Tip of the Arrowhead: Hobby Lobby and the Antiquities Black Market Problem

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The story that Hobby Lobby illegally purchased stolen artifacts is getting a lot of attention in the news and on social media. This is great, and I am pleased to see that so many are aware of and are condemning what appears to have been willful ignorance at best. However, this is not an isolated incident, only a high profile one, and it is systemic of a much larger problem.


For those who are not familiar with the case, Hobby Lobby is being fined $3 million for illegally purchasing 5,500 looted artifacts from Iraq with the intention of using them in the Museum of the Bible. There are several problems with this. First, this antiquities black market has been identified as a source of funding for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Second, this is Iraq’s heritage, not ours. Finally, though their motivation seems to be simply enthusiasm for the Biblical time period, these artifacts are now nothing more than things, the stories they could have told us are gone forever.

 While I am pleased that we are denouncing this act, the looting of sites for personal profit is something that we deal with on a national and state level all the time. In 2007, 24 individuals in Utah were charged in a sting operation that seized 250 artifacts, such as a blanket almost certainly from a child’s burial, which were illegally looted from federal and state lands. In 2013, the Florida Fisheries and Wildlife Commission conducted a sting operation in which they arrested 13 individuals for  illegally looting artifacts on state managed land. They are still working on what was seized but there are over 5,000 artifacts which will never tell us their story.

These stings are just two of the biggest. In the last two years there have been three other cases in Florida involving stolen artifacts where people were arrested. This is a very real problem at our state level for many of the same reasons it is a problem in the Hobby Lobby case.

 This is one spot of extensive damage found on the Aucilla River, Florida just last March. (Image courtesy of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Resources)

Though the local antiquities black market does not fund terror groups, it has very solidly been linked to the drug trade, particularly meth. While the linked article is featuring the southwest, we had at least one drug-related case here in Florida last year when a teacher was murdered while being robbed for her collection. Articles at the time cite drugs as a suspected motivation.

While these artifacts are not being stolen from another country, they are being stolen from us. Sites on state or federally managed land are held in the public trust, they are for all of us and are not just for someone looking to make a quick buck. Poaching on a wildlife preserve is pretty despicable, but plants and animals grow back (to a point). Once a site is destroyed there will never be another one like it.

 Finally, many people do not realize that in archaeology the artifact is only as valuable as the story it tells and, for this story, context is everything. Imagine someone walks into a police station and says, “Here, I found these bullet casings at a crime scene.” Even if they remember exactly where the casings came from, that evidence is forever tainted. Artifacts are evidence. Everything from a building to a ceramic pot to a tiny stone flake to pollen and starch residues are a piece of the puzzle. Guess which of those things I just listed are what looters are after? Guess how many of those things they disturb, damage, and destroy in the process of looking for the “pretty” objects?

This is why archaeologists get so upset when it comes to looting sites. They do not want the artifacts for themselves. This is not about job security. They see the lost potential of not just the objects up for sale, but for everything else lost while they were being ripped from the ground in the name of greed.

Looters dug up and rejected all of these artifacts last March. We lost far more than whatever they took. (Image courtesy of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Resources)

So, what can you do? Well to start with, be aware of your legislature and tell your representatives that this is important. Last year Florida almost passed a bill that would have effectively legalized the looting of sites on state managed lands. Currently, South Carolina is the only state in the U.S. that has such a law.

Otherwise, tell people about why it matters, why we want to leave things in place. Here is a comic/slideshow I made a while ago that explains what is lost: http://bit.ly/2uP5LEu. Please feel free to share if you find it helpful.

If you simply cannot slake your thirst for all things history with just taking a photograph of an artifact, get involved! Check out your regional FPAN office for events and volunteer opportunities. Also, do not hesitate to contact us directly. Most of us have a few volunteer projects in reserve for just that occasion.

And just to be clear, I am talking about for-profit looting of archaeological sites in this post. There are perfectly legal ways to collect artifacts from sites, and while there is still the problem of removing the story from the artifacts, in my experience these individuals are at least motivated by a genuine passion for history rather than a desire for personal profit. I still wish that they would not remove the artifact from its location, but at least we have some common ground in that enthusiasm.

