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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 December 2010

A Public Archaeologist's Favorite Holiday

In the spirit of this holiday season, I’d like to share with you the gifts of my favorite Public Archaeology holiday: Thank-You Note Day.  In case you haven’t heard of Thank-You Note Day, let me fill you in.  It is observed on an indeterminate date following a class visit.  When the day comes, the celebrant discovers an unusually thick package in the mail. 

Momentary concern is replaced with excitement upon reading the return address, which is from a local school.   After that, I suppose we might all celebrate differently.  Some may tentatively slit open the package with a letter opener and gently remove the letters one by one. 

Not me.  I tear into these packages with the ferocity of kids on Christmas morning.  I pull out all the notes in one fistful, then immediately read them over and over a few times.

Over the years I’ve received all manner of thank you notes: notes on “antique” paper, notes with archaeology tools or sites drawn on them, notes on paper in the shape of storage jars.  But my December 2010 observance of Thank-You Note Day was even more special.  I received a very thick package, but this one was also a really odd shape.  Seeing it was from a Clay County Elementary school, I tore into it with customary reckless abandon and found this inside:

I got to excavate my own notes!  After taking my jar o’ notes outside for, um, screening, I thumbed through my yield.  I love some of the responses I get:

I really get a kick out of the way kids process my talks.  I always show a slide of four different artifacts from a City of St. Augustine Archaeology dig that turned up evidence of a feast.  Liam clearly enjoyed the picture of butchered cattle bones, which I love telling kids were found alongside butchered horse bones.  I use that sort of evidence to show archaeologists aren't just looking for "treasure"--because we try to learn about cultures of the past, we're most interested in any artifact that gives us new information.

Sometimes, when I'm really lucky, I get a note and some Grade A kid art:

Let me be clear though.  This holiday is to be celebrated mirthfully, but it also presents an occasion to reflect on what I’m accomplishing in the classroom.  When I give my tool talk, I discuss artifacts and changes in the soil, and how archaeologists rely on both to understand what they’re excavating.  Are the kids hearing me?  I talk about context, and how important it is for artifacts to be found where they were deposited.  Do they understand?  These letters make my day, but they also let me know what to emphasize or discuss differently.

So if both Liam and Tyler got stuck on the majolica plates, which come pretty early in my talk, maybe I need to adjust the way that I deal with that particular group of artifacts.  I spend much more time talking about changes in soil color and context than any particular artifacts.  Those things are maybe not as glamorous, but they're essential to archaeology.   Thank-You Note Day offers an opportunity to reflect on these sorts of challenges.  And I have to concede that no matter what I do, my class visits are most effective when paired with other classroom activities related to archaeology (see links below).

In the end though, Thank-You Note Day is a day of celebration.  I get to revel in what I enjoy most about my job--playing with kids about archaeology.  I love being a part of their discoveries, especially when I'm invited to do hands-on activities.  Piquing students' curiosity makes my day.  Best of all, I love when I can see that what I have to share is really fascinating to them--opening their minds not only to new ways of looking at the world (and the past), but also the idea that there are myriad ways of viewing the world and all of the people who have been a part of it.  When kids can get excited to learn, I've done a big part of what I hope to accomplish.

Now tell me, does it get any better than that?

If there is a class in northeast Florida you'd like me to visit, contact me at aweiss@flagler.edu.

For resources to teach archaeology in the classroom, try these sites:

For videos about archaeology and archaeology sites in Florida, visit FPAN's Resources page.

Special Edition "What is THAT!!!" Wednesday

Last week Amber and I biked out at the Guana Preserve with Chris Newman and her sister.  This WIIW is a two-parter:

Part 1: Sherd found and left on post near Menorcan well at GTM-NERR.

Part 2: What is that?!?!
No, not that (yellow arrow).
Or that...

...or that...


It was a privilege to spot both Parts I and II in the field.  First one to guess right gets a snake bit kit! Alright...just a picture of a snake bite kit.

Dig It!: Turtle Mound

After living in or near New Smyrna for over ten years, I finally visited Canaveral National Seashore. Besides being a beautiful beach, a nesting area for turtles, a natural escape for tourists and locals alike, Turtle Mound, a Native American trash midden, also lies in Canaveral National Seashore.
Timucuans who generated the mound lived in Mosquito Lagoon (what it now the area of New Smyrna and Ponce Inlet). Over a 600 year span, the Timucuans harvested nearby marine resources and discarded the shells. Standing approximately fifty feet, the accumulation of shell, charcoal, and food remains is one of the largest existing mounds along the Florida coast. Oyster shells compose most of the mound. Later Native Americans and Spanish explorers utilized the mound as a navigational landmark and a lookout throughout the eighteenth century. Turtle Mound now serves as a way for archaeologists to understand Timucuan culture based on the faunal remains and artifacts that still exist.
As I followed the boardwalk to the mound’s summit, I noticed two things: First, Beware of banana spiders!

