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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 2009

Six Feet Under with Sarah, Part II

Pilgrim’s Rest, Ormond Beach, Volusia County

A few weeks ago we responded to a request for an outdoor classroom experience at a historical cemetery, Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery in Ormond Beach. Teachers organized transportation and set up stations for students to rotate through during the morning to studying the history of the community, learn about the flora and fauna on site, language arts exercise in writing, and archaeology (which was us!). While I had an idea to do a seriation activity, we needed to preview the cemetery to be sure it would be a good fit for our activity.

I found Pilgrim’s Rest to be a charming 100 year old cemetery at the corner of SR 5A and RS 40 east in Ormond Beach, Volusia County. The oldest headstone in Pilgrim’s Rest is that of “Little Kansas Bennett” who died in 1908 (see photo). Her handwritten into cement headstone sits near the entrance of the cemetery along with several other Bennetts. The cemetery contained a great variety of headstone types—from wooden cross markers to customized marble headstones with hunting and fishing motifs—as well as a large array of grave offerings ranging from flowers to wind chimes, and even a guest book! There was no doubt several lessons could be applied to this cemetery; the setting was a true outdoor museum with lots of artifacts and labels to figuratively read.

For the lesson itself, we (myself and intern Rosalie Cocci) created a scavenger hunt as a warm up activity to get the students thinking about symbols and iconography. When turned lose, the students split into groups looking for the specific headstones the illustrated the iconographic point we would be making later. We wanted to point out several general symbols later to be looked up in Iconography of Death, such as hands with a finger pointing up, laurel wreaths, tree stump, and Masonic compass and square. After an arbitrary amount of time, we gathered the students together again and reviewed the results of the hunt.

Next, it was the students turn. Now that they were more familiar with the cemetery and with different symbols and motifs above the ground, we asked them to select just one trait. Before setting them lose a second time, each group was given a single color of post-its. Their objective was to find as many headstones with their chosen symbol or motif and write just one year of death on each post-it. For example, students who chose daisies (sometimes representing youth and innocence) would go headstone to headstone looking for the specific flower, and when found they would write 1938 on a single post-it, and go on to find another. Students chose hearts, roses, vines, specific types of crosses, and hunting/fishing motifs to mention a few.

As a wrap up, we set up a graph to represent the frequency of each trait by decade. In general, traits demonstrated the “battleship” curve known in seriation studies for showing the introduction of a new trait, expansion of popularity over time, and then the truncating down as the trait diminishes. Students had no problem with analogies of what trends were popular today: skinny jeans, pop stars, and symbols of wealth (aka bling).

All in all, it was an excellent opportunity to get out to a new cemetery and explore the local history of Ormond Beach. Students learned a lot about symbols and how the use of them in headstones changed over time. We tested a low level theory of dating, seriation, and found the frequency dating worked for the most part. For more information on seriation, I recommend the Minnesota State University website that features and interactive seriation program. If you want to try the lesson out with students at a cemetery near you contact us for the PDF, just let us know how the activity went and what you found out!

Six Feet Under with Sarah Miller, Part I

Cemeteries are outdoor museums that tell us about how people thought of death and remembrance over time. For this series on the blog I plan to travel or recount site visits to cemeteries in the northeast region of Florida. I hope the images will inspire you to go visit and learn more about local communities.
One way FPAN gets involved with historic cemeteries is promoting awareness of these unique cultural resources. Last year we partnered with St. Johns County Historical Resources Specialist Robin Moore and graphic designer Jody Marcil to create the Written in Stone poster.

The poster features 10 local cemeteries with brief history and highlights for the heritage aware visitor, including:

· Sons of Israel Congregation Cemetery- organized in the late 19th century. Stone reminders on the graves show that someone has visited, and although dead, they continue to have an impact on the living.
· San Sebastian Cemetery- established in the late 19th century with the oldest known stone dating to 1879. Here shells mark graves and communicate a return to the sea in ancestral African burial customs.
· Huguenot Cemetery- established in 1821 for victims of yellow fever. The only two coquina crosses in Florida (and perhaps the world) are found as markers in this cemetery.

