Florida Proposed House Bill 803/Senate Bill 1054

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According to the Florida Historical Resources Act (Ch. 267 of the Florida Statutes), historical and archaeological sites and artifacts located on State-owned lands, including submerged lands, belong to the people of Florida. Excavating, disturbing, or collecting is prohibited in order to protect information about our State’s past. Recently a bill has been filed with the Florida House (HB803) and it’s companion bill was filed with the Florida Senate (SB1054) that would allow for collectors to obtain a $100 permit that would then entitle them to collect on state submerged lands. This bill allows for the excavation of “isolated finds” with hand tools. There are many issues concerning this bill. First and foremost, these lands are protected because of their sensitive nature and that is why they have been protected under Ch. 267. They are held in the public trust for all Florida citizens and the cultural and natural resources on these lands (both submerged and terrestrial) are protected for everyone to enjoy. Additionally, the use of excavation tools by non-professionals (or untrained/unsupervised avocationals) could lead to the permanent destruction of significant archaeological sites through non-scientific methodological excavation. These sites, unlike most natural resources, do not grow back over time. Once they are lost, they are gone forever, along with the potentially significant information about the past which they contain. Even isolated finds, those that are no longer in their original context, have the potential to provide us with information and one cannot confirm that an artifact is indeed isolated unless they excavate (thus risk destroying the site in the process).

Many of us grow up finding arrowheads on family farms or other places, and that is how many of us initially become interested in archaeology. The problem here isn’t little kids picking up arrowheads on grandpa’s farm. The problem is that these objects are a part of our common past and belong to everyone, not just to people who want to take them. Just like sea oats belong to everyone and provide a vital role for our beaches and so are protected by law, artifacts belong to everyone and provide vital information about our heritage and so are protected by law. It is currently legal to collect on private lands with permission of the landowner. There are also organizations like FPAN and the Florida Anthropological Society that invite and encourage those that are interested in archaeology to get involved by volunteering. Legitimate avocational organizations will have a strict code of ethics that they expect their members and volunteers to abide by and will encourage also the participation of professionals that are interested in working and teaching the public about archaeology. Archaeology is not about collecting things – it’s about what those “things” can tell us about the people who made and used them. Archaeologists care about past human behaviors and activities, and we learn about that through the objects people left behind. When those objects are collected willy-nilly and are removed from the surrounding landscape and other artifacts, we lose information. Organizations and academic programs like the Florida Anthropological Society and FPAN provide many ways for citizens to assist and become involved in meaningful archaeological research that provides information about our past, not simply picking up random objects.

If you take the time to read the bills, which I encourage you to do,  you will  notice that it requires that permit holders report on their findings. That seems like a good idea, right? The problem is that it’s been tried before in Florida and failed – the Isolated Finds program was implemented so that people could certain keep artifacts they found in Florida rivers and all they had to do was turn in information, and it was free! Very few IF reports were sent in, however, and the state discontinued IF due to wide-spread non-compliance among the river diver collecting community. Issuing permits would make tracking collectors easier for the state, but also would require additional staffing as well as additional law enforcement time, a cost which will ultimately be paid by tax payers. In order to pay for the program by charging for permits, each permit would cost hundreds of dollars, making them out of range for most citizens, which would defeat the purpose of a “citizen’s” permit.

On our website we have compiled various resources and answers to common questions about these bills and other previously proposed legislation regarding the collection of artifacts on public lands. I hope that you will take the time to read the bills and read what we have compiled. Ultimately the responsibility of protecting our state’s cultural resources falls to the citizens and we encourage your participation. Included in our list of resources is a link where you can find your local representatives. We hope that you will educate yourself and be encouraged to write, call or email them to express your concerns.

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!

 

 

Heritage Site of the Month: Ponce de Leon Hotel at Flagler College

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Ponce de Leon Hotel.

