Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rollins College Public Archaeology Student Assists HMS Florida with Post-Hurricane Site Assessments

NOTE: This blog post comes to us from Nicolette Valdes, a Rollins College student who conducted several HMS site assessments as part of her Public Archaeology class coursework last semester. This project grew out of efforts by Dr. Zack Gilmore, who created the first Public Archaeology course in the history of Rollins and immediately sought to find applicable, real-world projects for his students to partake in. Nicolette tackled her sites with real zeal, as we saw from her site updates, and discusses her experience below. More importantly, her work helped to document impacts to important archaeological sites in the Central Florida area. Great work!

Blog author, Nicolette Valdes, documenting a site for HMS.

Being a part of FPAN's Heritage Monitoring Scouts Florida program is an experience that many people could get in the state. The skills that I have learned have become something that I can use for the future and something that has become so personal for me. It has given me a greater passion for preserving historic sites and the need to learn more about Florida's people and history.

I am a student at Rollins College, majoring in Anthropology and Biology, and will be adding Classical studies to my major because of this project. I love archaeology because it connects us to our past history and it allows us to learn the culture and the importance civilizations in the past had. I found out about FPAN while taking an Archaeology course with Dr. Zack Gilmore called Public Archaeology. In this class we learned about how important public archaeology is and how sharing the knowledge and skills that are learned from archaeology is important. It gives the public a way to have deeper understandings with their surroundings and it allows them to learn why it is important to preserve historic sites and knowledge.

Hurricane Irma impacts on Fort Mellon Park, Sanford.
 In this class FPAN's Kevin Gidusko was a guest speaker talking about FPAN and what they do. In that discussion I was very interested in the HMS Florida program and was very curious in the differences that the sites experience due to age and weather. I was also interested in preserving not only the sites but to gain information that will help descendant communities. When I started to train with Mr.. Gidusko it was after Hurricane Irma and the site that we went to at Fort Mellon park went through some major flooding. It was shocking that a site could be so damaged by water that even the road was inaccessible. It made me want to set out and see what else happened and how could I record it.

I visited the Jolly Gator Fish Camp, Mead Garden, Fort Mellon Park,
Glen Haven Cemetery, Pinewood Cemetery, Palm Cemetery and St Richards Episcopal Memorial Garden Cemetery. But my personal favorite would be Mead Garden. At that site I checked on a pre-historic shell midden. The site was largely damaged due to Hurricane Irma. There was evidence of flooding and trees were knocked down. To help protect myself from snakes I carried around a branch that I found to poke at all of the leaves blocking the path. I felt like I was going on an adventure, like something you saw in movies. Walking over unstable bridges, broken boards, and going through the woods to find the treasure (without looting of course).

Using and HMS pocket scale card to highlight possible material culture.

I was not only amazed but this experience, but I felt that I have learned so much about Florida’s history, how to properly record sites to help preserve them, and how much I loved doing this project. I was fascinated by every little thing I saw. From seeing one-hundred-year-old headstones to seeing shell middens. This experience is something that made me want to continue to pursue this in the future and I have so much more knowledge to gain.

Text: Nicolette Valdes
Pics: Nicolette Valdes

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