 Second, I could understand why the Timucuans would live near Mosquito Lagoon. From the mound, I saw water all around. The area would be rich in resources; they could fish, harvest oysters, and hunt if necessary. At the top, a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and endless greenery extends until ocean meets sky. With a touch of historical imagination, I could envision native peoples launching their dugout canoes at the mound’s base, as Alvaro Mexia described in a 1605 exploration of La Florida.

Turtle Mound serves as a testament to what once was. The mound—smaller, but still intact-- is a stunning creation to see in person. Canaveral National Seashore offers a glimpse into history paired with beautiful surroundings.

Social Media Sproutlettes!

Happy new bloggers (and a few veterans) hard at work.
Today we are hosting a social media for heritage professionals seminar.  The offering brings together heritage partners across FPAN and northeast Florida, including representatives from the National Park Service, A1A Scenic By-way, St. Augustine Archaeological Association, Habitat for Humanity, St. Johns County Historic Resources, and FPAN staff from West Central and Central. 

THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write a paragraph for the blog that features a picture, links, title and labels.

Read what our Sproutlettes suggested for this post!

Title: Sitting in the Second Row
Photo: some eyes behind a screen could be cute here.

Link: FPAN page since I mentioned it in the paragraph.
Label: workshop

NPS is representin' at the Social Media workshop in St. Augustine. Here we are taking up almost the entire second row of a room full of computers but instead of tweeting back and forth we are talking face to face with Sarah and Amber from FPAN. The normally outdorsy Rangers have traded an afternoon in the uncharacteristically frigid Florida temperatures to learn more about social media in a cozy library classroom. You can feel the presentational spirit in this room if not the tech savvy. Although many of us are still beginners, the excitement social media can elicit is catching and I am sure many a blog, tweet, and post will blossom out of this workshop.

Title: Stranded on the side of the information highway...

Photo - hitchhicker or interstate
Link - to FPAN, info on public archaeology, info to definition on social media

I am hear in St. Augustine to learn more about social media so I can buy into the program for work. As a public archaeologist, I should be all over the opportunity to share information with the public in a format that reaches out and gets read. However, my concerns lie not only in my ignorance of how social media works - but also in the thought of sharing my opinions and personality with people in a format I cannot gauge reaction nor take back or clarify my responses. So here I sit, stranded on the side of the information highway - unwilling to stick out my thumb.

Title: Learn Some, Live Some

Picture of everyone at the workshop. It's proof!

Labels: Social media, FPAN, something fun?

Ah! Social media. I'm only a fan of Facebook. Everything else seems a bit beyond me. Nevertheless, my distaste for Twitter and other social media are based more on the fact that I don't use them than an actual shortcoming in such mediums.

Like me, many other people dislike or don't understand the modern ways to interact and communicate.

Perhaps my dislike of all the websites and programs I can sign up for stems more from a fear of long term commitment than the actual program. I can't possibly have enough time (or enough interesting things to say) to continually update a Twitter account or to write blogs that other people will actually want to read. Right? I definitely don't have the motivation to try.

It seems unfair to rule out the possibilities. Without other people pioneering into the unknown, how would I ever get to experience the beauty of The Onion ?

The Woes of a Harried Archeo-blogger

{Add catchy photo of air boat}

As I sit here at the Social Networking workshop, I can’t help but feel that our own efforts to reach out through social networking is so far behind so many others that are in this workshop. To date I have learned a dozen shortcomings of my own outreach attempts. Even though our Facebook page is slowly gaining a regular audience, that audience is small and hasn’t grown all that much. It seems that without a significant investment in both resources and time that our own efforts to reach out to a larger audience are ultimately doomed to failure—or even worse to obscurity. It is difficult to envision a way in which FPAN Central can reach a much larger audience without making some radical departures from the way that we currently conduct business. Currently, our web page is fairly static and only the scheduled events are updated on a regular basis. I think that a better approach will be to really bring in some of the other activities at Crystal River.

Toni Wallace and Zaida Darley introduce each other to the group

Title: Electronics Improves Social Life after 60

Photo of me surrounded by friends. Link to archaeology sites, etc.

