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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 2007

Atlatl Antics

Yesterday we brought the Atlatl activity out to the Pedro Menendez High School football field. It was beautiful weather, a little windy, but not enough to impede the activity.
For those not familiar with the term: an Atlatl is a primitive hunting implement with a notch on one end, which hooks into the butt of a spear. It generates extra force for the spear by creating an extension of the throwing arm.
For the activity, we broke the class up into 4 teams and first had each student throw a spear by hand and record the distance. After each team member had a chance at this, they were then able to use the Atlatl to the throw the spear, and the distance was recorded. The activity demonstrates very clearly how effective this technology was in acheiving greater distance and force using the Atlatl, as opposed to throwing the spear by hand. The data tends to be relatively skewed, as wielding the Atlatl is an aquired skill that comes with practice and a firm understanding of the mechanics. Its not uncommon for individuals who are not familiar with it to experience "Atlatl malfunction" and end up throwing the spear farther by hand.
Despite this, the Pedro Menendez class took to the activity with gusto. Several of the students hurled the spears more than 50 meters with the assistance of the Atlatls! We will be doing a follow up lesson next week to discuss the results the students witnessed in the activity. Thank you Pedro Menedez class for participaing in the first successful run of the NE FPAN Atlatl Antics activity in the field!
Thats the dirt for today!
-Matt Armstrong

P.S. I would like to take this opportunity to formally challenge anyone reading this blog to a competition of Atlatl skill. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but there has been serious discussion among scholarly circles as to formally renaming this technology the "Mattlatl"

The Aptly Named, "Mosquito Lagoon"

well... last week was pretty slow and uneventful. Not much to report...

HA! had you going there for a minute, didn't I? On the contrary, there is never a dull moment here at FPAN, and last week was no exception. Along with the weekly field work with the students in the Legacy Program and our Wednesday class with the Pedro Menendez students, we had an additional day in the field out at Princess Place on Thursday. The excavations there are progressing nicely, and the students are learning lots.

A high point of the week for me was travelling down to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with Sarah to tour some historic and pre-historic sites with a small group (Roger Grange, Dr. W. Taylor, Rachel Wentz, Tim Brock, George Long, Jim Butts, Dot Moore, Vera Zimmerman, John Stiner, and Roz Foster) under the guidance of Dorn Whitmore. We visited the sugar mill ruins on the refuge (which were constructed with local stone, as opposed to bricks shipped in from Georgia) and some other scattered remains of historic structures - all associated with a larger plantation site centered around Ross Hammock. A series of canals is also associated with the site. I was very thankful for all the information that I had retained from the Sugar Mill Symposium that FPAN helped to sponsor last March. We also had the chance to visit a prehistoric midden on the refuge, and two burial very impressive burial mounds. There is a lot of work going into the documentation and preservation of the site, and the plantation is being evaluated for its association with the historic Old Kings Road. The hope is that this site will be accessible to the public in the future.
The title of this post should inicate my current dermal condition. The weather for our field trip was brisk - which kept the mosquitos at bay "for the most part," according to the others. Apparently, a good day for hiking near Mosquito Lagoon is still considered a "blood donation" by definition at most other locations. In spite of this, we had a great time learning about these sites on Merritt Island and look forward to future collaboration to help preserve these sites and make these resources available to the public!
The FPAN staff would also like to wish all of you out there a safe and happy Thanksgiving! In a continuing closing segment of FPAN Holiday Advice, remember: pace yourself. That slice of pecan pie is ALWAYS worth holding off on a second helping of mashed potatoes.
Thats the Dirt for today!


Scuba Diving=Fun+Danger

Sarah Miller, Eric Giles, Christy Pritchard, and I have been training underwater for about two months now. We began in late August at the Dive Shop off of 16 with Chuck Meide as our instructor. We've been learning with the NAUI program, going in-depth on numerous dive practices. Chuck has a way of getting us to do things underwater over and over and over again.

