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!

Heritage Site of the Month: Letchworth-Love Mounds

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Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park is located in eastern Tallahassee (almost to Monticello) off of U.S. 90. This site boasts the state’s largest Native American mound, spanning almost 300 feet in width and

Photo of large mound from the viewing platform.

approximately 46 feet tall.  There are a total of five mounds that have been identified at this site, however, in the 1970s one of them was destroyed. The age of the site is a much debated topic among archaeologists. Some archaeologists believe that it dates to the Ft. Walton Period (AD 1000- 1500), while others argue that the site dates to the older Weeden Island Period (AD 300-100).  Since 2003 the State Archaeologist and Florida State University’s Anthropology Department have conducted intermittent archaeological investigations at this site. Based on evidence gathered during these investigations the current body of research indicates that the site likely dates to the early Weeden Island period (AD 300-700). The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research is currently conducting research at Letchworth in order to learn more and to assist the Florida Park Service with further interpretation of the site to the public.

Artistic rendering showing what the mounds would have looked like during the period of time they were constructed and occupied by Native Americans. This is part of the interpretive display at the park.

When you visit the park, you will note that the large mound currently has trees growing on it. When originally built, the earthwork mound would have been clear of vegetation, with smooth sides and a flat top. Many Native American laborers would have brought soil by baskets to the site to construct the mound. They would have had to have knowledge about the different variety of soils to use in order to create a stable structure. The mound would have risen from a flat plaza area, or common area, which would have been used for games and gatherings. Dwellings and agricultural fields would have also surrounded the area. Lake Miccosukee is nearby, which may have been one of the primary reasons the Native Americans chose this site. The lake would have provided them with fresh potable water and food resources.

The site is managed by the Florida Park Service and is open to the public from 8am to sunset year-round. The park offers picnicking, wildlife viewing and hiking. An interpretive trail starts at the base of the large mound and leads visitors past several smaller mounds. The picnic area and platform viewing area for the mound are wheelchair-accessible. The Park Service even offers guided tours upon request! The picnic pavilion houses several interpretive exhibits about the site. When visiting this site please pay attention to signs and please stay on the marked trail. This is a Native American ceremonial site, and the Florida Park Service has designed the walkways in such a  manner that they do not disturb or endanger the site. Also, as always, please remember that it is against the law to remove artifacts and plant material from Florida State Parks-take only pictures and leave only foot prints.


Attention Scuba Divers! FPAN to Host Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar in Pensacola this September

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This three day seminar will be offered in Pensacola on September 11 – 14, with a welcome meet-n-greet the evening of September 11th. The Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar is intended to explain the advantages of conserving shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources, not only to preserve information about our collective past, but also to preserve the vibrant ecosystems that grow around shipwrecks. HADS focuses on providing scuba training agency Course Directors, Instructor Trainers, and Instructors with a greater knowledge of how to proactively protect shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and other underwater cultural sites as part of the marine environment. HADS consists of two evenings of classroom instruction and one day of open water diving; participants receive the HADS workbook and a CD with all PowerPoint presentations to use in their own classes. Upon completion of HADS, participants can teach the new Heritage Awareness Specialty Course, approved by PADI, NAUI, and SSI, as well as incorporate underwater historic preservation into other courses. This program is presented by both the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and is taught by professional underwater archaeologists with a wealth of knowledge and experience. If you are interested in registering or have questions you can contact Jeff Moates of the Florida Public Archaeology Network before August 15th at or 813.396.2327. You may also register online on the FPAN website.


The Big Anchor Project

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If you have ever visited a coastal city you probably have seen at least one big anchor just laying around somewhere – perhaps in front of a business, a street median or even in someone’s

Measuring an anchor in Apalachicola.

yard. Have you ever wondered where that anchor came from or what it’s story was? Apalachicola has numerous anchors just laying about all over the community. Some are sitting on private property, but many are on public property as well. This past Saturday, FPAN, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and community volunteers set out to learn about these anchors and record them for the Big Anchor Project’s world-wide database. It may sound a little strange, and you may be asking why we decided to do this, and we have a valid answer for you!

Think about the symbolism of the anchor for a minute. They are everywhere – flags, military insignia, business logos, etc. Anchors are an iconic symbol for anything maritime related. The anchor represents safety and stability and has been used by mariners as a symbol of such  for over 4,000 years. Many times an anchor is all that remains as a visible symbol of something that occurred at sea. The anchor may have been cut loose in an emergency or it may be resting atop an ancient shipwreck. The anchor is a lasting symbol, but amazingly very little work has been done to collect and organize data that exists about these anchors which are on display all over the world.

The Big Anchor Project is an effort to gather and organize this information. It was created by the Nautical Archaeological Society and currently contains information on over 500 anchors from all over the world! The great thing about this  project is that anybody from anywhere can participate by measuring an anchor and entering the information in the database online at Online they have very descriptive and easy to follow directions on how to do it. This information is made available to researchers that may want to study anchors and thus contribute to our understanding of these very iconic symbols. If you know of an anchor in your community or elsewhere, I encourage you to check out the Big Anchor Project and record your anchor. It is a great group project for youth and adults and you make a direct contribution to furthering the understanding of your communities maritime history. In just one days time, with a great group of citizens from all walks of life, we were able to record fifteen anchors total. It doesn’t take very long to record an anchor and it is a lot of fun!

Volunteers recording an anchor in Apalachicola, FL.


Mark Your Calendars Now: October 20th is National Archaeology Day!

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National Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. This year it will take place on Saturday, October 20th. These programs, on National Archaeology Day, provide the chance  for the public to interact with archaeologists and learn about their local history and prehistory. In the North Central Region there will be several events. FPAN and the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research will have an educational booth at the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival that will include hands-on activities for children and adults and will be providing free information on history and archaeology in the region. Also, the Southeast Archaeological Center/National Park Service will have a family-friendly event at Lake Jackson Mounds State  Archaeological Park in Tallahassee.