The poster was unveiled this summer by County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson at the T'Omb It May Concern conference along with two bookmarks. Both posters and bookmarks are free and distributed through public libraries and outreach events. For copies of the poster or bookmarks, contact me or drop by FPAN’s northeast regional center in St. Augustine. Photos in this entry are credited to Jody Marcil.

Have a favorite cemetery? Drop us a comment! If its in northeast Florida, we’ll be sure to check it out!

Illegal Harvesting of Coquina from Beaches

In response to recent coverage and details of the illegal harvesting of coquina from our beaches as a geological looting event, I'd like to bring a more cultural and historical perspective to the issue. As an archaeologist working in northeast Florida, I can tell you that coquina is truly Florida’s pet rock. We should take every measure to educate residents on its significance to our historical past, and protect it as a non-renewable resource. As often mentioned, coquina was used in the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos downtown. But it’s more ubiquitous than that; coquina was used in every historical time period for domestic structures, businesses, cemeteries, sugar mills, and even cemeteries. The beautiful pyramids commemorating Dade’s Massacre in the National Cemetery- those are coquina. The majestic archways and chimneys at Bulow State Park, Dunlawton, and Cruger-DePeyster sugar mills- they are all made out of coquina. The oldest houses in St. Augustine (including the Oldest House and Father O’Reilly House) are partially constructed out of coquina. Finally, Ft. Matanzas that stands on the north end of the inlet—also a significant site made of coquina.

Much of what we know of these historic resources exists only because the coquina still exists. Dr. Judith Bense, Chair of the Florida Historical Commission and archaeologist, expressed it best during address to the St. Augustine Historical Society last year when she said Pensacola has “coquina envy.” Many of the same types of sites did not preserve or can not be found as they were made of wood and the evidence literally went up in smoke. Any readers who want to learn more about the archaeological significance of coquina can visit our website http://www.coquinaqueries.org/ that has an archaeology activity guide for 4th and 5th graders based on northeast Florida coquina ruins.

As our pet rock, we should protect it in its wild state, see to proper care and maintenance where we’ve adopted it into our lives, and share with visitors as an element of what makes northeast Florida truly special.

Virtual Florida Fieldtrips!

Take armchair travel to a new level by visiting the first in our new series: Virtual Florida Fieldtrips. Intended to entice visitors to our beloved heritage sites, these podcasts take the site to the viewer when the viewer can not readily get to the site. Learn about the arguably most excavated house in Florida, the Ximenez-Fatio House in downtown St. Augustine. Travel up A1A to the Kingsley Plantation, part of the National Park Service, to see the standing slave quarter ruins.

Our goal is to have six completed by January 2010 for the Society of Historical Archaeology's annual meeting at Amelia Island. Check back for the Castillo de San Marcos and Sugar Mills later this fall.

No More Metal Detectors

September 18, 2009 the amendment of Sec. 15-3.3 of the Clay County Code went into effect.

The Operation of metal detectors and the retrieval of artifacts found on county parks and properties is now prohibited.

FPAN is delighted with the news. "We are in full support of the ordinance," said Amber Grafft-Weiss, FPAN Outreach Coordinator.

What does this mean to you?

For all metal detecting enthusiasts out there, it is now unlawful for you to wield these devices in county-owned cemeteries, burial sites, and other proprieties listed on the Florida Master Site File.

This ordinance also means that digging of any kind with any instrument to retrieve objects or artifacts embedded or lying on the ground at these sites is unlawful.

To check out the ordinance yourself click here and look under Clay County.

Or to see Amber speak at the public hearing regarding the ordinance click here and then, click play on #17.


In search of Dr. James Davidson

We piled into our eco-friendly work truck this morning, taking great care to remember the piles of equipment we would need to document our visit to the University of Florida to meet with archaeologist, Dr. James Davidson. Dr. Davidson is well known in the archaeological community for his work with Kingsley Plantation, located on Fort George Island in Duval County.
When we arrived, we were dwarfed by the UF campus, since we were coming from our quaint home base at Flagler College in Saint Augustine. After a little bit of wandering, we made our way to the basement where Dr. Davidson awaited in his new office, which featured a well that existed before the academic building was constructed. Wait…. What? Yes, a well that is actually a reservoir of water conveniently located in the corner of his office.