While I am happy to see people being critical of Hobby Lobby’s blunder, this really is just the tip of the arrowhead. The looting of archaeological sites and the antiquities black market are major problems that do not get much attention. If we can simply be aware of these issues, we have made a step towards getting them under control.





The Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe: The Longest Dugout Recorded in Florida


This past Saturday we had the privilege of visiting the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture , as they were host to a wonderful lecture on local history. While there we finally got to see the infamous Apalachicola

The 50 foot long Apalachicola Traders' Canoe is made of a single cypress log and is the longest dugout on record in Florida.

The 50 foot long Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe is made of a single cypress log and is the longest dugout on record in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Master Site File)

Traders’ Canoe. I have heard mention of it before and I have always been curious to see it. You are probably wondering why I would be so excited about a dugout canoe, right? What if I told you that it was the longest dugout canoe ever recovered, in one piece, in the state of Florida? It is over 50 feet long! 50 feet, 4 inches to be exact! Imagine trying to paddle such a beast upstream! This dugout was initially found in 2006 by two gentleman that were out bass fishing on the Apalachicola River. While they were loading their boat onto a trailer they noticed what appeared to be a board sticking out of the water. When their trailer struck it the object floated higher out of the water and they knew immediately they had come across an old dugout canoe. They attempted to pull it out of the water to load it onto their trailer, but soon realized it was too long. One of the gentleman operated a nearby sawmill, and so was able to arrange for a logging truck to transport it  to the sawmill for safe keeping. They then reported the find to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They recognized the potential significance of their find and wanted to do the right thing by reporting it to the proper authorities. The dugout quickly became a local celebrity, receiving numerous visitors wanting to witness this behemoth firsthand. A few days after the initial discovery archaeologists from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research were able to visit the dugout and work with other state officials and the individuals who discovered the dugout to come up with a plan to make sure that it was properly cared for and preserved.

Archaeologists generally discourage people from removing dugouts or other wooden artifacts from water or muck. These objects are usually quite saturated and have been that way for a long time. The state usually receives calls about dugouts becoming exposed during drought events, when water levels drop and they are found sticking out of the mud.  Once they are removed they start to dry out quickly and can degrade into a pile of nothing more than saw dust quite rapidly. It takes a trained conservator to ensure that the wooden object is dried carefully and in a controlled manner so that damage is kept to a minimum. Additionally, in some cases various conservation treatments are applied to ensure that the cellular structure of the object remains stable for years to come. These treatments can be very lengthy and sometimes expensive, and until the object can be treated properly, it is best preserved in place. If you are ever in a situation where you  find a dugout canoe or any other archaeological remains, you may call the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research to report it. You can also contact your local FPAN office, as all of us work closely with the folks at the Bureau of Archaeological Research.

After the the Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe was properly conserved, archaeologists could see tool marks on the boat which indicated that it was made using metal tools, but with techniques commonly used by Native Americans. The fact that metal tools were used, along with the shape of the canoe, suggest that it was manufactured sometime between 1750 and 1850. Dugout canoes had long since been used by Native Americans but the technology was adapted and modified to meet the needs of Florida’s many early European settlers. It is possible that it was made by Native American craftsmen under the direction of Americans, the British or  the Spanish.

The Apalachicola Traders' Canoe is currently on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture. (Photo courtesy of the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture)

The Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe is currently on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture. (Photo courtesy of the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture)

Hundreds of dugout canoes have been recovered from Florida’s lakes and rivers. Some of you may remember the dugout that was recovered from Lake Munson a few years ago. During the 2000 drought event, hundreds of dugouts and dugout fragments were recorded in Newnan Lake near Gainesville. Forty  wood samples were taken from the Newnan canoes and were found to be between 3,200 and 5,000 years old. Most dugout canoes measure between 18 and 20 feet. The traders’ canoe is more than twice that length! The traders’ canoe was also manufactured from a single cypress log. The majority of dugouts that have been recorded in Florida have been carved from pine logs, although cypress dugouts are not unheard of in Florida. It is quite possible that Florida has the largest concentration of dugout canoes in the Americans, possibly the world. Our state’s unique aquatic environment, complete with anaerobic muck river and lake bottoms, lends itself to the preservation of these delicate artifacts. In an anaerobic environment, few bacteria can survive and thus, they cannot contribute to the deterioration of organic material. In other words, there are less bacteria nibbling on the wooden artifacts and so objects that might otherwise degrade are preserved and provide archaeologists and the public a unique glimpse of our past.

