Uncategorized Archaeology, Dig It!, Dig-It Games, Educational Video Games, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Game Mechanics, Gaming, Interpretation, Video Games
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Uncategorized Archaeology, Commonly Used Words, Florida Archaeology, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Randall Munroe, Ten Hundred Most Commonly Used Words
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Uncategorized Archaeology Code of Ethics, Artifact Collecting, Avocational Archaeology, Chapter 267, Citizen Archaeology Permit, Florida Anthropological Society, Florida Archaeology, Florida Archaeology Law, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Isolated Finds, Oppose HB803, Oppose SB1054, Public Archaeology, SB1054, SB803
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.
Uncategorized 123DCatch, 3D printing, 3D scanner, Agisoft PhotoScan, Archaeology, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, mapping, photogrammetry, Preservation, Underwater Archaeology
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).
Preservation 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.
Uncategorized Battle of Olustee, Battlefield Archaeology, Battlefield on a Tarp, Civil War, Florida History, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN
Our Battlefield on a Tarp activity!
This weekend is one of my favorite events of the year, the annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee! FPAN will have a booth there all weekend with information about the Civil War in Florida. We also have a hands-on activity we call “Battlefield on a Tarp”, which is a favorite on school day. Many people do not make the immediate connection between archaeology and the Civil War and I receive a lot of questions about why FPAN feels it is necessary to have an educational booth at these battle reenactments. My first response is always, “Well, archaeology is one of the main reasons we know that the battle took place on this piece of land”. Yes, it is true that there is a plethora of documentary evidence of battles that have taken place from any given war in our history, but if you have ever studied them then you know that they can be full of inconsistencies and biases. I often tell children that archaeologists are the detectives of history. We use historical documents as clues to help us find the actual evidence that can provide us with definitive proof of what actually happened at an archaeological or historical site. This is exactly how battlefield archaeology contributes to our understanding of the Civil War (and any other battle or war for that matter). The artifacts and features found in the ground provide archaeologists and historians with non-biased evidence of what actually happened out on the battlefield. It also helps to tell the story of the everyday person who took part in the battle.
This leads me to another “teachable moment”. During the “Battlefield on a Tarp” activity I slowly start to pull items off of the battlefield and then have the observers tell me what information they are able to gather about the site. As I take more items off of the battlefield it becomes more and more difficult to discern what was taking place during the battle. So many of our battlefields are now situated within the boundaries of state or national parks, and thus are preserved for future generations. However, this doesn’t mean that people still don’t try to “loot” these sites for artifacts. When these artifacts are taken out of context we lose the ability to learn the true history of these historic battles. This is true of any archaeological or historical site, not just battlefields and this is one of the main reasons we find it valuable to attend these battle reenactments. We want to strengthen that connection between archaeology and battlefields. We hope that you will take some time this weekend to attend the Battle of Olustee reenactment. You can find detailed information about the battle reenactment on their website. I hope that you will stop by our FPAN booth, but if you can’t make it then I hope you will check out our Destination: Civil War resources.
Uncategorized Coastal Living, Dr. Kenneth Sassaman, FAS, Florida, Florida Anthropological Society, Florida Archaeology, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Gulf Coast, Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey, Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee, PAST, Sea Level Rise, University of Florida
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 7pm. 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!
Uncategorized Archaeology Lesson Plans, Blountstown, FCAT, Florida Archaeology Month, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Sunshine State Standards
Are you a teacher, youth coordinator, camp director or otherwise involved with coordinating youth educational activities? If you would like to see archaeological education become a part of your existing curriculum, then we have a workshop just for you! On Saturday, March 16th from 10am to 4pm the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement will be offering a teacher workshop, “Archaeology in the Classroom: A Workshop for Educators”. This workshop will be held at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown. Teachers associated with traditional and non-traditional education are encouraged to participate. Archaeology is an extremely multidisciplinary social science, providing opportunities for teachers and educators to incorporate archaeological information, methods, and ideas into science, history, language arts, math, social studies, and art curricula.
This workshop will provide educators with non-digging archaeology-based training, lesson plans, activities, and projects to expose students to the excitement of archaeology while teaching the basics. All information and curricula presented directly relate to FCAT requirements and Sunshine State Standards. While there, staff from the Pioneer Settlement will be offering teachers a tour of the museum as part of the training! Participants will receive numerous hands-on archaeological-themed lesson plans. Space is limited, so please call 850.595.0050 or email nbucchino@.uwf.edu to register. A recommended donation of $20 is requested to help cover the cost of materials and refreshments.