My Social Life has just expanded 100%. Today I learned how to use several new and exciting ways to make new friends and influence people. FPAN-NE, that amazing source of info on Florida archaeology, just taught me how to use Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and some things I’d never heard of before. Frankly, I was feeling a bit left behind. It seemed everyone else was on the bandwagon, tweeting and facebooking and connec- ting with lots of friends and associates. Now I’m up to date and able to do it. Weeee! My life is sooo exciting now! Thanks, FPAN.

Title  My Day at Twitter Camp

I am learning about social media from the FPAN Northeast Region. There are some mediums I have never even heard of and some blogs sites that I will definitely follow. This is going to be a very informative session. Can't wait to see what else is in store for us.

Our secret weapon: fabulous bloggers who give us tips on content and tone.  Thanks guys!

[photo of me taking notes while I look intensely at the Tom and Lorenzo website on my computer screen]
link  Tom and Lorenzo
label  Blog Gurus

Photo- happy people sitting at computers

link-FPAN website, NPS Timucuan label- NPS goes legit with social media

Today Emily, Brittany and I attended the Florida Public Archaeology Network's workshop on utilizing social media in hopes to seriously step up the Timucuan Preserve's game (whoop whoop NPS!). Despite my questionable decision to sit directly under the air conditioning vent (It's about 40 degress outside), the atmosphere has been warm, inviting, and very informative. Who knew so many different types of organizations were dedicating so much time to getting media saavy? Hopefully by the end of this we'll have the Timucuan Preserve tweeting, facebookin', blogging, and playing foursquare like a pro.

Title: Social Media to the Rescue

We're learning to use SM to enliven and expand
our connection with interested folk that are
"out there..."

photo: happy new bloggers trying out new skills
links to LAMP, FPAN and other blogs

title Power of Blogs

link to either FPAN or Lamp and check out the fun blogs

photo - Stat page showing hits for blogs OR a great photo and caption from a blog
Label - "What the public likes"

Who knew? Loads of social platforms but the power of blogging within websites is phenomenal. Timely, engaging, personality driven and the kicker is that when it's done on a periodic basis - say weekly - it provides an "institutional history". (thanks Brendan for that phrase)


The FPAN Social Media Seminar is going very smoothly and we are sharing some great ideas. Amber Graft-Weiss led a session this morning on Facebook and Twitter accounts. This afternoon is blogs, more on facebook, linkedin, and other useful outlets for social media. Although I am new to Twitter, and have yet to determine its utility in the LAMP setting, I am more aware of its inner workings and now have an account to experiment with. Sarah pointed out how blogs can be accurately analyzed for their content, comments, viewability, and monitored in order to tailor better blog entries. Thanks FPAN Northeast!

Here's the LAMP/Lighthouse blog too, for those of you interested in maritime history!


Wow- ten different approaches to the same content.  The possibilities are endless...great job class!

"What Is It?" Wednesday

This weeks mystery came from our recent outing to Robin Moore's Salamatoto site.  We found prehistoric sherds, majolica, and more modern porcelain.

One of the sherds, we believe majolica, featured this interesting, handpainted, blue wheat motif.

Any guesses? 

WHAT IS IT?!?!?!?


Come on, say it with me...it's fun to say! SALAMATOTO

This week FPAN staff gave a helping hand to St. Johns County Historic Resource Specialist Robin Moore on his survey of a property along the St. Johns River. The project is of significant because part of the San Diego de Salamatoto Mission once stood on this site.

Some words from the man himself (Robin Moore) on the current survey:

View of property with St. Johns River in back.
Popo Point is in the northwest portion of St. Johns County and sticks out like a thumb into the river. Beginning in 1657, after the Timucuan rebellion of 1656, the Spanish developed San Diego de Salamatoto mission in this region. It became the major river crossing for the Camino Real, the westward route connecting the Florida mission chain, serving this function for 50 years. Picolata, to the south, later was established as the major crossing for the remainder of the First Spanish period.

The exact location of Salamototo was always a question, until recently, when an archaeological survey for the Rivertown (St. Joe Company) development identified a 17th century Spanish site on Popo Point. Archaeologist Bob Johnson subsequently conducted some intensive excavations on the St. Joe property at Popo Point and believes this site to be the Salamatoto location.

The current effort will be a shovel testing survey on property immediately adjacent to the St. Joe property where Mr. Johnson conducted excavations. This land is owned by a single family, not by St. Joe. They intend to build a house on the property. The objective of this survey is to place shovel tests across the property in order to assess if the Salamatoto site extends into the property, and assess to what degree the site contains intact archaeological deposits.

Archies gather 'round the fire- marshmallows & hot dogs.