If you want to check out the Apalachicola Traders’ Canoe for yourself, and I encourage you to do so, it is on display at the Apalachicola Center for History, Art and Culture! Their hours of operation are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 noon to 5 PM.  It is located on the corner of Avenue E and Water Street in one of the beautifully restored cotton warehouses on the Apalachicola River.  You can make a day trip out of it and continue your forays into the local maritime culture by visiting the Apalachicola Maritime Museum as well!

Archaeology in Videogames

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Video games are a medium that can express some difficult or complicated subjects, yet archaeology is poorly represented. In this post I will briefly discuss new trends in educational games, followed by a breakdown of a particularly promising archaeology game with a responsible message.

Video games are a creative medium that are here to stay. In just a few decades we have seen this relatively new art form develop from being little more than a toy into a medium that communicates whole ideas and perspectives. From jumping on little mushroom men 30 years ago to tackling difficult subjects in a dystopic paperwork simulator (Papers, Please) developers and consumers have begun to recognice the interpretive idea that enjoyable is not necessarily the same as fun.

Apoapsis? Delta V? Real life concepts that only mean anything to me because of this game. (Image by Tyler Raiz, accessed March 2016)

Apoapsis? Delta V? Real life concepts that only mean anything to me because of this game. (Image by Tyler Raiz, accessed March 2016)

Even our understanding of what makes an educational game is changing. We are no longer restricted to educational games that simply try to disguise learning as a video game such as Math Blaster or Mario Teaches Typing. One of the most successful games of 2015 was Kerbal Space Program, a game that teaches orbital mechanics by letting you build a rocket and launching little green men into space (usually to return as debris).

WARNING! Does not represent real archaeology.

WARNING! Does not represent real archaeology.

This ability to be a game while teaching is impressive. If a game about orbital mechanics can be successful, why not archaeology? When people think of archaeology in video games they are usually thinking of relic hunters like Lara Croft (Indiana Jones in short shorts) or blatant site looting for profit in rpgs (role playing games). Of course, one of the main problems is not with video games, but with popular culture itself. When we tell people that we are interested in archaeology and they immediately think of Indiana Jones or Ric Savage in American Digger we should not fault a new medium for failing to buck the trend.

Fortunately, I have found an example that I feel particularly represents the potential to teach archaeology through video games. Can U Dig It! (by Dig-It Games) is an excellent, if flawed, example of how games can teach archaeology through its mechanics, represent archaeology ethically, and still be enjoyable.

When you fire up Can U Dig It! you get a little introductory cutscene for the game. A brother and sister are headed to an archaeological site and the sister can’t wait to start digging, but the brother wants to plan things carefully. This sets up the premise nicely and makes the theme very clear: Careful planning is a vital part of archaeology.

The game itself works a little like a reverse Minesweeper. I won’t try to describe the mechanics here, but essentially you have to use number clues to select where you want to dig around

One of the more advanced maps in Can U Dig It! Note the orange box. Image by Dig-It Games, accessed March 2016.

One of the more advanced maps in Can U Dig It! Note the orange box. Image by Dig-It Games, accessed March 2016.

the artifacts. Select the brother on the left and you are in planning mode. Select the sister on the right and you are in digging mode where the boxes are dug as you select them. Here’s the bit that I particularly like: make a mistake and you’ll break the artifact! These mechanics teach the need for careful planning in archaeology, the fragility of many artifacts, and the permanency of our decisions. Almost.

While these lessons are certainly present, the execution of these mechanics unfortunately weakens the message. The biggest problem is that once you have solved the game in the planning mode, the site is automatically dug for you, so there is no real chance of breaking an artifact. A related issue is that the highlighted box is in orange if you have the incorrect number of squares. Again, making it impossible to make an error.

Crush this in real life and there are no do-overs. Image by Wessex Archaeology, accessed March, 2016.

Crush this in real life and there are no do-overs. Image by Wessex Archaeology, accessed March, 2016.

