Modeling Archaeology

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In recent years, 3D modeling has become easier than it ever has been before. In the past, we had to use an expensive 3D scanner, though these still have their uses. Now, however, anybody with a smartphone can make a reasonable 3D model using a program called 123D Catch. With a little more time and financial investment, we can make a model that is accurate enough to draw data from (

This magical process is called “photogrammetry.” Essentially, this uses a collection of photographs from a variety of angles to create a three dimensional model of an object. What has really changed in recent years is the ease of use. Even with the professional version of Agisoft PhotoScan (a more robust, paid version of 123D Catch) the process of going from photos to a three dimensional model takes only a few steps.

There are a few limitations to this technique, however. Tall objects (such as buildings) are difficult to fully cover due to their height and size (without some creativity or a drone anyways) and the program has difficulty dealing with patterns such as plaid or other subjects that are not distinct enough, like grass. The biggest restriction is in the program’s inability to deal with movement, so live subjects are nearly impossible to record without a large and expensive rig of cameras to take all the pictures in a single instant. Fortunately, most of our subjects in archaeology are not very lively, so this is a fairly minor restriction.

The uses for such a program in archaeology are incredibly exciting, especially for underwater archaeology. Due to limitations on dives caused by weather and human endurance, it can easily take a decade to fully map a complex shipwreck. However, with five days of photographing and a few hours of processing time archaeologists can now have a highly detailed and accurate three dimensional map (

CW monumentPreservation is another excellent use for photogrammetry. If an historic building is about to be demolished, a day or two photographing every possible inch inside and out can result in detailed models for the building. Alternatively, if the current political climate (hypothetically) expanded from the removal of a statue in D.C. (link) to the removal of other Civil War monuments, we have a method of preserving these monuments in a more detailed form than photographs (

While the effect this method will have on archaeological research is impressive, imagining how it will contribute to public outreach is what I find particularly exciting. So often a site or artifact cannot be used in public outreach beyond a photograph and our enthusiastic descriptions. Three dimensional models (like this one) does more than allow someone to see it from all sides, it adds depth and texture to the image, immediately making it feel more real. Alternatively, digital site tours ( become relatively simple to make, and accessible to anyone in the world. If we pair these models with 3D printers, then there is almost no limit to what we could do.

A special thanks to Kotaro Yamafune for getting everybody I know excited about the potential uses for photogrammetry in archaeology.

Special Projects Grant Available Through the Daughters of the American Revolution

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FPAN North Central has just been made aware of a grant available through the Daughters of the American Revolution. This grant supports community projects relating to historic preservation, education and patriotism. The Special Grants Program is open to organizations determined by the IRS to be public charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They encourage grants of $1,000 to $2,000 but the maximum amount available to an organization is $10,000. Applicants are required to match the amount 1:1 to  maximize the funds distribution. However, you are allowed to use other grant funds as match. Projects funded through this grant must be completed within a year of initial funding. In order to be considered, the qualifying organization must submit a letter of intent to the Fort San Luis Chapter of the DAR, which is the local chapter in Tallahassee. This letter of intent is due on October 15 and should be emailed to The letter must include the entity’s name, lead person in charge of grant, contact information, intent to apply for the grand and affirmation that the applicant is a 501(c)(3)  public charity organization.

The grant application and requirements are available at Projects that are eligible for funding through this grant include historic building restoration, cemetery headstone conservation, historic marker erection, document preservation, veteran rehabilitation programs, support projects for veterans and their families, veteran’s memorials or monuments, military museum exhibits, literacy programs, historical books or displays, children’s mentoring programs and interactive exhibits. Please visit the DAR website for further information and to apply.