After an exciting, impromptu photo shoot with Dr. Davidson, we delved into future plans for a public day out at the Kingsley Plantation, where the findings and initial interpretations of the 2009 field school, conducted by Dr. Davidson and his crew of students, volunteers, and professional staff members, would be presented to the public. Our plans include talks and tours, among other activities. Look for that in early 2010. Emily Jane, FPAN’s videographer, was on hand to record some footage for an upcoming podcast featuring the Kingsley Plantation and the archaeological work that Dr. Davidson and his crews have done. This video will be an exciting addition to the other 3-5 minute virtual field trips that FPAN has been working on over the summer. Check out the other videos at http://www.fpannortheast.org/videos-podcasts.cfm.
Another exciting part about our trip was a visit to the lab where the artifacts from the Kingsley Plantation excavations are recorded and catalogued. Grad students who had the chance to do excavations over the summer found many new and interesting artifacts. The Flagler College Archaeology Club plans to assist in the cataloguing of these artifacts during a field trip in the next couple of months.
Stayed tuned for the next exciting adventure!
--Rosalie Cocci

Fort Mose Fun

Today we worked on a lesson for a Fort Mose day in September. We decided to recreate a site with edibles: cookie crumbs and cake mix made soil, rice cereal was shells and peanut butter for clay. What better way to teach kids about site construction?

First, we started small. Sarah had the staff make our own personal stratification. In clear plastic cups, each of us experimented with the assortment of goodies we purchased for the activity. Sarah then tried to flood her site with water in order to have things shift and blend, as soil, artifacts and shells do over time with the help of rain. We decided less is more when it came to the water.

Next it was time for the first official practice site. Sarah choose a site map with a post hole feature. One important outcome we wanted was distinct stratification. We built the site in a clear baking dish so the layers would be visible from the sides. First went in the prehistoric layer: chocolate cake mix soil blended with shells and tiny sprinkle pottery sherds. Then it was a layer of clay: peanut butter patted out with cake mix and laid flat on top. Next the post hole and its packed shell support: a stack of cookies and rice cereal. After that there was a layer of dark soil and construction garbage to fill in the moat: crumbled chocolate cookies, rice cereal and chocolate cake mix. Finally, a sterile layer of top soil and a bit of grass: plain chocolate cake mix and green sprinkles.

The first site did not turn out proportionate. The pan was too long and not deep enough. We tried a second site with a smaller and deeper meat loaf pan and it worked out well. We applied what we'd learned from the first site and made the second look even better.
The experiment was a success....and pretty fun and tasty!

Join us at Fort Mose on September 26th from 10 to 11 am to help us reconstruct a third site!!

-Emily Jane

Archaeology in Lincolnville - An Exhibit

Did you know that the City of St. Augustine has some of the best archaeology in the country? This is because there's a law, a City Ordinance, that says you can't dig in the ground in St. Augustine without first checking with the City Archaeologist. If you are in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the City (some of the City is over 400 years old), the City Archaeologist gets to test the history that's under the ground at the place where you want to dig, or build a house or anything else that will disturb what's underground. Oldest City + Lots of Archaeology = some of the best opportunities to learn about archaeology in the country! The FPAN staff thought it would be a great idea to create a museum exhibit around one neighborhood and one project done by the City Archaeologist.

Lincolnville is one of the older neighorhoods in the City. Over 30 archaeology projects have been conducted by the City Archaeologist in Lincolnville. There is also a wonderful museum in the heart of Linconville, the Excelsior Museum and Cultural Center. They just happened to have an empty exhibit case and liked the idea of selecting a Lincolnville archaeology project to highlight. So, with the help of Carl Halbirt, City Archaeologist, we identified a Lincolnville project, selected some artifacts excavated from that project site and did some archival research on the people who had lived on the site.

And now for the rest of the story. The neighborhood of Lincolnville was first settled by freed Black slaves after the Civil War. It was originally named Little Africa. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was the principle Black neighborhood in the City of St. Augustine with its own Black businesses, professional offices and schools. The Excelsior School was the Black High School, now the Excelsior Museum.