The final issue is that a broken artifact, and the excavation, is not actually permanent. Make too many mistakes and you have to try again. Also, you have the option to go back to any of the completed levels. There might be no way around this for video games, being able to fail and learn from your mistakes is a fundamental element, but I would like to see later levels or an advanced mode that makes a mistake permanent for that game.

In a nutshell, this is a wonderful example of the potential for video games to let players experience archaeological principles in a fun way, instead of just being told about them. Despite some flaws in the execution, the potential for a truly excellent game is there. To be completely fair, I only played the first 18 free levels and it is entirely possible that my criticisms are addressed later on, but I can only talk about what I have experienced. I have been in contact with Dig-It Games and apparently they are currently reworking some of Can U Dig It!, here’s hoping the result are an even stronger game about archaeology.

Archaeology Explained in the Ten Hundred Words Most Commonly Used

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In this post I will explain what archaeology is, and the importance of context, using only the ten hundred most commonly used words in the English language. This is inspired by Randall Munroe’s comic and book doing the same thing with other complex ideas. As he so aptly puts it (following the ten hundred rule which you will note I am not using in this introductory paragraph):

“Sometimes I would use those big words because they were different from the small words in an important way. But a lot of the time, I was really worried that if I used the small words, someone might think I didn’t know the big ones.”

Though I would add that sometimes we use jargon because we understand it so thoroughly that we forget others may not know what we are saying. I decided to write this post partly for fun, partly to practice avoiding jargon, and partly to force myself to really think about what these words mean.


Past people learners look for places people lived and learn about them from what they left behind. Sometimes these people lived a long time ago, sometimes they are still living today. Many think past people learners study loud rain animals. However, loud rain animals never stepped on people, they are too old (and possibly made up).

When we think about the past we often think of the most important people. People who wrote things down or who had others write about them. Past people learning tells us about those who did not write things down because they did not know how, did not have time, or were not allowed to. This is very important for the new people who came from these old people.

To learn about people in the past we need to find their things next to their other things. Look at your living room. If you have a TV then your chairs and couches tell us that you like to sit while you watch. Are all your TV changers next to one chair? This tells us what your favorite chair probably is. This still works for people who lived long ago, but it gets very hard.

Imagine if someone, after you were gone, cleaned your house and moved your TV changers. Now we will never know what your favorite chair is. Every time old things are taken or killed, by people or the wind and the rain, we have lost part of the story of these old people’s lives for all time. If you find old things the best thing you can do is take a picture (or make a drawing), tell past people learners, and leave it in place!

How did I do? I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did writing it! If you have any archaeological concepts you would like me to explain, leave a comment or email me at tharrenstein@uwf.edu.

A special thanks to Randal Munroe for the inspiration and to Splasho’s excellent web tool (http://splasho.com/upgoer5/) for making this far easier than it would have been otherwise.

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 (https://sketchfab.com/models/22623871f783442a8f1779f5e52841fe).

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 (https://sketchfab.com/models/6d22d91ea0f24967831e395f321477d0 https://sketchfab.com/models/3b40e2c6d8ce40a19e07f43a5ee5a2f1).

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 (https://sketchfab.com/models/f9901b07e8e44207a51fc7df6d622702).

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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcQfzuQXcq8) 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.

Dig into Reading! Public Library Collaborative Summer Reading Program

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As the kids are finishing up school and the summer heat starts to set in, parents everywhere are trying to find fun and educational summer entertainment for their kids. Well, have no worries and look no further! Every summer the  public library system hosts a summer reading program and this year’s theme is “Dig into Reading”. As you can imagine FPAN staff across Florida are very excited and very busy partnering with libraries all over the state to offer public archaeology programs at public libraries in their regions. The North Central Regional Center is no exception. We have been working with libraries all across our region to schedule various youth programs. All of our activities will have a hands-on component and will be geared towards educating the kids on what exactly it is that archaeologists do and why it is so important to protect our state’s cultural and archaeological resources. Some of the activities we have schedules include chocolate chip cookie excavations, ancient graffiti, peanut butter and jelly archaeology, atlatl antics and so much more! For a complete schedule of all our summer programs you can check out our events page. If you are a program coordinator at a library outside of Florida, you can visit our website and check out all of FPAN’s resources available to you at no cost. Now here is the kicker! We are so busy with summer programs that there are ample volunteer opportunities for those wanting to help out and learn all about archaeology in the process. We are looking for a few good folks to help us with these programs. If you enjoy working with children, are a reliable volunteer, don’t mind talking to large groups and are looking for something fun to do this summer, then contact Barbara Hines at bhines@uwf.edu. We will work with your schedule and will be offering training so that you are comfortable  conducting all the fun activities we have planned for this summer. Whether you want to volunteer or you know of some children looking for some summer fun, we hope you will take full advantage of the opportunities that this summer reading program provides. For a reading list, multimedia resources and much more you can visit this website as well. So take a break from the summer heat and visit your local library!