Hey 4th Graders, You’re Invited: Free Access to Federal Lands and Waters for 4th Graders and their Guests

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If you are or know a 4th grader, then this is for you! Beginning September 1, 2015, all U.S. 4th graders, including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10  years old, can download their own pass to gain unlimited free access to any federal lands or waters.This initiative is called “Every Kid in a Park” and it is such a wonderful opportunity for kids and their guests to experience both the cultural and natural wonders these sites offer. At sites where visitors are charged per vehicle, anybody in the vehicle with the 4th grader gets in for free. For locations that charge per person, up to three accompanying adults are admitted for free with the 4th grader. To download a pass, go to Here the 4th grader will complete an online game and can download a personalized voucher and print it out. The paper voucher can be exchanged for a more durable pass at certain federal lands or water sites. This pass is good for one year! That is free entry into all public lands or waters for an entire year! How awesome is that?

The tower of the St. Marks Lighthouse at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

The tower of the St. Marks Lighthouse at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Many of  our federal lands are protected not just for their natural resources, but also because they contain unique historic or prehistoric resources as well. They also offer opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, paddling and more! Here in the North Central region we are lucky to have access to a ton of federal land and water. Two great examples are the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Apalachicola Nation Forest. The St. Marks  National Wildlife Refuge is not only home to a variety of wildlife but also to the historic St. Marks Lighthouse, which has been an important icon in maritime history in St. Marks since the early 1800s. The currently lighthouse tower was constructed in the 1840s and is 82 feet tall. It is still an active beacon and the Fresnel lens is still intact, however is no longer lit. Instead a modern solar powered beacon is used as the light. There are also numerous prehistoric Native American sites at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as well!

Fort Gadsden in the Apalachicola National Forest is another site that is well worth a visit! It was first constructed by the British during the War of 1812 and was the site of a devastating massacre of about 300 African-Americans that had taken refuge at the fort under the British flag. On July 27, 1816 a heated shot was fired from a gunboat on the Apalachicola River and landed in the power magazine of the fort causing a massive explosion. Only 33 people survived the blast.  At the site there are detailed interpretive signage, the remains of the fort and a cemetery with the burials of those killed in 1816.

These are just two of the many places that 4th graders and their accompanying adults can visit for free. To print up a pass and plan a trip, or for more information go to Let us know what you do, where you go and what you see. We would enjoy nothing more than hearing about your experience and hearing about what you learned during your visit!

Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail Booklets Now Available

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The cover of the Florida Seminole War Heritage Trail booklet.

The cover of the Florida Seminole War Heritage Trail booklet.

We are so excited about the most recently published Heritage Trail booklet, Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail. This booklet is the most recent one in a long line of booklets. The Florida Department of State began publishing this series of booklets in 1991, and has since continued to add to the collection of titles. I have always liked the way these booklets are designed. They lend themselves well to heritage tourism. I actually keep a copy of a few in my car so that as I am traveling around the state I can look to see what is in the area. This has led me on quite a few impromptu little road trips and detours. Each volume lists historical sites throughout Florida, arranged by region, that are open to the public. The illustrations are always beautiful as well. They are great educational and travel resources! One thing that I have always enjoyed about the heritage trail booklets is the way they are organized because it makes for easy referencing when looking for a specific site or specific information.

For decades the Seminoles have shaped the history of Florida. The Seminole Wars are a very significant period in history, not just in Florida, but for the entire nation. Most historians agree that there were three Seminole Wars, but for the Seminoles it was seen as a 40 year continual struggle to fight for the right to stay in their homeland. This heritage trail booklet provides a well-balanced perspective on this time in Florida’s history. Not only does it have a comprehensive listing of locations that are associated with The Seminole Wars, but it also provides the reader with a background essay on the history of the Seminole Wars in Florida, information on who the Seminoles are,  a timeline, and some great sidebars on related topics and significant individuals. The sites listed include battlefields, monuments, museum exhibits, historic markers and sites.

This booklet was produced by the Seminole Wars Foundation, Inc., withe the support of a historic preservation grant provided by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. To view or download your copy of this booklet you can visit the website. Next time you are at a festival or FPAN event look for our booth to pick up a hard copy of this and other heritage trail booklets (when available).  Don’t forget to use your heritage trail booklets to learn about new places you can visit to learn more about Florida’s history!




