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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 August 2017

The Art of Interpretation

 Have you ever been dragged along to a heritage site, expecting to be bored to death but instead were fascinated?  Or conversely, perhaps you dragged someone along expecting to be enraptured but instead kept checking your watch?

A good interpreter makes all the difference!

The mission of FPAN is "to promote and facilitate the conservation, study and public understanding of Florida's archaeological heritage".    So, in a nutshell, our job is attempting to get people to care about Florida's thousands of archaeological sites, especially those located in their own backyards (theoretically speaking, but perhaps at times literally!)

National Association of Interpretation (NAI) guides us in how to get this message across.  NAI is a non-profit professional organization dedicated to advancing the profession of heritage interpretation in the United States, Canada, and thirty other nations.  All FPAN staff have gone through NAI training and are Certified Interpretive Guides.

 Ultimately, we don't want to just provide information, but aim to engage our audience and advance them along the continuum from "Dragged Along" closer to "Stewardship."

Literally torn from NAI's Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workbook

Freeman Tilden was the first person to formalize the principles of effective interpretation in his book "Interpreting our Heritage" (1957).

Tilden's book is basically the interpreter's bible.  In it, he breaks down interpretation into six principles:

Interpretation should be organized, thematic, enjoyable and relevant.  Of course this is easier said than done!  We try to specifically target the program to the group's age or interest, but sometimes we have no idea who is going to show up.  (This summer I had a library program expecting 7 kids but instead had 50!)  So, the name of the game is to be prepared but also to be flexible. 

If you've made it this far in the blog, you most likely are already aware of the educational  opportunities on our FPAN website and that you can become a heritage steward through our HMS (Heritage Monitoring Scouts) Program.

Now, if you have three minute to spare, watch "Kevin" attempt to hit Tilden's six principles of interpretation but miss the mark on a few of them (for your viewing enjoyment, just click on the link below the picture)....


Text by FPAN Staff: Robbie Boggs

Images in order of appearance:  cwallpapersbackground.blogspot.cz, hahastop.com, NAI Training Workbook, goodreads.com, sideplayer.com, AZ Quotes, Shifting1baselines

Archaeology Laws 101: How sites get protected through federal, state and local regulations

At FPAN, we get quite a few inquiries about construction projects that could affect archaeological sites. There is a network of local, state and federal laws in place that offer protection for historic and archaeological sites. However, they can be confusing! Which laws apply really depend on the type of project and where it is located. Below are a few frequently asked questions that can help you navigate the world of archaeological regulations.
image from nyhabitat.com
Q: Shouldn’t they do an archaeological survey before this development project?

A: Maybe. Many construction projects that involve federal lands, funding or agencies must test the area of impact before work begins to see if cultural resources will be affected. (Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act: Full Text here; Citizen's Guide here; also see the Archaeological Resource Protection Act which gives more effective law enforcement for protecting sites). Florida has laws that mirror this federal law for projects involving state lands, funding or agencies (Florida Statutes Chapter 267). Additionally, there are also federal environmental regulations that require some private development to undergo environmental review, which can include looking at the cultural resources in the impacted area (National Environmental Protection Act).

At the local level, some counties and cities have ordinances that require construction to take cultural resources into account. Some municipalities have ordinances that require archaeological survey or salvage projects on public property. For example in the City of St. Augustine, projects on both public and private property within designated archaeological zones are subject to archaeological testing and salvage.

Archaeologists with NPS SEAC test an area at the Castillo de San Marcos before the placement of temporary office buildings after Hurricane Matthew.

Q: Who conducts archaeological surveys to meet with state and federal regulations?

A: Some state and federal agencies have staff archaeologists who are able to conduct surveys required to meet regulations. For instance, the National Park Service’s Southeastern Archaeological Center has conducted many surveys on Park Service land. However, most do not. To get this work done, a large field of private sector archaeology has developed, commonly referred to as “cultural resource management” or “CRM.” These companies, or sometimes sections of larger environmental or engineering consulting firms, are dedicated to providing archaeological surveys for private clients or government agencies. The American Cultural Resources Association is the national trade association for these companies. You can find a list of companies in your area or find out more about the industry on their website.

Q: Can I see the report from the survey?

A: Maybe. The reports produced by these CRM firms are technically the property of the client. In cases with private developers, they do not have to release the report to the public. For many government contracts, these can be obtained from the agency office who required the work or through Freedom of Information requests. Many of the reports are also sent to the Florida Master Site File and can be obtained via a request to their office.

Q: If they find an archaeological site, will that stop construction?

A: Finding an archaeological site does not mean that an area cannot be developed. For federal projects, a site must be deemed “significant” for it to be a major concern. Florida statues follow similar guidelines. Projects like cell phone towers, pipelines, roads and drainage ponds can often be moved or rerouted to lessen impacts on cultural resources.

Even if a site is deemed important, developers and agencies can opt to mitigate the damages construction will cause to a site. This is the same idea as when companies buy carbon credits to offset their environmental impacts. Mitigation often will involve doing intensive excavation at a site in order to collect the information from the site before it is impacted. Sometimes mitigation will also include public archaeology components such as museum displays or interpretive panels.

Q: What makes a site “significant?”