A Test of Time: The Preservation and Conservation of Ancient Dugout Canoes

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Have you ever seen an ancient wooden artifact on display at a museum and wondered how it was preserved in such great condition? I sure have! I have a compost pile at home and it doesn’t take long for wooden or other organic

Archaeologists carefully remove a dugout canoe from the exposed lake bottom of Lake Munson in Tallahassee

material, to rot and turn into soil. It may seem strange that a wooden or organic object can last long enough in the ground for it to be uncovered by archaeologists hundreds or thousands of years later. Well, it turns out that it takes a very specific set of environmental circumstances for organic material to be preserved in the ground, and many times those conditions do not exist. And it may seem strange, but it is actually a wet environment that leads to good preservation! Organic materials, such as wood, are far more likely to survive the test of time if they are quickly buried in mud and muck. This creates an anaerobic environment, where a lack of oxygen prevents organisms that degrade wood (bacteria, worms, etc) from living and subsiding. As a result, the organic material is preserved until it is again exposed to oxygen. Within the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to see, first hand, how environmental conditions affect preservation of dugout canoes found in here in Florida.

Look closely and you can see tool marks from where the Native Americans constructed this dugout canoe.

You may recall a few years ago that a dugout canoe was recovered from Lake Munson in Tallahassee. The city had drawn down the water and a dugout was discovered lying at the bottom of the lake bed, only partially exposed. Archaeologists from various state organizations delicately recovered the dugout and brought it to the state conservation facility where it was properly cared for and conserved. After over a year of conservation it is now on display in the lobby of the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee. This dugout is believed to be between 800 to 500 years old and was found in an excellent state of preservation.  You can even see the tool marks were Native Americans carved out the wood to create the dugout! The state of preservation varied at different portions of this dugout, probably because different portions were exposed to differing amounts of oxygen throughout time. The higher edges are far more degraded than the lower sections and the hull because these would have been exposed to aerobic (oxygenated) conditions for longer periods of time. Overall though, the dugout  was found in excellent condition.  When the Lake Munson canoe was removed from the lake bottom care had to be taken by professional archaeologists and conservators to ensure that the wood did not dry out too quickly. After hundreds of years underwater, the material has reached equilibrium with its surrounding environment, and removing it from that environment can cause it to deteriorate to a point that it is destroyed if it is not done so carefully and correctly. If the wood were to dry out too rapidly it would cause it to shrink and crack. Wood is anisotropic, which means that it doesn’t expand or contract equally along its three dimensions. Evidence of this can be seen in many wooden objects that have been removed and stored incorrectly in what is called check cracking (it looks like lots of tic-tac-toes) and splitting.

During periods of drought many times partially exposed dugouts are found in lakes around the state. The most notable of this instance is of course, Newnan’s Lake near Gainesville. Here the largest concentration of wooden (both pine and cypress) dugout canoes in North America were recovered in 2000. They had become exposed due to extreme drought conditions. Frequent burial and reburial due to environmental conditions in a lake or other water body, can have a huge impact on the condition of the wooden object. In the event that a canoe is not entirely buried and lake levels fall due to drought, one can expect rapid deterioration of the wood as a result of it drying out too fast and exposure to the bleaching effects of ultra violet light from the sun.