Cemeteries as Cultural Resources

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Often when I give a lecture on historic cemeteries I ask if anybody in the audience has ever visited a cemetery for fun or enjoyment. The usual response from the audience is a bunch of blank and bewildered stares, but occasionally I come across somebody that raises their hand in excitement. We don’t often think of cemeteries as a place of enjoyment, but I am on a mission to change people’s attitudes towards cemeteries. In reality they are wonderful historic resources that can be seen as outdoor museums. There is a lot of information tucked away in those cemeteries, more than many people realize. As a little girl I can remember being fascinated by the art and motifs on the headstones in England, where my mother’s family lives. Now as an adult living in Florida I still harbor that same fascination and often visit local historic cemeteries or insist on stopping to look at cemeteries on road trips with my friends. I challenge anybody reading this to take the opportunity to visit a local historic cemetery and walk through it with an open mind and you may be surprised at what you can learn about the history of your community.

Lambs are often used as symbols on the graves of young children.

Lambs are often used as symbols on the graves of young children.

So now you are curious perhaps? Asking yourself what you can possibly learn from a bunch of headstones and monuments. Well, think about all the different decorations and motifs you see on the headstones. Perhaps there are different types of stones that are imported, maybe there are some stones that appear to be handmade locally, or perhaps you notice that there seem to be different sections of the cemetery that are dedicated to different religions. How would you know the religion of a person in a particular burial? Look at the iconography on the headstone. Does it have a Star of David, a cross or some other religious symbol? Even the various flowers that are carved into a stone can have particular meaning. There was an entire Language of Flowers that was used during the Victorian time period. Sometimes you may come across a flower carved into a stone that appears to have a broken stem. This symbolizes a life that was cut short, meaning the person interred there may have died at a young age. A lamb usually symbolizes a child. Certain symbols were popular during different time periods as well and can be used to gather information on the time period that the cemetery was utilized. These various styles, features, stones and manufacturing techniques provides us with valuable information about a community’s past and can provide information that may not otherwise be available in the historical record.

Florida has some of the oldest prehistoric and historic cemeteries in the New World. At the Windover site near Titusville, burials that were 8,000 years old were discovered! The oldest above ground historic cemetery in Florida is  Tolomato Cemetery located in St. Augustine (which by the way, is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the New World!). Tolomato has burials that dates to 1737! St Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola was established in 1810  but may have been used as early as 1786. Florida’s cemeteries also represent a wide array of cultures and religions, including Southeast Native American, Greek, Jewish, Minorcan, Cuban, and Bahamian…just to name a few! This provides historians, archaeologists and cemetery enthusiasts (yes, they do exist!) with valuable information on early ethnic populations throughout Florida’s history.

Extensive vandalism at the Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee.

Extensive vandalism at the Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee.

Unfortunately, the sad fact is that cemeteries, just like any other archaeological site, are subject to vandalism and other harmful activities. In some cases above ground features of a cemetery are damaged or even stolen. When this occurs the context of the burial is lost along with potentially significant information. Not to mention the fact that a person’s final resting place has been disturbed.  Cemeteries are one of the few sites in archaeology where cultural remains and information can be linked to a single known individual. When the headstone or other associated grave goods are stolen or damaged, gathering that type of unique information may no longer be possible. There is also the issue of cost. Repairing damage to a cemetery can be costly and often must be done by specialists to ensure that it is done properly so that further damage is not done.

But there is hope! Visitors and stewards of cemeteries can do a lot to ensure that these wonderful resources last and are protected. Many times the best security for a cemetery is for people to visit the cemetery or to be seen maintaining the cemetery. People are less likely to do harm when there are others watching them. It is important to note that there are laws that protect human burials, including unmarked burials. There are simple rules or “cemetery etiquette” that can help to ensure the cemetery is not damaged as well, which include:

-Taking only photos. Rubbings cause damage over time and eventually will make the inscription illegible. Many cemeteries no longer allow rubbings because of this fact.

-Clean only with water or a conservation cleaning agent (we use one called D-2). DO NOT USE BLEACH. Although bleach may make the stone look pretty right now, the salts found in bleach can damage the stone and eventually cause the stone to appear to have rust stains.

-Don’t lean on the stones. This not only can damage the stone but is a safety hazard as well.