The archaeology site we selected was the home of the Kelton family. Four generations of the Kelton family had lived in a house built in the late 1800s. City archaeology excavated the site in 2002 after the home was demolished to make way for a new house. When we researched the house and the family at the Historical Society Research Library, we found an amazing coincidence. Two of the sisters who were raised in the house were actually teachers at the Excelsior School. We found pictures of Kelton family members in the library but none of the two teachers, Emily and Agnes. A friend, Barbara Vickers, who had grown up in the neighborhood, provided a picture of the two sisters.

We installed the exhibit in June after selecting some of our favorite items from the site. The artifacts represent the material culture of an early 20th century Black family in St. Augustine. They were excavated from a trash pit and a privy in the yard. We have artifacts that represent food ways, decorative items, personal items, and work related items. Three panels describing the archaeology and introducing the family, including family pictures, complete the exhibit.
Go by the Excelsior Museum and Cultural Center at 102 Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue. The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday, 12 noon to 5:00pm. There are many interesting exhibits on Lincolnville History, the African American Community in St. Augustine and the Excelsior School.

Toni Wallace

Field Trip Fridays!

So now that things have calmed down around the office after our cemetery conference, a few teacher trainings and getting into the swing of things with summer camps, we've started going out into the field on Fridays and enjoying some of the sights around our region.

Last Friday was our first trip. Unfortunately, it was just me and Rosalie. But we still packed up some cameras and headed to the Castillo de San Marcos. To my surprise, I found out this was Rosalie's first time exploring inside.

We wondered through some of the rooms including the barracks, a jail and a chapel. We also checked out some displays of weaponry as well as lots of cannons. We even got to watch one of them being fired. And of course, we did our duty as conservationists and helped out the National Park Service by asking a few visitors not to sit on or touch the coquina walls. When we went into the bookstore, we found so many great books that Rosalie had to make a wish list.

After a quick lunch, we headed over to the Old Quarry at Anastasia State Park. The hole from where a lot of the coquina around town was mined is now filled with mud and water most of the time. But evidence of its use years ago is still visible: a bank of fresh coquina was uncovered. They cut it to replace some of the worst preserved and crumbling stones at the Castillo.

It was a great first field trip. Next week, we're off to New Smryna for more adventures!

-Emily Jane

Grave things to come!

Hey there! Long time no see! I know this is the first blog posting in a long time, but I assure you, FPAN has been hard at work behind the scenes! We just rounded out an amazing Archaeology month, where we took the public by storm with 47 events in 30 days! Go team!

With Archaeology month over, we are gearing up for a St. Johns County Historic Cemetery Conference for the summer, and boy are we excited!!

Rich Estabrook, the director of the Central FPAN region, brought us this crazy contraption known as Ground Penetrating Radar. This machine looks like a cross between a lawn mower and a jogging stroller!! The GPR, in its most basic sense, is a machine and technique that collects and records information about what is under the ground through non-destructive radio waves. It is a technique that has been employed in such fields as engineering, geology, environmental studies, and more recently, archaeology.

After getting a crash course on the GPR process, the crew was ready to head out and start collecting data for the cemetery conference. After lots of research and deliberation, the cemeteries we tested are the National Cemetery, Huguenot Cemetery, and Tolomato Cemetery. An added delight was the opportunity to use GPR in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine!!

Interested in seeing how this all works and what our findings are?? Then check out the T'omb It May Concern Historic Cemetery Conference!!
From June 11th to June 13th, the conference will feature guided tours of St. Johns County cemeteries, lectures (with archaeologist, Dr. Kathleen Deagan as the keynote speaker!), and workshops (such as GPR use, cemetery research, and headstone preservation). Registration for the event opens May 1st for tour reservations (as spaces are limited). Check out the FPAN website at http://www.fpannortheast.org/programs.cfm, or contact Amber Weiss, Outreach Coordinator, at AWeiss@flagler.edu for more information. Hurry before YOUR time runs out!!
--Rosalie Cocci

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