Another concern with organic objects is storage. A dugout canoe was recently donated by the state to the Big Bend Maritime Museum in Panacea. Prior to its time at the state collections facility, this dugout had been found by a

This dugout is on display at the Big Bend Maritime Center in Panacea, FL. Without these wooden braces the dugout would fall apart.

private individual and was stored inappropriately on the ground outdoors for a number of years. As a result, it made the perfect home (and meal) for many different insects, including ants and termites. Pests are very problematic for organic archaeological collections, and care must be taken to ensure a collection is free from bugs. In many institutions, when an organic object is acquired –be it paper, ethnographic, wooden, etc – it is quarantined for at least 30 days. Proper storage and care of this particular dugout would have prevented the structural and surface issues that it has. Again, it goes back to the age old concept of context. If you do find a dugout, or any other artifact for that matter, it is best to leave it where it is and notify a professional archaeologist who will know how to best care for that particular object. The Big Bend Maritime Museum plans to have this dugout on exhibit and plans to include a panel discussing such preservation issues.

Typically a water-soluble wax is used to preserve extremely waterlogged wooden material. The idea is that through soaking the wax impregnates the cell walls that have been destroyed by water and degraded by bacteria, so that when the object is eventually dried out it retains its original shape.  The Lake Munson canoe was not waterlogged to the extent that rendered this time-consuming procedure necessary. Instead, it was wrapped in plastic and allowed to dry very slowly in controlled conditions over the course of a year. The plastic functioned as a very basic humidity chamber that prevented any drastic change along any one of the three dimensions of the wood. As a result of this there are very little visible signs of checking on the surface of the wood. In order to achieve such wonderful preservation results it took over a year’s work by very knowledgeable professional conservators to monitor the progress of the Lake Munson canoe. Thanks to the work of professional conservators, who work behind the scenes the majority of the time, we have a great wealth of knowledge of our state’s history. If it was not for their careful efforts we would have only part of the story and only part of the artifact assemblage would have survived the test of time.

FAS, PAST, FAM…What Do All These Acronyms Stand for Anyways!?!

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This month I have been to so many festivals, and many people come to my booth wanting to know how they can become involved in local archaeology. So I thought it would be great to blog about this topic! I always recommend getting involved with your local Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) chapter. FAS provides those interested in archaeology and professional archaeologists a formal means to come together in a way that is mutually beneficial. FAS is open to anybody that is willing to abide by the FAS statement of ethics. The organization promotes the study of Florida’s past and brings attention to the general public and the appropriate governmental agencies the need for preservation of archaeological and historical sites within Florida. Members of FAS also receive the quarterly publication, The Florida Anthropologist, which provides readers with a great variety of articles detailing various aspects of Florida archaeology. It is always a great read!

The 2011 PAST Kick Off Meeting and Potluck!

There are sixteen FAS Chapters currently operating in the state. The Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee (PAST) is probably the closest chapter for many of the people that live within the North Central region. This FAS Chapter was first established in 1999 and holds a variety of activities and events throughout the year. By joining PAST you will have the opportunity to work alongside professional and avocational archaeologists on a variety of projects. Currently they are working on two field projects, where members may have the opportunity to assist with excavation, artifact curation and much more! Additionally, the Society hosts guest speakers from around the region to speak at their monthly meeting.  PAST meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7pm at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology at the Governor Martin House (1001 De Soto Park Drive).

PAST has the unique honor of hosting the 2012 Florida Anthropological Society’s Annual Meeting. The meeting will be held at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee from May 11th to May 13th.  There will be paper and poster sessions, various workshops, behind-the-scenes tours and fieldtrips. It is sure to be a great meeting and a wonderful opportunity to learn about Florida’s archaeology! To fit with the meeting’s setting, there will be Spanish food at the reception and banquet as well! Yummy! FPAN, PAST and FAS will provide more information about the meeting and how to register as it becomes available, so be on the look out!

Each March is Florida Archaeology Month (FAM). Every year has a different theme. Many of you may remember last year’s theme, “Native Plants, Native People”. Each year a poster with information about the theme is printed and given out at various FAM events. Additionally, book marks with similar information are made available to the public. The 2012 theme will relate to Florida’s involvement in the Civil War. This is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It is a great time to get out and learn about Florida’s history and archaeology as there are always many events that are taking place to celebrate FAM! FAM has become an important program for school children in Florida and many educators take advantage of FAM information to teach about the history and prehistory of Florida. Some FAM events are specifically designed for school children or field trip groups. The Florida Park Service is a great supporter of FAM, displaying the posters in park entrance stations and other high traffic areas. State Parks throughout Florida are also host to a wide variety of events during FAM.  Various private museums and public libraries display the posters and make bookmarks available for students of all ages to promote stewardship. An interactive FAM website

PAST members pose for a photo after maintaining an archaeological site they have adopted.

is also in the works and will provide the public with even more information about Florida archaeology!