For instance, I missed out on a couple of pool sessions, so he had to catch me up last week. So, we get in the water; I'm feeling good, but as we go under, I'm feeling apprehensive about the tricks I have to do. Let me just get it out there in the open, I very much dislike clearing my mask fifteen feet underwater. I can only imagine how I'm going to feel when we're at our check-out dive in December. Let me explain to you exactly what clearing my mask entails. First, I close my eyes (because I wear contacts), then I take a deep breath through my regulator to steady my pounding heart. I quickly rip off my mask along with any hair that is attatched to it, all the while breathing through my regulator and hoping I won't take a breath out of my nose and inhale water instead of air. I fumble around in the dark for awhile getting my mask back on my head. Then I lift the bottom of the mask off of my face and blow out all the water that is trapped in my mask, pausing for a moment to remember to breathe, then blowing the rest of the water out, then I blink uncontrollably for a minute to make sure my contacts haven't moved around during the process.

Overall, though, I feel like we've learned a lot during the times we meet--that is, whenever everyone's schedules don't collide. We've spent time reading the NAUI textbook and answering the supplamental questions, then when we have "classroom time" we watch the instructional DVD. It's been fun trying to get all of our minds wrapped around the concept of dive tables and the amounts of time we can stay underwater at certain depths.

I think it's safe to say that we all are having fun and are excited about volunteering with LAMP in the future. We meet again in a couple of weeks....I'll let you know the new stuff we're learning! :)

-Hannah Locke (intern)
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The Busy Week

This has been (another) busy week. With so much on the way, I feel that if I don't give an update now that I will run the risk of rambling (more than usual) if I wait and try and say it all at once (especially when the festival season really kicks in) . . . (aren't parenthesis neat?)

Last week, Meghan Daly finished up the much anticipated Stratigraphy Quilt - a fabric-crafted, quilt style representation of the profiles of the units that we had excavated at DeBary Hall this past summer. They were even used last week in the Pedro Menendez High School class in an activity where students learned and practiced mappping and recording stratigraphy - right in the classroom! Amazing job, Meghan!
Last Friday we visited De Leon Springs State Park, north of Deland, to tour the sugar mill ruins there. This ended up being the most delicious outreach excursion to date -- the The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant is also located on the premises (The mill ruins actually only date to the Territorial Period - but we were willing to let this slide) where you sit at a table with a griddle in the middle and you get to cook your own pancakes. Go there - your stomach will be forever in your debt.

Tuesday night the Archaeology Club went before the Flagler College SGA, gave a presentation, and successfully obtained official club status. Adam Cripps gave a great presentation, in spite of technical difficulties and the inability to access our powerpoint presentation, and everyone involved did an outstanding job. More to come on this...
Yesterday, Sarah and I drove up to Jacksonville to attend a meeting of the Abandoned and Neglected Cemeteries Commission, hosted by Jerry Spinks. Sarah presented as a resource speaker to the group, informing how a public outreach group like FPAN can assist in the restoration and preservations efforts of the Commission. Margo Stringfield also presented a case study of St. Michael's Cemetery in Pensacola - managed by the University of West Florida Archaeology Institute, this site is a true success story in historic cemetery preservation.
Hannah and I will be finishing up work on constructing atlatl spears this week, and hopefully we will be able to bring those to the Pedro Menendez class next week.
Thats the Dirt for today!
[(Much) more to come!]

-Matt Armstrong

Back to School

It was early...I was (admittedly) a mite groggy, and I was fighting to stave off gradeschool flashbacks as we pulled through the front gates of Fruit Cove Middle School last Friday morning. Things were different this time. We were here (myself, Sarah and her father) to meet with a group of middle school students (a mixture of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, as it turned out) to talk about archaeology and partake in the legendary Penut Butter and Jelly Activity, not to get swirlies or have our lunch money stolen by the older kids on the Pop Warner football team...not that ever happened to me in middle school....

We set up shop in one of the rooms and started out with a powerpoint and general explanation of archaeology for the students. Then we started the PB & J activity -- where Ms. Catherine Bavuso provided individual mini-containers of Jif peanut butter for each student - much to the awe and wonderment of Sarah and I. It turned out to be the perfect amount of peanut butter for each student. Take THAT Peter Pan!

