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!



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!

The Munree Cemetery Project: An Update on Our Progress

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You may remember our previous post about the Munree Cemetery. We used Human Remain Detection Dogs (or cadaver dogs) and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to help us located unmarked burials in this cemetery located in East Tallahassee. We wanted to compare the results of the dogs with that of the GPR. Well, or preliminary results are in and we wanted to share them with you. You may remember that this is a joint project with FPAN and the Southeast Archaeological Center (SEAC), which is part of the National Park Service. Well, a big thanks to SEAC for allowing us to use their GPR equipment for this project!

So, here is the skinny on how GPR works! These types of surveys have grown in popularity over the past 30 years. Despite the relatively commonplace use of GPR, imaging of buried features can be somewhat difficult. To detect archaeological features (or anomalies, as we call them) they must contrast electromagnetically with the surrounding soil matrix. Unfortunately, these types of instruments respond to archaeological anomalies and natural disturbances (tree roots, rocks, etc…). Therefore, the interpretation of GPR results depends greatly on the recognition of patterns in the data that correspond to the expected form of an archaeological feature (in this case, a pattern of burials like you would expect to find in a cemetery). GPR units operate by transmitting distinct pulses of radio energy from a surface antenna. This energy is reflected off of buried objects, features or soil structures. A second receiving antenna detects reflected pulses of energy. Using this data, GPR systems are capable of producing reliable images of subsurface anomalies. The survey at Munree Cemetery used a Geophysical Survey Systems SIR-3000 data acquisition system with a 400 MHz antenna, capable of resolving features measuring approximately 50 cm in diameter to a maximum depth of 3 meters. However, in practice, the depth of penetration is sually more limited because of varying electrical properties of the soil. The maximum depth of radar penetration during this survey was about 240 cm.


The GPR image from one of our grids, indicating anomalies identified by the GPR and possible burials as indicated by the canines.

As you may remember, the dogs were allowed to do a loose grid search of their assigned areas. If the dogs exhibited a final response the area was marked with a survey flag. Using dogs to identify human remains old enough to be considered archaeological in nature is a relatively new practice and dog handlers and trainers are still fine tuning their training techniques. As part of this survey, we are providing our data to the handlers so that they can use it in their training. Soil, humidity and air temperature can affect how the dogs perform. Large trees, such as live oak, can actually “drop” scent from their leaves. This is caused by the scent of the human remains running up the trunk from the soil and into the leaves. In the morning these large trees “drop” the scent, which can sometimes cause the dog to exhibit their final response at the drip line of the tree. Rodent holes can also vent scent, sometimes a distance from the actual burial. Dogs are best at indicating if a burial is present, but it can be a challenge for them to identify a single burials exact location.

It is important to note that thus far our findings are preliminary and additional work is necessary to determine the efficacy of using cadaver dogs to identify historic burials. At this stage, it is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty if burials are present in the areas that we tested. The discovery of several unique anomalies with geometry similar to burials suggests that unmarked graves are possible and perhaps likely in these areas. In total, the dogs identified sixteen targets that may represent unmarked graves. Four of those targets were within the GPR grids; and of those four, three were found to be associated with burial like anomalies. The dogs also actively targeted areas with known burials as evidenced by headstones and slumping. The dogs missed one possible burial in Area A and a possible cluster of burials in Area B. Future work at Munree Cemetery may include expanding the GPR survey area and ground truthing the anomalies corresponding to the targets identified by the canines. Still, the available data suggests that as a tool to expediently investigate an area for unmarked graves, GPR and cadaver dogs provide an effective means to guide research with comparable results.

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.

“Blended Lives” Pieces Together History in Tallahassee

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Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a program called “Blended Lives”. It took  place at Goodwood Museum and Gardens and the Riley House Museum, both located in Tallahassee. Last week all the forth grade

Prehistoric artifacts recovered from the Goodwood property. From left to right, an Archaic stemmed projectile point (arrowhead) and a Ft. Walton period decorated ceramic sherd.

students in Leon County had the opportunity to visit both historic sites and learn about all the different people of various backgrounds who lived at those sites and contributed to the history of these two historic homes in Tallahassee. This year the organizers brought FPAN into the mix to teach the students about an archaeological site that was excavated at Goodwood. When you see an old house or another type of existing structure from long ago it is easy to forget that there were most likely  people that were living on that piece of land before that structure existed.  The Goodwood plantation house was constructed in the 1830s, but some artifacts from the excavation date as far back as the Ft. Walton period (A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1500). While the archaeologists were excavating at this site they found both historic and prehistoric artifacts. In other words, they found artifacts that came from the people living in the 1830s plantation house and other

Historic artifacts, probably associated with the Goodwood house, recovered at the Goodwood site. Bottom Left: etched glass fragment, Top Left: Whieldon ware ceramic sherd, Right: small clay marble.

artifacts from the people living there during the Ft. Walton culture period all at the same site. Archaeologists sometimes refer to these types of sites as multi-component sites. This, as you can probably imagine, is a fairly common occurrence at archaeological sites. The students learned briefly about Florida’s prehistory – from the Paleoindian time period to when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. Then I had the opportunity to share with them actual artifacts that were recovered from the Goodwood property during the excavation. All in all, I had a wonderful time, and I think the students, teachers and parent chaperones did as well! My hope is that now when the students look at a site they will think about all the different groups of people that were there before them and will have a new found appreciation for Florida’s rich and diverse cultural history.