So there you have it, a rundown of some of the more common archaeology acronyms in Florida (in addition to FPAN of course)! Many professions are full of acronyms, and unless you are in that field it can be somewhat confusing! But as a member of the public with an interest in Florida archaeology, these acronyms, or what they represent, may be of great importance to you! So if you are interested in becoming more involved and taking advantage of the archaeological opportunities in your community FAS might be the answer you have been looking for!




Public Archaeology Day at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

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One of the many historic buildings on display for visitors at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement.

What is the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement you ask? Well, it is a great place to experience Florida history first hand! It is located in Blountstown, Florida in Sam Atkins Park.

Vendors were at the event selling replica artifacts.

The Panhandle Pioneer Settlement was established in 1989. It is a living history museum that brings to life the time period between 1840 to the beginning of World War II.  Their mission is to acquire, document, research and restore buildings, tools and other artifacts that were used throughout Florida’s history. This awesome place was developed by a small group of citizens that donated time and energy to soliciting memberships, and writing grants to acquire funds for the historical preservation and reconstruction of the over 20 structures now located on this 42 acre piece of property.  Each building provides a unique experience and is a testament to the great history of the area. The buildings are situated in a way that is reminiscent of an old agricultural community in rural North Florida. For a virtual tour or for more information about the living history museum you can visit their website.

Throughout the year the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement is host to a wide variety of events that will take you back in time. For example, in February there is a Sacred Harp

FPAN Intern, Tristan, takes time to interact with guests at the Public Archaeology Day.

Singing and in November there is a Sugar Cane Syrup-Making Day! In September you can enjoy a free Peanut Boil. This past September the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement added another event to their calendar as well. They partnered up with  the Northwest

There were also flint knapping deomonstrations!

and North Central FPAN regional offices to offer a Public Archaeology Day. Visitors could bring their artifacts to have them identified by professional archaeologists. They could also enjoy the many historical and archaeological exhibits that were set up around the living history museum. And of course, while there they were encouraged to walk about and learn what life in Florida used to be like by interacting with living history interpreters that were in period dress!  I think it is safe to say that the event was a huge success and fun was had by all! In fact, it was such a success that we have already set the date for next year’s Public Archaeology Day at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement. So get out your 2012 calendars and be sure to mark September 8, 2012 so you don’t miss next year’s Public Archaeology Day! However, don’t wait until next year to visit the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement!  They are open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Tours and other hours are available by appointment as well, so give them a call at 850-674-2777.

Day of Archaeology 2011: A Day in the Life of a Public Archaeologist!

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Hi all! Well today is the Day of Archaeology 2011 and I am very excited. For those of you who may not be aware of what this means, well, the Day of Archaeology 2011 was created to give people  a glimpse into the daily lives of archaeologists. Written by over 400 contributors, it documents what they do on one day, July 29th 2011, from those in the field  to specialists working in laboratories and behind computers. This date coincides with the Festival of British Archaeology, which runs from 16th – 31st July 2011. Archaeologists will continue to post to this Day of Archaeology blog for an entire week after the Day of Archaeology. 

The Day of Archaeology was born after a Twitter conversation. Some folks thought it would be interesting and fun to organize something  for those working or volunteering in (or studying) archaeology around the world. Thanks to some very talented and hard working, tech savy people, the Day of Archaeology became a reality. So I hope that you all will check it out at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/. There are approximately 400 archaeologists from around the world contributing to this project. So take some time and get to know what it is that archaeologists that work in various aspects of the field do on a daily basis! It really is a cool project!
Now, below is my post from The Day of Archaeology 2011 blog. There are so many individuals contributing, that you might have a hard time finding my post. So read on below, but don’t forget to visit the Day of Archaeology web site to see what other archaeologists are doing around the world.  Enjoy!