Bring a picnic lunch, and learn about Archaeology by joining the Southeast Archeological Center and the Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida State Parks in celebrating National Archaeology Day! The Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) is proud to be co-hosting National Archaeology Day events at Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park in conjunction with Florida State Parks, on Saturday, Oct. 20. The event will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the park which is located at 3600 Indian Mounds Road, Tallahassee. The event will include activities for children and adults. A park admission fee of $3.00 per car applies.
Kid activities include Native American pottery making, archaeological mapping, an on-site archaeology lab, and spear throwing. Speakers include Dr. David Morgan, director of SEAC, and Joe Knetsch, Tallahassee-based historian, and others. Other booths and activities include Native American brass plate demonstrations, tours of the Florida State Parks central museum collection facility, artifact identification, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, US Forest Service and more. Additionally, Florida State Parks staff including archaeological and biological professionals will be on-hand to discuss interpretation and management of the site. Speakers will begin at 10:30 a.m. and tours will begin at 11:00 a.m.

National Archaeology Day on October 20 is sure to be a fun-filled day, with something for everyone this year! So head down to St. Marks for some delicious stone crab and archaeological fun, or pack a picnic and head to Lake Jackson Mounds to try your hand at the atlatl spear thrower! Hey, why not do both?!?! So mark your calendar now, because you won’t want to miss it!



First Floridians, First American Conference in Monticello (October 4-6, 2012)

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The First Floridians conference will run from October 4 through October 6. It will be held in Monticello at the historic Opera House. There is no charge for registering for this conference, which can be done via the conference

The Historic Monticello Opera House, the location of the First Floridians Conference.

website, This conference will discuss the early people of Florida, including the Apalachee of Jefferson County. It will also touch on the coming of the Spanish and the local mission sites. One presentation will explain how the diversity of plant life in the Aucilla Basin attracted and fostered settlement throughout the ages. It will also examine how remnants of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Muskogee (Creek) Tribe of Florida formed.

Speakers will include Dr. Mary Glowacki, Florida’s State Archaeologist; Neil Wallis of the Florida Museum of Natural History; Barbara Hines of the Florida Public Archaeology Network; Glen Doran, Professor of Anthropology and Department Chair at Florida State University; Harley Means, Assistant Florida State Geologist; James Dunbar, retired Archaeologist with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and many other knowledgeable professionals.

On Saturday, October 6, the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee will be co-hosting a Public Archaeology Education Day from 9:30am to 5pm on the ground floor of the Monticello Opera House. This is an opportunity for the public to learn various ways to get involved in local archaeological and historic preservation. The public is also invited to bring any artifacts that they may have found on their property. Archaeologist from various organizations in the area will be on hand to help identify any artifacts brought in. Please be mindful of the local, state and federal laws when collecting artifacts. It is unlawful to collect artifacts from state or federal lands or on lands which you do not have permission to do so. Additionally, please remember that artifacts can only tell us so much. It is the context in which it is found that can provide us with the most information. Before you do remove an artifact from your garden or yard, consider taking a second to take a photograph of it before you remove it and perhaps making its location on a map. You can use a common item, such as a coin, as a scale simply by placing it next to the item in the photograph. This will help us possibly provide more information about the potential archaeological site that exists on your property and you will be helping archaeologists contribute to our understanding of our state’s great history.

We hope that you will consider joining us for what is sure to be a wonderful conference. Monticello is a beautiful location for such a conference, as the town has such a rich history. So while there, be sure to take some time to explore local sites.


The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail: Florida’s Newest Underwater Cultural Attraction!

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Hey all you SCUBA divers out there in cyber land! Florida’s Panhandle has a new attraction for your underwater enjoyment! This month the Florida Bureau of Archaeological

YDT-4, one of the wrecks featured on the trail. This is one of two U.S. Navy diving tenders sunk as artificial reefs in 2002 off the coast of Pensacola.

Research, Division of Historical Resources and their many partners have launched the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. This underwater trail includes twelve shipwrecks off the coast of the panhandle from Pensacola to Port St. Joe. Each of these wrecks has a different, interesting story to tell and is home to a wide variety of marine life. The trail includes fascinating dive sites, such as the USS Oriskany, which is the world’s largest artificial reef, and the FAMI Tugboats, with one piggy-backed atop the other! The twelve wrecks are located in varying depths, and you can start the trail on any wreck and go in any order you would like. The official website, provides divers with all the information they need to plan their trip. It gives details about the site itself, the current weather conditions and much more. While there you can even get a glimpse of the site by watching video clips of each site! To help guide visitors along the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, an official passport is available at participating dive shops and charter boats. You can find the location of all participating dive shops and charter boats on the website as well.  The passport contains a dive log to record each stop along the trail and includes a place to validate your visit with an official sticker and signature! This makes a great souvenir of your underwater adventure along the coast of the Florida Panhandle.

You can pick up your own passport to commemorate your dives at any of the participating dive shops or charter boats!

You can also join the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail’s Facebook page to share photos and stories of your visits to the various dive sites!

Of course, we want to ensure that these sites remain in pristine condition so that the marine life and other divers can continue to enjoy these beautiful resources. The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail aims to promote underwater cultural heritage tourism and stewardship. It focuses on responsible diving and local stewardship to ensure that these resources will be sustainable and that we can all continue to enjoy them for years to come. Remember, take only pictures and leave only bubbles! So strap on your fins and suit up! The water is beautiful, so dive on in to your next underwater adventure along Florida’s Panhandle!

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!

The DeSoto Site: A Unique Piece of Tallahassee History!

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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!