Uncategorized Archaeological Context, Archaeological Site, Archaeology, Artifacts, Florida, Florida Archaeology, Interpretation, Photographs
Context is a very, very important concept in archaeology. Unfortunately, it is also one that most people are not very familiar with. Context is the place where an artifact is found, Not just the place but the type of soil, the site type, and what the artifact was found with or in relation to. I always emphasize this concept when speaking with adults and children about archaeology. The example I always use is a person’s bedroom. If you were to step into a stranger’s bedroom what would you be able to learn about them? By looking at the items in the room, within their context, you might be able to figure out the gender, age, interests and other unique aspects of that individual. However, if you were to take those objects out of that room, one by one, and look at them separately you may come up with very different answer regarding who that person is.
This is one primary reason that it is considered a bad thing, and in many cases illegal, to take artifacts from an archaeological site. The object itself can give us some information, but most of the information that archaeologists gather from a site comes from the context of those objects. If everybody were to visit a site and take one artifact each, soon there would be nothing left for us to study. Additionally, because archaeology is a destructive science, and we can never put things back the same after they have been excavated or taken, the context is destroyed and vast amounts of information have potentially been lost. This is the main reason that archaeologists are so tedious in their efforts to record everything. We take photographs, notes, drawings and various other records to ensure that we can learn everything there is to learn about that site.
Archaeology studies the physical evidence from past cultures that has survived a long time buried in the ground. This physical evidence provides us a direct-although fragmentary- link with the past. The objects, or artifacts, that we recover can’t “speak for themselves”, but instead they must be interpreted by archaeologists. The process of interpreting these objects must be done carefully and can be a painstaking process. As part of that process archaeologists try to make associations between various artifacts in order to better understand a site. An archaeological site is similar to a puzzle. We put the objects and features of the site together to tell the story of the archaeological site. Have you ever gotten to the end of a puzzle only to find that you are missing one or more pieces leaving you with an incomplete picture? When visiting an archaeological site, do your part to leave archaeologists with all the puzzle pieces necessary to gain a complete understanding of that site. Enjoy the site, and remember the old motto, “leave only footprints and take only pictures”, and in doing so you will provide archaeologists with the context needed to understand the past!
Uncategorized Anhaica, Apalache, Archaeological Resource Management Training and Underwater Archaeology, B. Calvin Jones, B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology, Calvin Jones, Cross Bow, Florida Archaeology, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Department of State, Florida Division of Historical Resources, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Florida Public Lands Archaeology, FPAN, Governor Martin House, Hernando de Soto, Lafayette Street, Myers Park, National Register of Historic Places, Public Exhibit, Spanish Florida, Tallahassee
In 1987 B. Calvin Jones, an archaeologist working for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research was driving along Lafayette Street in Tallahassee. He noticed that land clearing
Calvin Jones excavating at the DeSoto Site (photo courtesy of the Florida Memory Project)
had begun near the entrance of the Governor Martin House property in preparation for construction activities. He asked permission to inspect the area and dig a few shovel tests. He had done extensive work on Spanish Missions in the Tallahassee area, and he knew that one mission site was known to exist near this neighborhood, Myers Park, but had yet to be found. Because of his past work relating to Spanish-era sites in the area, he was uniquely qualified to recognize the de Soto winter camp when he found it.
During the initial shovel testing he found artifacts relating both to the Apalache and the Spanish. Some of these artifacts included Apalache Fort Walton ceramics, Chattahoochee Brushed Seminole ceramics, a rusted cross bow dart and early style olive jar fragments. The cross bow was no longer in use during the Spanish Mission period in Florida and later style olive jars were used during the Spanish Mission period. Based on the artifacts it was confirmed that this site dated to an earlier time period than the Spanish Missions. This site dated to the early 1500s, during the period of Spanish exploration in Florida. The only two expeditions known to have been in the northwestern Florida area were the Narvaez expedition of 1527-1528 and the de Soto expedition in 1539-1540.
Calvin Jones met with the project contractor for the construction project to discuss the possibility of further study of this site. At this time, there were no Federal or State laws or local ordinances that required any change of plans, and the construction company had already obtained all of the required permits. The construction company was within their rights to deny Calvin Jones access to the property. Fortunately, the construction company was interested in learning more about the site, and granted Calvin Jones access to the property and adjusted project construction activities as needed to accommodate the archaeological investigation.
During the excavation it became evident that this site was likely that of Anhaica Apalache, where it is documented that the de Soto expedition spent the winter of 1539-1540. It just so happened that this site was discovered near the 450th anniversary of that exact event. The site took on a statewide, national and international importance as the only confirmed site of the de Soto expedition. Shovel testing was able to further confirm the presence of Apalache and Spanish artifacts. It was demonstrated by shovel testing and auger testing that the site was large enough to contain 250 Apalache structures, which was the same amount of structures chronicled by Spanish Explorers at Anhaica Apalache. These Apalache structures were circular or oval shaped with thatched roofs and clay plastered walls, commonly referred to as daub. The Spanish, when they arrived, constructed square or rectangular buildings using metal fastenings. These buildings were only meant as temporary structures. Evidence of both types of structures was found at this site. Also found at this site were early sixteenth century native and Spanish artifacts. In fact, over a thousand artifacts were recovered from this site!
It was proposed that the property should be acquired by the state. The construction company agreed to sell the property for use as a State Park. It is believed that the area acquired
Volunteers assisting with excavation of DeSoto Site (photo courtesy of the Florida Memory Project)
by the State of Florida represents the most advantageous part of the village area-the area where the chief’s house and where de Soto and his primary lieutenants were likely house during their stay.
In 2005 the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research moved into the Governor Martin House, located on the de Soto property, and the Governor Martin House was co-named the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology in recognition of his many outstanding contribution to Florida archaeology, including the discovery of the de Soto winter encampment site. Today three Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research programs are headquartered at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology- Florida Public Lands Archaeology, Archaeological Resource Management Training and Underwater Archaeology. The property is home to the North Central Regional office of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. An exhibit, featuring artifacts from the de Soto excavation, is open to the public at the Governor Martin House, B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology. So next time you are in the area, stop by and give us a visit!