-Do not dig and be cautious when removing vines, and other small plant growth. If large roots or trees are damaging a stone or monument it is best to consult a professional.

-Do not remove or move monuments.

-Record your local cemetery. Protection begins with identification. Call the Florida Master Site File to see if it has been recorded. If not, you can record it. The folks at the Florida Master Site File or your local FPAN  office will be happy to assist you with this simple process.

CRPT Workshop attendees hard at work using D-2 to clean a headstone.

CRPT Workshop attendees hard at work using D-2 to clean a headstone.

Education is probably the most important step in cemetery preservation. The Florida Public Archaeology Network offers a one day training to the public and those tasked with maintaining historic cemeteries. This training, Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) will give you the information you need to proactively protect historic cemeteries, memorials and unmarked burial sites. Attendees spend one portion of the training learning about the laws that protect cemeteries, management and maintenance techniques and much more. The second part of the workshop consists of hands-on instruction where you will have the opportunity to record a cemetery and clean headstones using D-2. If you are interested in having FPAN host a CRPT Workshop in your area, please contact your local regional office or check the calendar of events on our website to see if any are scheduled near you. Once a year we also organize a CRPT Conference. This conference is designed to further the education of those that have attended our CRPT Workshops.



Archaeology in the Classroom

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It is that time of the year again! FPAN  would like to wish all the students and teachers good luck with the new school year! It is always an exciting and a busy time. Even here at FPAN we feel it. We start to get a lot of requests

Student doing an activity from one of our curriculum guides, Timucuan Technology.

Student doing an activity from one of our curriculum guides, Timucuan Technology.

from teachers around this time of the year asking us to visit their classes. We love to visit classes, but unfortunately there are very few of us and very many of you. We recognize this, and so we have created and keep adding to our resources section on our website. Here you can find videos, virtual field trips, curriculum guides and so much more that you can use in your classroom. We also offer teacher workshops and are more than happy to work with your school district to ensure that teachers who attend receive in-service credit. We have staff that are Project Archaeology facilitators, and would be willing to share their knowledge of this great educational resource as well and conduct a Project Archaeology In-Service Training for the teachers at your school.

Students can learn about prehistoric hunting techniques and the physics behind it in Atlatl Antics, which can be found in "Beyond Artifacts" in our resources section.

Students can learn about prehistoric hunting techniques and the physics behind it in Atlatl Antics, which can be found in “Beyond Artifacts” in our resources section.

The great thing about archaeology is that it is multidisciplinary! This means that no matter what subject area you teach, you can use archaeology to teach it! Archaeology incorporates math, reading, science, social studies, ethics, history, law/government, art and so much more! And have you ever met a child that was not intrigued by archaeology? If so, I can guarantee that they are the exception! Most kids are fascinated by archaeology and the concept of discovery. It is all about how you present it to them. Archaeology is hands-on and engaging! So if you are an educator, we hope that you will use our FREE online sources to assist you with incorporating archaeology into your curriculum. You will enjoy it as much as your students will! And if you ever have any questions regarding any of our resources please don’t hesitate to contact your local FPAN center. We put a lot of time and effort into developing these resources, so we also welcome feedback.

Archaeology and the Civil War

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Our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

Our  Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

This weekend is one of my favorite events of the year, the annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee! FPAN will have a booth there all weekend with information about the Civil War in Florida. We also have a hands-on activity we call “Battlefield on a Tarp”, which is a favorite on school day. Many people do not make the immediate connection between archaeology and the Civil War and I receive a lot of questions about why FPAN  feels it is necessary to have an educational booth at these battle reenactments. My first response is always, “Well, archaeology is one of the main reasons we know that the battle took place on this piece of land”. Yes, it is true that there is a plethora of documentary evidence of battles that have taken place from any given war in our history, but if you have ever studied them then you know that they can be full of inconsistencies and biases. I often tell children that archaeologists are the detectives of history. We use historical documents as clues to help us find the actual evidence that can provide us with definitive proof of what actually happened at an archaeological or historical site. This is exactly how battlefield archaeology contributes to our understanding of the Civil War (and any other battle or war for that matter). The artifacts and features found in the ground provide archaeologists and historians with non-biased evidence of what actually happened out on the battlefield. It also helps to tell the story of the everyday person who took part in the battle.

