar was installed decades ago to help track erosion at Shell Bluff Landing. Can see what was lost in the storm.

A Citizen Science photo station installed by the GTM-NERR, note land mass to the west of the stand now eroded.


Erosion of Shell Bluff Landing results in accretion on this beach, note fallen trees.


Monitoring archaeological sites is a form of service to our community, the environment, and past cultures. It honors all three to be able to say you've been to these places, and with a purpose. And it can be very simple. Outside of archaeology, think of where you see monitoring taking place. In the restroom at Publix the other day, I noticed a checklist mounted on the wall with basic sanitation criteria, check boxes, and line for signature by the hour. That log is kept to make sure that room is sanitary, safe, and checked regularly. And that log is posted so customers know it's happening and can appreciate the attention given to keeping that space maintained. It's a simple systematic record used to describe changes during the day, note what needs maintenance, and provide information to the person on the next shift.
Site monitoring of a different sort.

Translated to cultural resources, the database built by the Heritage Monitoring Scouts will help provide basic information to document change over time in light of the rapidly changing climate of our planet. Monitoring takes place currently in many places across Florida--however--there are significant gaps, storage of monitoring data falls through the cracks, and few offer opportunities to Florida's greatest resource--motivated citizens who want to get out there and make a difference. 

Sea levels are rising in Florida 20 percent faster than the global rate. Local governments are already planning for major changes to the infrastructure, including elevating roads and shifting development, to prepare for a future only 50 years from now. Cultural resources will be left behind. Fifty years from now many will be eroded out, flooded, or destroyed by future development. Some disappeared in a single day October 8th. 


A new inlet formed from the Atlantic to the Matanzas (NPR: USGS)

Coastal erosion of Vilano Beach, Florida (NPR: USGS)

Monitoring a shipwreck post Matthew.

So let's look at the positive. Let's enjoy these places while they are still here. Let's raise our own quality of life; get out there on the water, or on a hiking trail, or out with friends or your favorite civic group. Site monitoring is good for you and good for the sites. Besides, you never know which site you may be the last to see before a site is damaged or destroyed. It could be your record and your images land managers use next to make decisions and describe changes to the landscape.


If you have not yet registered to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout, the application form can be found at www.fpan.us/HMSFlorida. We also encourage you to join the conversation of heritage at risk on the #EnvArch Facebook group. Check back as add resources and instructions to this series in the coming weeks.

How to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout Series #HMSflorida

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff 
Images: Emily Jane Murray, Robbie Boggs, Sara Ayers-Rigsby and Sarah Miller
NPR: USGS images from this article: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/01/500293722/hurricane-matthew-took-a-big-bite-out-of-southeastern-states-beaches 
Bathroom cleaning template: imagestemplate.net

Many thanks to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuary Research Reserve staff and volunteers who helped monitor Shell Bluff Landing last month but also every other month. Shell Bluff Landing is open an interpreted for the public, hence this post does not give out any sensitive site information not already made public. 

And much thanks to HMS volunteers and mentors who came out post Matthew to help document and train others. 

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