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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 October 2009

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.

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