boothThis leads me to another “teachable moment”. During the “Battlefield on a Tarp” activity I slowly start to pull items off of the battlefield and then have the observers tell me what information they are able to gather about the site. As I take more items off of the battlefield it becomes more and more difficult to discern what was taking place during the battle. So many of our battlefields are now situated within the boundaries of state or national parks, and thus are preserved for future generations. However, this doesn’t mean that people still don’t try to “loot” these sites for artifacts. When these artifacts are taken out of context we lose the ability to learn the true history of these historic battles. This is true of any archaeological or historical site, not just battlefields and this is one of the main reasons we find it valuable to attend these battle reenactments. We want to strengthen that connection between archaeology and battlefields. We hope that you will take some time this weekend to attend the Battle of Olustee reenactment. You can find detailed information about the battle reenactment on their website. I hope that you will stop by our FPAN booth, but if you can’t make it then I hope you will check out our Destination: Civil War resources.

Dr. Kenneth Sassaman will be Presenting to PAST on February 3!

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The Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee (PAST) is  very excited to be welcoming Dr. Kenneth Sassaman,  Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of Florida Archaeology at the University of Florida, on February 3 at sassaman_414-224x3007pm. The meeting will be held at the Governor Martin House (1001 DeSoto Park Drive, off of Lafayette Street between Myers Park Drive and Seminole Drive). You do not have to be a member of PAST to attend, but membership forms are made available during the meeting if you would like to join. PAST is the local chapter of the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS). Dr. Sassaman specializes in Archaic and Woodland periods of the American Southeast, technological change, and community patterning. His lecture is titled, “The Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey: Results of the First Five years of Documenting a Drowning Record of Coastal Living”. The abstract of his lecture is below:

“An archaeological record of coastal living along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida is disappearing rapidly as the shoreline recedes with rising sea. Encased in this record is the material evidence of how people and ecosystems responded to sea-level rise over millennia. Since 2009, the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey of the University of Florida has been working to salvage vulnerable sites while developing information relevant to future challenges with environmental and social change. Among the results is increasing understanding of the integration of coastal communities through ritual practices that had practical value in mitigating the adverse effects of coastal change. Their solutions to uncertain futures are materialized in terraformed landscapes of mounds, ridges, and rings, as well as cemeteries and ritual objects that were relocated landward as communities responded to rising sea.”

We hope you will join us next week for this exciting lecture! Come early and join us for some light appetizers and refreshments!



October is American Archives Month!

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October is American Archives Month and the State Archives of Florida has several events planned to celebrate!

On Friday, October 11 visitors will be treated to free food, drinks, and a slide show in the lobby of the R.A. Gray Building. The slide show will feature images from the Tallahassee Democrat, many unpublished, showing scenes of Tallahassee life from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Refreshments for the slide show event, which will run from 6-8pm are being provided by the Friends of the State Library and Archives of Florida. On October 12 the Archives’ Imaging Lab will be open to the public. Residents of Tallahassee and the surrounding area are encouraged to bring in their Florida-related family photographs for possible inclusion in the collections of the State Archives of Florida. Many of these images will eventually be made available on the Florida Memory website as part of a special “Big Bend Area” photographic collection. During the scan day, trained staff will scan photos for possible inclusion in the State Archives’ Florida Photographic Collection, and then return the originals to the donor. The Archives will not take permanent physical possession of the images unless the donor requests otherwise. During the scan day stall will be on hand to discuss the process as well as address questions.

Educator In-Service Training: Archaeology in the Classroom

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Teachers, school officials, youth leaders! Here is your chance to learn about ways you can incorporate archaeology into your curriculum and programming. On August 10th at Wakulla Springs FPAN is offering a workshop that will do exactly that! You must register online in advance. Check out the flyer below for all the details and a link to the registration. If you cannot get the link on the flyer to work, here it is as well,

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