A: Significance is determined by a site’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. The four criteria for listing a site on the Register are: a) the site is associated with an important historic event, b) the site is associated with an important historic figure, c) the site represent a specific art/architecture style or work of a master, or d) the site has the potential to yield information. Most archaeological sites will fall under Criteria D. Florida regulations also use this same standard for determining site significance

Q: What if human remains are found?

A: Florida has pretty strict laws on human remains. It is unlawful to knowingly and willingly disturb any human burial site in the state. Any ground-moving activities must be stopped if remains are encountered and a protocol for how to handle the situation is laid out in Florida Statues Chapter 872. Construction can still occur even if an area is determined to have human remains. Historic cemeteries can be moved by developers or government agencies, generally working closely with any descendant communities. If a site contains prehistoric burials, the State Archaeologist will consult with the closest tribe and determine the best course of action.

The Town of Ponce Inlet monitoring during the construction of a retention wall on one side of a historic cemetery.

Q: What about shipwrecks and underwater sites?

A: These sites fall under many of the same regulations as sites on the land because many of the sites are on State-owned lands or are a part of navigable waterways maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Any construction project would have to undergo the same process to assess the impacts to historic and archaeological sites. Additionally, the Abandoned Shipwreck Act strengthens the ability for the State and Federal governments to protect shipwrecks as cultural and historic places. More on underwater laws in Florida can be found on the Division of Historic Resource's website.

For more on the regulations and guidelines in Florida, check out the Division of Historic Resource's website.
Check out Preservation 50’s Making Archaeology Public Project to see examples of how these laws and regulations have helped add to our understanding of the past.

Text and images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN Staff, unless otherwise noted.

What Happens When You Report A Site

Documenting a Possible Prehistoric Canoe

Ever wonder what happens when you report a potential archaeological site to a local museum or even to the State of Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research


Recently, a local in St. Lucie County (St. Lucian?) was walking along a shoreline he regularly strolled when he noticed something he had not seen before in a particular spot. Recent storms impacted areas along the Indian River Lagoon and uncovered more than just the root-balls of palm trees. Sticking just above the surface of the sand he saw what looked to be the outline of a wooden canoe. He then reported his discovery to Linda Geary at the House of Refuge Museum. In doing so, he helped to preserve an incredibly fragile piece of our shared cultural history.

Figure 1. The possible prehistoric canoe as it was reported.

Dugout canoes were used in many different places around the world at different times. As yet, there is no information about when this technology first made its way to Florida, but the oldest known dugout canoes in the state date to the Middle Archaic Period (6-7 thousand years ago). Florida can even boast the highest number of dugout canoes in the U.S. with over 400 found at over 200 sites documented throughout the state. Dugout canoes are incredibly fragile and should be left in place and covered if you happen to find one. You can learn more about dugouts in Florida, as well as whom to contact should you find one, on the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research's (BAR) Canoe resource page here.

The House of Refuge Museum investigated, took pictures, and took rough measurements, which they sent to BAR (we use a lot of acronyms, huh?). Soon after, BAR contacted the FPAN East Central office to ask for assistance in assessing the possible canoe. We were only too happy to coordinate with local volunteers to document the canoe and collect a few samples for further analysis. Luckily for us, the House of Refuge Museum called their friends at the Southeast Florida Archaeological Society (SEFAS: Heidi Anderson-Thomas and Barbara Schmucker) to come help in documenting the site. On our end, we called on Dr. Kyle Freund at Indian River State College, a longtime partner in FPAN outreach, to assist as well.

Figure 2. The back-fill was hand-sifted to find each tiny pottery sherd. Over 250 were discovered.
We had to be quick as we were working in between the high tides so that we would be able to uncover the canoe, take measurements, and take pictures before it was inundated again. While Dr. Freund and I excavated the interior of the canoe, as well as small portions of the exterior, Linda, Heidi, and Barbara hand-sifted through the back-fill to recover tiny sherds of pottery. While mostly intact, we were unable to identify the actual bow and stern of the canoe, though the extant portions measured over 5 meters. We collected wood and soil samples for BAR to analyze and carefully packaged each one individually to protect them from other contaminants. Lastly, we counted the number of tiny pottery sherds that the volunteers had diligently collected and found over 250 within and immediately next to the canoe. Once done with our work, and with the tide lapping at our heels, we covered the canoe once more and left the site as we had found it.

Figure 3. Dr. Freund excavates an area around the exterior of the canoe to collect a wood sample.

All of that happened because one person took a few moments to report something he thought might be important to folks who work day in and day out to preserve our shared past. Just to recap: He reported the site to the House of Refuge, who reported it to Florida BAR, who asked if we could took a look and assess, so we contacted House of Refuge, who contacted SEFAS, while we contacted Dr. Freund, and we all went to the site one morning rushing to get everything done that we possibly could in between high tides. It's exhausting to think about! But it's that important. When you take the time to report a site, the ball starts rolling and a flurry of amazing volunteers and professionals jump to action to save the past from irrevocable loss.

And we do it for you!

Many thanks to Linda Geary (House of Refuge), Heidi Anderson-Thomas and Barbara Schmucker (SEFAS), Dr. Kyle Freund (IRSC), and Julie Duggins (BAR) for outstanding teamwork across time and space to document this archaeological site.

Figure 4. Orthophoto of excavated canoe.

Text: Kevin Gidusko
Pics: Kevin Gidusko
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