Hello! First let me introduce myself! I am Barbara Hines, the Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s North Central Region (www.flpublicarchaeology.org). I have been working with FPAN for just over a year now, and have loved every second of it so far. Prior to Public Archaeology I worked in Cultural Resource Management. Because of that experience I have a wide range of interests as far as archaeology goes, but I tend to get a bit more excited about historical archaeology (especially the antebellum stuff). At FPAN our mission is to promote and facilitate the conservation, study and public understanding of Florida’s archaeological heritage through regional centers, each of which has its own website. We have a total of eight regions throughout the state of Florida.

Today I don’t have any field work going on, but there is still a ton of stuff I am trying to get done by the end of the day today. First thing I do everyday is update our facebook and twitter status. You can follow FPAN North Central on twitter at @FPANNrthCentral. I try to post upcoming outreach events and sometimes interesting articles about local archaeological finds. After that it is on to the rest of the day’s tasks.

Today I am trying to finalize plans for an upcoming event I have going on in Blountstown, Florida. I have teamed up with the FPAN Northwest Region, the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee and the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement for a Public Archaeology Day. It will be located at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement on September 10th. This is going to be a great event where the public can bring their own private artifact collections so that they can have them identified by Professional Archaeologists. This is a great way to create a working dialog between the private collector and archaeologists. I think this is very important and allows archaeologists to get a more holistic view of the archaeological record. I have been trying to line up volunteers and work on other logistical matters.

The Thank You Wall! 

This morning I went to the P.O. Box to check our mail. I love checking our mail because it is always filled with thank you letters from children. I visit a lot of classrooms and present on archaeology. FPAN also has a ton of hands on activities we do with the kids to teach them about different concepts relating to archaeology. It is probably my favorite part of the job! I have a bulletin board in the office where I display some of my favorite thank you notes and newspaper clippings about some of our events. It is a constant reminder of the impact we are making, and I hope it is a lasting impact. I am a true believer that education will lead to the conservation of our important archaeological sites. In fact, another one of my goals today is to email my education contacts to let them know that I am ready for the upcoming school year. I have a listing of emails for teachers and educators that I email on a regular basis to keep them updated about FPAN outreach events. Some of the teachers even give the students extra credit if they attend! We also conduct teacher trainings to equip the teachers with the necessary skills to incorporate archaeology into their existing curricula.

We also do a lot of things with adults as well. Today one of my main goals is to finish a presentation that I will be giving in early August to a group of adults in Columbia County. I will be talking about the turpentine industry in North Florida. From the 1700s to the early 1900s it was an important industry in this region and I have had the opportunity to work on several sites that contained the remains of turpentine camps. It has been a long time interest of mine. And to think, I had no idea what the turpentine (sometimes called Naval Stores) industry was until I moved up here to Tallahassee! Turpentine was used to seal ships and was also an ingredient in many other products, such as paint thinner, beauty products and medical products as well. I have been compiling information for this presentation for months, now it is time to create the power point and get down to business. I have some really cool pictures that I am very excited to show the public. I found them at the state archives.

This whole summer I have been busy going to summer camps and doing archaeology activities with the campers. Last week I attended a Girl Scout camp and did a whole bunch of lessons with them. Their favorite activity though, was learning to use the atlatl. The atlatl, or spear thrower, is a prehistoric hunting tool. It even predates the bow and arrow! We all spent some time outside learning how to use it. With the use of the atlatl you can learn to throw a spear three times farther and faster! That would come in pretty handy if you had to hunt large game for dinner. The kids always get a kick out of it and so do the adults! Today I want to unpack all my summer camp supplies and send an email to the Camp Director to thank her for inviting me to come and teach the campers about archaeology. I hope that the campers all enjoyed it as much as I did!

Well, I believe that is my day in a nutshell. It is probably pretty different than what most people would expect. No digging in the dirt for me today! As much as I do love excavating, I am pretty glad to be in the air conditioning today, as it is almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside today. However, when I was doing Cultural Resource Management I was regularly out there in the heat, so I know I could do it if I had to! I hope you enjoyed this entry and I really hope I gave some good insight into the typical day of a Public Archaeologist!

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