The activity is designed to simulate a miniature archaeological site that the students can "test" using methods similar to those talked about in the lecture. Peanut butter and jelly are spread onto the bread and an assortment of sprinkles are added (representing artifacts on an archaeological site). The sandwich is put together then pierced in three places with a straw - this is the post-hole survey, and students can actually see the stratification in the straw. Based on the amount of artifacts (sprinkles) observed in the post-hole survey, the students decide which quadrant of the sandwich to "excavate." The decided quadrant is cut off from the sandwich and the profile is observed with the artifacts visible in with the peanut butter and jelly strata. I feel like the activity went well and the students seemed to enjoy it. It really helps to actualize the information and photographs that are presented in a slide show/ lecture. I also enjoyed this run of the PB&J activity - a student named Dalton was called away for a doctors appointment after constructing a particularly tasty sandwich...hope it wasnt anything contagious!

We had a great time at Fruit Cove Middle School and really enjoyed the chance to teach the kids there about archaeology, answer their questions and provide the PB&J Archaeology activity for them. Hopefully we'll be seeing them all again at some more outreach events in northern St. Johns County! And that's the Dirt for today.
-Matt Armstrong

Soggy Middens

Today I visited the Timucuan Preserve office at the Fort Caroline National Memorial for a presentation by Dr. Keith Ashley, hosted by Preservation North Florida.
My shoes are still drying as i type this.

Driving I-95 through Jacksonville in the pouring rain is something really special, and something that I encourage people - mostly people that have wronged me in some way - to experience at least once in their life. But today it was worth it. I got to the visitor center and saw some familiar faces, and met some friendly new ones too. Dr. Ashely gave us the rundown on the St. Johns II period midden site that he has been working on in the park. He showed us some of the pottery sherds and faunal remains that had been recovered, and gave us a really great explanation of the chronology of the ceramic styles and paddled decoration in the area, as well as a history of the trade that the natives were involved in.
Of course, after hearing all this, there was no way we could all drive back home without seeing the site, even if it was still raining. So, we all grabbed our ponchos, umbrellas, galoshes, and wetsuits and followed Dr. Ashley down the trail to the midden site. It was really great to be able to see the site and have some of the specific areas that Dr. Ashley mentioned in his presentation actually pointed out.
It was a really great outing, and I was very happy to be able to be there and represent FPAN. Hats off to everyone involved, and I know that we're all looking forward to hearing more about Dr. Ashley's future projects!
And thats the Dirt for today.
-Matt Armstrong

...Is This Thing On?

If there was ever a time to start a blog for FPAN, it would be now. We have plenty to talk about, and plenty that we would like feedback on.

It has been a busy summer to say the least: There was the Debary Hall Archaeology Day Camp, the Legacy Program Princess Place's archaeological excursion to Belize, the Ravine Gardens Day Camp, Kingsley Archaeology Day, the Project Archaeology/ Teacher Training Conference, the kicking off of the archaeology-themed "Notes from the Underground" lecture series on Flagler College Radio, assisting with the LAMP field school from Flinders, the Fort Mose innagural day, the production and radio debut of the FPAN Northeast Regional Center theme song, and to top it all off, Sarah, Christy, and Hannah have begun their certification to be scientific divers to assist in underwater digs going on in the area. Nice.

The fun, however, is just beginning. The fall festival season is looming. Beginning unofficially next week with FPAN interpretation and information at the Fountain of Youth site for the St. Augustine 442 Birthday Celebration, it will reach the apex of hysteria in October (aka Archtober), and slowly and unwillfully fizzle out towards the end of November with the onset of the holiday season.
This blog is here for all of you out there to have a convenient way of communicating your thoughts to us, whether it be about events, general progress, or if you just want to put in you two cents about our adventures and everyday hijinks. Post us a reply sometime and help us to reach our full potential as a public archaeology center and outreach resource for you! Keep checking the website calendar for updates about upcoming events!
And thats the Dirt for today.
-Matt Armstrong

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