We headed out early Tuesday, bundled up like the stay puft marshmallow man.  It was cold, but we had the warmth of camaraderie--and an actual fire--to keep us warm.
From my own shovel tests I learned the site is very complex.  There are shallow and deep deposits, suggesting some disturbance to the site.  The artifacts ranged from prehistoric rim sherds, early Spanish majolica, later glass and a modern cosmetic jar on the surface.

Square shovel test excavated by yours truly and Flagler Alum Jennifer Newton.

Prehistoric and Spanish ceramics my (I mean our) unit. 
All the data--including artifacts, maps, and photos--will be taken to the county's archaeology lab to be processed by Courtney Boren.  She will wash, sort, and analyze each artifact.  Along with Robin, they will put together the best interpretation of the site based on the evidence they found, then publish the results.  If I had to guess, I'd say the survey may be featured in one of St. Augustine Archaeology Association's monthly meetings.

Did I mention it was cold?
Thanks for the invite Robin and keep up the good work!

Be the first to caption this picture!  Sarah Bennett, volunteer Jim, and site mascot Rosie.
Visit our Facebook page to see all Salamatoto photos.

A Day in the Life of an Archaeology Site Monitor

Life can be exciting for a Florida Archaeology Monitor.  Last month I wrote about how the State of Florida will train interested citizens to help with the identification and preservation of Florida'a archaeology resources.  A three day course will prepare you to assist the state with this important job.  I got my certification this year and have been getting calls to come and help identify sites.  I work for FPAN - Northeast Region at Flagler College as a Site Specialist.  Last month I visited three potential sites in response to people calling FPAN with site questions.

Indian Shell Mound

Roads as Sites
Did you know that many of Florida's early roads were constructed from old Indian shell mounds?  Crushed oyster and clam shells make an excellent road bed material.  Indian shell mounds and shell rings once lined the east and west coasts of Florida as well as along many of Florida's major rivers like the St. Johns River.  Most of these important sites were destroyed as roads for wagons and later automobiles were extended into the Florida peninsula.   And, as a consequence, artifacts from the shell mounds, end up eroding out of the edges of many of our roads, especially roads constructed in the early years of Florida's European history.   When people walk along old roads and find these Indian artifacts, they immediately think they are on an Indian site. 

I was invited to Clay County to see some artifacts from an old road near the St. Johns River.  This road was originally an old shell road going to an early plantation. The artifacts were eroding from the road bed and appeared to be out of their original context.  They were probably moved as road fill from a site that was not too far from the road.   Many Indian sites existed along the St. Johns River.   So I did not prepare a Florida Master Site File (FMSF) form for the road because the artifacts came from another place, but noted that the road itself is definately an interesting part of Florida's early history.  The road is still in use serving a modern subdivision but it was originally built to serve wagons and carriages on their way to an early British St. Johns River planatation.

A house built in the mission style

A Lost Mission
Did you know that there were about 140 missions built by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in Florida in the late16th, 17th and early 18th centuries.   Unlike California missions some of which are still standing, all of Florida's mission buildings have long since mouldered away.  But there is still evidence under the ground for many of these early Indian missions.  Several Franciscan mission sites have been identified around the City of St. Augustine by our City Archaeologist, Carl Halbirt.  But many in outlying areas of the state are still lost.  FPAN-NE was invited by a private citizen to see some artifacts from the mission period found along the St. Johns River in St. Johns County.  I visited the residence to view the place where the artifacts were found.  It so happened that the property was right next to a known mission site which had already been recorded on the Florida Master Site File.  The value of this visit is that we now think that the mission extended farther along the river than originally recorded.  More archaeological testing around the mission site will be undertaken by our St. Johns County Archaeologist, Robin Moore.

Prehistoric pottery sherd.

A Historic Home
Frequently history and archaeology overlap.  FPAN-NE was called by the owner of a home in Volusia County already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The owner had uncovered some Indian artifacts on the property in the course of doing some tree removal and landscaping.  The house, one of the oldest in Volusia County, was on a site that had obviously been occupied for a long time before Europeans entered the County.   Indian pottery from the St. Johns I period as well as a number of lithic objects were found around the old house.   I will prepare a Florida Master Site File form to list the property as an archaeology site as well as the historic home site already listed on the National Register.

All in a days work for a Florida Archaeology Monitor.  If you would like to come out with me on some of my future site visits, just give me a call or an e-mail with your contact info.   I would love company!

Toni Wallace,

What is it Wednesday: Monkey head

Alright, I realize we're a day late, but any thoughts on this artifact?  Recovered from the Ximenez-Fatio House in downtown St. Augustine, Florida.

This one has a known form but a genuine question is the date.  And it's pretty cool lookin, so thought I'd share!

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