This past weekend was the Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society which was held this year at Flagler College in St. Augustine. Now, as you may know St. Augustine is the oldest city in the

Henry Flagler ca. 1882

New World, but to write a blog about the whole city, well, it would be the longest blog post ever! So we decided to go with Flagler College since it has a wonderful history that not many folks are aware of. Flagler College is a private college located in the heart of historic St. Augustine. The centerpiece of the college campus is the historic Ponce de Leon Hotel.  It was a lavish hotel established by railroad magnate, Henry Flagler in 1888 and was considered one of the finest resorts at that time.  The architects for this Spanish Renaissance  style hotel were John Carrere and Thomas Hastings. Flagler College was founded in 1968 and since it’s inception the institution has spent $40 million dollars restoring historic buildings and constructing new facilities. Today the building that was once the hotel is now the female dormitory and dining hall. The dining hall is home to 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass windows. The hotel’s parlor boasts one of the first onyx Edison clocks to be used in a public building and Tiffany crystal chandeliers. Recently the solarium was restored and we had the honor of attending a luncheon held there. This summer the college is planning on hosting teas in there. The solarium provides visitors with a very unique birds eye view of the historic city. The Ponce de Leon Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National  Historic Landmark. Tours of the campus and hotel are available and is well worth a visit. Before you leave campus be sure to stop at the main entrance gate to take your photograph with the statue of Henry Flagler.  There are several other historic hotels, including another hotel built by Henry Flagler, the Alcazar Hotel which now houses the Lightner Museum. The architecture off all

these historic hotels is stunning and they provide a rare glimpse into early tourism and leisure in Florida.

Viva Florida Archaeology Month 2013!

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The front of the 2013 Florida Archaeology Month poster.

2013 marks the 500 year anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival on Florida shores and first interactions with Florida’s indigenous people. From that point on, Florida has seen the arrival of many people of different nationalities and cultures. The archaeology of Florida’s diverse legacy begins at these distant points and continues into the present day. Archaeologists seek to learn about the more recent past, like the beginnings of tourism and the development of urban centers, because it can also shed light on how our diverse heritage continues to impact and enrich our lives.

Florida’s diverse history and prehistory stretches back over 12,000 years. Every March, statewide programs and events celebrating Florida Archaeology Month are designed to encourage Floridians and visitors to learn more about the archaeology and history of the state, and to preserve these important parts of Florida’s rich cultural heritage. Plan to attend some of the many events throughout Florida during March 2013. You can find events in your area taking place during Florida Archaeology Month by visiting the Florida Archaeology Month website. A full listing  of events taking place throughout the year can also be found on the events webpages of the regional centers of the Florida Public Archaeology Network or the Viva Florida 500 website.

Florida Archaeology Month is coordinated by the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS), the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), the Florida Archaeological Council, Inc., and the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Additional sponsors include state and local museums, historical commissions, libraries, and public and private school systems. The 2013 Florida Archaeology Month poster is available through your local FAS Chapter, your regional FPAN office or can be acquired at various events sponsored by the participating organizations. You can find out more about Florida Archaeology Month by contacting your local FPAN regional center or your local FAS chapter.

Battlefield Archaeology Activity to Debut at Olustee!

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We are so excited because it is again time for us to pack up and head to Olustee for the battle reenactment! We have been attending for the past few years, but we are excited to debut our new activity, Battlefield on a Tarp. The

Our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

Civil War is an important event in our state’s and nation’s history, and archaeologists  have been hard at work studying our battlefields to create an accurate picture of the events that occurred during the Civil War. Battlefield archaeology has contributed greatly to our knowledge of past battles. Of course, there are many folks out there that collect Civil War memorabilia, including sometimes artifacts from battlefields across the country. As an archaeologist I find this trend somewhat disturbing because with each artifact that is taken off of a battlefield valuable information goes with it which can never again be recovered. Now, I understand that many people feel they have the right to collect, or think that archaeologists just want to keep the good stuff for themselves. However, that is not the case. When you take an item from a battlefield, which are often located on state or federal property, you are taking from every citizen in the state and the nation. An individual may think that they have the right to collect, but what about the rights of those wishing to visit and learn about these sites? The government has taken over the care of these sites so that they can be preserved for everyone to  enjoy  and have an equal opportunity to learn about the events that took place there. Archaeologists study these sites so that they can be better and more accurately interpreted to visitors and for scholars who want to learn about these sites. Artifacts have much more meaning and can contribute more to our understanding of the past when they are left in context. When they get removed from the site and put into a shoe box to be stored in somebody’s attic for nobody to see or learn about the context is lost! It is for these very reasons that taking artifacts from state or federal property is a crime. Our new activity is an effort on our part to show the public what archaeologists can learn from studying battlefields and exactly what damage is done when artifacts lose their context after they are removed from the site. I hope that you will make your way to Olustee this weekend for all the festivities and stop by our booth to check out our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity. We will also have a display on Florida during the Civil War that I am sure many people will find interesting.