Uncategorized Archaeological Context, Archaeology Public Outreach, Battlefield Archaeology, Battlefield on a Tarp, Civil War, FAS, Florida, Florida Anthropological Society, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Olustee, Reenactments, St. Augustine, The Florida Anthropologist
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!
Uncategorized Artifacts, Excavation, Florida Archaeology, Florida History, Florida Public Archaeology Network, FPAN, Ft. Walton Culture, Goodwood Museum and Gardens, Goodwood Plantation, Leon County, Leon County School District, Riley House Museum, Tallahassee
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.
Uncategorized Florida Park Service, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Fort Walton Culture, FPAN, Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, Missippian, Mound Builders, National Archaeology Day, National Park Service, Southeast Archaeological Center, Southeast Ceremonial Complex, Tallahassee
Over 100 people joined us at Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park for National Archaeology Day!
This past Saturday, as many of you know, was National Archaeology Day. I was lucky enough to join the Southeast Archaeological Center/National Park Service and the Florida Park Service at Lake Jackson MoundsArchaeological State Park to celebrate! Archaeologists around the area came together to educate the public about Florida’s great archaeological heritage. Lake Jackson Mounds was a superb location for such an event! It was then that I realized that some folks may not know of this site, so I decided it was time for a Lake Jackson Mounds blog post!
Before I even get into discussing Lake Jackson Mounds, I just want to briefly give kudos to the Florida Park Service. Within the state of Florida there are over 160 state parks. That is a phenomenal amount of natural land that has been set aside for preservation, conservation and of course, for public enjoyment! Many of these parks contain archaeological or historical sites that have provided archaeologists and historians with important knowledge of the state’s history. Plus, these parks are open to the public, and thus you have access to this knowledge as well! Many of the parks have interpretive programs to provide the public with information about the natural and cultural areas of the park. You can find a park near you by visiting their website, http://www.floridastateparks.org/.
So that being said, one of those really amazing parks located in Tallahassee is Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park. The Lake Jackson Mounds site originally included
Dr. Rochelle Marrinan, Archaeology Professor at FSU, gave a talk on the Lake Jackson Mounds site during the National Archaeology Day celebration.
seven mounds that were constructed by a group of Native Americans belonging to the Fort Walton Culture. The Fort Walton Culture is a southern variant of the Mississippian Culture (also known as the Mound Builders). This group of people inhabited these mounds from about A.D. 1050 to A.D. 1500. The number of mounds and the large size of this site led archaeologists to believe that this site was a religious and political center for those that lived in the region. The mounds were skillfully planned and constructed. Those that built them had to have knowledge of the soils in the area. These mounds are the result of the organization of numerous workers over a period of many years. Not only does the site contain the mounds, but it also contains remains of a village plaza and numerous residences. The plaza would have been a large flat area where ritual games and gatherings took place. The individual residences were found to be located around this central plaza. Surrounding the site would have been communal agricultural fields. One of the major crops that would have probably been cultivated was maize, known today as corn. Agriculture is probably one of the main reasons such a dense and sedentary population was possible. The site could easily be considered one of the more important archaeological sites in Florida and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can actually hike up to the top of one of the mounds overlooking Lake Jackson!
Only a few of the mounds have been systematically excavated by archaeologists. While excavating one of the mounds, post holes were found at the summit. This indicates that a building of some sort was at one time constructed atop the mound. Unfortunately, this mound was located on private property and was leveled to the ground at some point. The remains of important individuals have been found at the site in association with burial objects, including elaborate items such as copper breast plates, shell beaded necklaces, bracelets, anklets and cloaks still in place. These types of artifacts indicate religious and trading ties with other pre-historic Indian communities in the southeastern United States. Some of the artifacts recovered from this site link it to the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Some of the artifacts, including various copper items, exhibited motifs (decorations) that are usually associated with this complex. The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex is a name given to a stylistic component of the Mississippian culture that coincided with their adoption of maize agriculture and chiefdom social organization. This complex is also known as the “Southern Cult” and flourished around A.D. 1200. Many people assume that this complex has some link to Mesoamerican culture, but there is no evidence of this, instead, they seem to have developed independent of one another.
This is a lot of information to digest, but I hope that I peeked your curiosity about this and other sites located in Florida’s great state parks! This park is located north of Tallahassee, very close to I-10. So even if you are just passing through, pull in for a quick visit. There are picnic tables and a covered pavilion, hiking trails and interpretive signage. For location and hours of operation visit http://www.floridastateparks.org/lakejackson/default.cfm