To learn more about Goodwood Museum and Gardens please visit their website at GoodwoodMuseum.org. To learn more about the Riley House Museum you can visit their website at rileymuseum.org.

Welcome Back, Teachers!

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Are you a teacher that is looking to enhance your classroom curriculum? Well you are in luck! On August 30th at the Museum of Florida History  many of the local outreach and educational programs in our region will be in one spot! The Museum of Florida History is hosting a Welcome Back, Teachers! event from 4 to 6pm. It will feature educational materials, information about onsite and outreach programs, local field trip options and refreshments. Exhibitors will include the Museum of Florida History, State Archives of Florida, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Florida Department of Education and various members of the Community Classroom Consortium. These organizations cater to a variety of subjects, so no matter what you teach there will be something there for you!

Archaeology is generally associated with social studies…but think about this for a second! Archaeologists need to have an understanding of geology, math, science, history, language arts and many other subject areas. We need to be able to communicate our interpretations and observations of a site so that they can be easily understood by not only other archaeologists, but the public as well. We need to be able to understand what resources were available to the people that were living in a specific area at a given time period. We need to be able to successfully and efficiently navigate through various environments (think of all the additional skills needed by Underwater Archaeologists!). We need to have a working knowledge of social constructs among various cultures during various times in history. Archaeologists need to have a very good understanding of the scientific method and many scientific theories in order to accurately record their findings. We also need to be able to read maps, create maps and accurately take measurements. Today archaeologists use many technological instruments to help record sites, and thus need to be pretty tech and computer savvy these days as well. We even need to be good photographers and have the ability to draw legible maps and illustrations. So, as you can see, archaeology can be an appropriate addition to a variety of subjects that are taught in school at any grade level (and I didn’t even list all the various skills needed to be a good archaeologist!).  If you visit www.flpublicarchaeology.org/resources teachers can download a free copy of our lesson plan guide, Beyond Artifacts. There are also many other resources, including virtual field trips, that are available on that site. Beyond Artifacts is aligned with the Sunshine State Standards, updated regularly and includes lessons appropriate for all grade levels and subject areas.

I hope that you will be able to join us on August 30th to  see  what other organizations there are in this area that are available to teachers and educators in this area! FPAN will be there, along with many other organizations to show you all of the different hands on programs and educational opportunities we have available for your students.

The Wacissa River Prehistoric Trail for Canoes & Kayaks

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All winter I have been cooped up unable to go kayaking. As an avid river rat I am so glad that it is starting to warm up a bit and the sun is poking out from behind all the rain clouds! You may recall an earlier post when I went out

The front of the trail guide brochure.

with a group of boy scouts to a site only accessible by boat. It was a wonderful project, but perhaps a little on the chilly side for paddling. Well, just in time for the warmer weather the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources has has created at Prehistoric Paddling Trail along the Wacissa River, which is located in Jefferson County, Florida. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited about this! I love it when two of my favorite things – kayaking and archaeology – can be combined into a day long outing!

You can pick up your very own copy of the trail guide brochure at the Bureau of Archaeological Research or at the FPAN North Central Office. They are also available at the TCC Wakulla Center, located in Crawfordville. The brochure was funded in part, through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Coastal Management Program, and by a grant provided by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.  This brochure is awesome, it is even printed on water resistant paper, so you can taking it along with you on your paddling trip!  It is a 15 mile trail, beginning at the springhead of the Wacissa River. There is also the possibility of making it a 10 mile trip and exiting the river at a place called Goose Pasture. Otherwise, you can take the whole trail to the end at Nutall Rise Landing. To get all the details you will need to pick up a copy of the trail guide.

Barbara Hines, FPAN Outreach Coordinator and Shovel Bytes author, on the Wacissa.

The Wacissa is a beautiful meandering river that will take you through some of the most significant arcdhaeological zones in North Florida.  Beginning in about 500 BC, the Wacissa and the Aucilla Rivers mark the boundary between the Northwest Florida and North Peninsular Gulf Coast archaeological culture areas.  People have been inhabiting this area for over 12,00 years! That is amazing when you think about it! This area provided them with an abundance of resources that can be found around the river and along the shallow coastal waters and shoreline. Need I say more? Really, if you like to  paddle and want to learn more about the archaeology and history of this area, well, you need to pick up your Wacissa River Prehistoric Trail for Canoes and Kayaks brochure today! Then load up your kayak or canoe, grab some friends and get paddling!

Public Archaeology Day at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement


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.

Take Only Pictures: The Importance of Context in Archaeology

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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!

The DeSoto Site: A Unique Piece of Tallahassee History!


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!

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