As a related note, I often get asked how the public can get involved in archaeology. Archaeology is awesome and who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to get involved? Well, here in Florida we have an amazing organization called the Florida Anthropological Society,  which is open to anyone with an interest in archaeology. There are chapters located throughout the state and every year in May there is the annual meeting of the organization. As a member of the Florida Anthropologist you receive the quarterly journal, The Florida Anthropologist, the quarterly newsletter and a discount on registration for the annual meeting. The 2013 meeting will be held in St. Augustine. It is also important to note that to become a member you must agree to abide by the organizations code of ethics. Many organizations have opportunities to assist on digs or  in archaeology labs, hold monthly meetings, conduct public outreach and host Florida Archaeology Month events. If you are interested you can visit fasweb.org for more information. This is a great way to get involved in archaeology and learn more about our state’s rich history!

 

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!

 

 

 

Florida Archaeology Month is Upon Us!

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Happy Florida Archaeology Month everyone! That’s right, our wonderful state has a whole month dedicated to archaeology, and that month is March! This statewide event is held each year to allow Floridians  and visitors a chance to learn more about the archaeology and history of our state, and to preserve these important parts of our rich cultural heritage. Each year we have a different theme, and this year’s theme is “Native Plants, Native People”. It explores how native people in Florida used plants and how archaeologist investigate these plants that were used by prehistoric inhabitants of Florida. You can find a calendar of events at  http://www.fasweb.org/index.htm.

Each year many organizations are involved in coordinating this statewide celebration, including the Florida Anthropological Society, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, the Florida Archaeological Council and the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. Many local museums, historical commissions, libraries, and public and private schools also participate and support Florida Archaeology Month.

Each year there is also a poster that is created around the theme. This years poster is two sided and highlights some of the sites in Florida that have contained plant remains. It is a beautiful poster! Probably one of my favorites so far. If you would like to pick one up, just let me know. They are free and a wonderful educational tool. You can also view it at the website mentioned above.

Most people don’t think of plants when they think of archaeology, but the study of  plants can provide us with insight into what prehistoric people were eating, what medicines they were using, what tools they were making and their ceremonial activities. By studying sites that contain plants, such as Windover, Key Marco, Pineland, Hontoon Island and various others, we have learned that plants made up to fifty percent of the native diet and at least that much (if not more) of their material goods!  However, plant remains are very fragile, and it is very rare to find plant remains at an archaeological site, so these sites are very special and unique. In celebration of Florida Archaeology Month this year, we are going to explore the native plants of Florida and how they were used by prehistoric peoples with our “Plant of the Week” posts. Of course, it is very important to note that this information is just for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES! Do not use the plants in the manner that we will describe. Native people had an intensive and vast knowledge of the plants and the individuals that were using them. We are just beginning to understand how these plants were used by prehistoric people, so remember, read and learn, but please don’t try! Even edible plants that are considered harmless can have undesirable effects on your body if you are not used to ingesting or using them in the manner described. We hope you will learn a great deal this month about our state’s unique cultural heritage. Hopefully this new knowledge that you gain this month will create a greater appreciation for our state’s cultural sites. So please, take some time this month to attend some local Florida Archaeology Month events in your area. You never know what you might learn! So, again, happy Florida Archaeology Month!

If you are in the Tallahassee area, you might consider joining the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee tonight at the B. Calvin Jones Center for Archaeology (Governor Martin House-located at 1001 DeSoto Park Drive, off of Lafayette Street behind Olive Garden) starting at 7pm for a discussion on native plants and the prehistoric peoples of Florida. Loran Anderson and myself will both be presenting on this topic. It is sure to be a great time for all and a wonderful way to kick off Florida Archaeology Month.  Anderson&Hines