Florida Proposed House Bill 803/Senate Bill 1054

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OpposeHB803According 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.

Modeling Archaeology

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In recent years, 3D modeling has become easier than it ever has been before. In the past, we had to use an expensive 3D scanner, though these still have their uses. Now, however, anybody with a smartphone can make a reasonable 3D model using a program called 123D Catch. With a little more time and financial investment, we can make a model that is accurate enough to draw data from (https://sketchfab.com/models/22623871f783442a8f1779f5e52841fe).

This magical process is called “photogrammetry.” Essentially, this uses a collection of photographs from a variety of angles to create a three dimensional model of an object. What has really changed in recent years is the ease of use. Even with the professional version of Agisoft PhotoScan (a more robust, paid version of 123D Catch) the process of going from photos to a three dimensional model takes only a few steps.

There are a few limitations to this technique, however. Tall objects (such as buildings) are difficult to fully cover due to their height and size (without some creativity or a drone anyways) and the program has difficulty dealing with patterns such as plaid or other subjects that are not distinct enough, like grass. The biggest restriction is in the program’s inability to deal with movement, so live subjects are nearly impossible to record without a large and expensive rig of cameras to take all the pictures in a single instant. Fortunately, most of our subjects in archaeology are not very lively, so this is a fairly minor restriction.

The uses for such a program in archaeology are incredibly exciting, especially for underwater archaeology. Due to limitations on dives caused by weather and human endurance, it can easily take a decade to fully map a complex shipwreck. However, with five days of photographing and a few hours of processing time archaeologists can now have a highly detailed and accurate three dimensional map (https://sketchfab.com/models/6d22d91ea0f24967831e395f321477d0 https://sketchfab.com/models/3b40e2c6d8ce40a19e07f43a5ee5a2f1).

CW monumentPreservation is another excellent use for photogrammetry. If an historic building is about to be demolished, a day or two photographing every possible inch inside and out can result in detailed models for the building. Alternatively, if the current political climate (hypothetically) expanded from the removal of a statue in D.C. (link) to the removal of other Civil War monuments, we have a method of preserving these monuments in a more detailed form than photographs (https://sketchfab.com/models/f9901b07e8e44207a51fc7df6d622702).

While the effect this method will have on archaeological research is impressive, imagining how it will contribute to public outreach is what I find particularly exciting. So often a site or artifact cannot be used in public outreach beyond a photograph and our enthusiastic descriptions. Three dimensional models (like this one) does more than allow someone to see it from all sides, it adds depth and texture to the image, immediately making it feel more real. Alternatively, digital site tours (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcQfzuQXcq8) become relatively simple to make, and accessible to anyone in the world. If we pair these models with 3D printers, then there is almost no limit to what we could do.

A special thanks to Kotaro Yamafune for getting everybody I know excited about the potential uses for photogrammetry in archaeology.

Archaeology and the Civil War

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Our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

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.

boothThis 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.

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!



Archaeology in the Classroom: A Workshop for Educators

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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.


Battlefield Archaeology Activity to Debut at Olustee!

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

Our new Battlefield on a Tarp activity!

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

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


“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.

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park

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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


The Munree Cemetery Project: Revitalization of a Historic African American Cemetery


Drew, an archaeologist with SEAC, gives volunteers a brief introduction to how GPR works.

Since its creation, the North Central Region office has worked hard to assist local organizations that are working on various preservation projects in the region. The most recent

Volunteers take a moment to pose for a photo for the National Trust for Historic Places' "This Place Matters" campaign.

of which involves a historic African American cemetery located in Tallahassee. The Munree Cemetery, as it is known, was established in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It is associated with the Welaunee and Monreif plantations of Tallahassee. The cemetery contains at least 250 burials, the majority of which are unmarked. Since 2009 a group of concerned citizens have been working with county and city officials to protect and preserve this historic site. The citizens established a non-profit organization, The Munree Cemetery Foundation, Inc. as part of this effort. In early 2012 this group contacted the Southeast Archaeological Center asking if there were any archaeologists that would be interested in assisting them. The Southeast Archaeological Center contacted the North Central FPAN office. Since that time the Southeast Archaeological Center and the North Central FPAN office have partnered with the local citizens to work to ensure the cemetery is properly documented and maintained. This opportunity is being used to create awareness within the community of the importance of historic cemeteries and how to properly maintain and protect them.

Earlier this month a team of archaeologists from FPAN North Central, the Southeast Archaeological Center, the Panhandle Archaeological Society and volunteers from the Munree Cemetery Foundation, Inc. and the community took two days to document the cemetery and conduct some much needed maintenance. The Southeast Archaeological Center

The HRD Dogs take a break after working hard helping us identify unmarked burials.

generously provided GPR equipment to assist with this effort. The citizens had the opportunity to get some hands on experience using the GPR. The group also took this opportunity to learn how to safely and properly clean cemetery monuments using D-2 Biological Solution and learned how to document sites using the Florida Master Site File cemetery form. In addition to using these more common methods

Drew assists as a volunteer pushes the GPR cart across the cemetery in an area the dogs detected potential burials.

of cemetery documentation, a unique opportunity was presented to those involved as well. Human Remain Detection (HRD) dogs were brought in by trained handlers who volunteered their time to assist with locating possible unidentified unmarked burials. This allowed us to narrow down the areas that could benefit most from the use of GPR.  This information will be compared with the results of the GPR survey. The public was invited out to the cemetery while the dogs were conducting their survey and the dog handlers did a wonderful job in educating visitors and answering questions. We will continue to work with the Munree Cemetery Foundation to ensure that this cemetery is properly protected and maintained. WFSU-TV came out to film our progress and document our work and it will be airing on “Dimensions”. We do not have the date or time yet, but will keep our facebook and twitter followers updated with that information when we receive it.

A Sticky Situation: The Turpentine Industry in North Florida


On June 3rd I will be giving a talk on the turpentine industry in North Florida at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it. It was not until I moved to North Florida that I learned about the naval store industry, and I found it fascinating. It has since become one of my favorite topics to research and talk about! I am not going to give away all my fun facts (for that you have to attend the lecture), but this post will give you a good idea of what was going on at that time and perhaps entice a few of you to come check out my lecture!

The turpentine industry has its roots in North Carolina in the mid-1800s. Workers would scar longleaf pine trees (the scars are often referred to as cat faces) which would cause the gum, or resin, from the tree to run. They would

Turpentiners working a stand of longleaf pine trees to collect the resin.

attach a cup and gutters to the tree to collect the resin. This resin would then be distilled in a large still to create pitch. The reason that this industry is often referred to as “naval stores” has its origins in the fact that the majority of this pitch was used to caulk holes in wooden boats and to coat rigging to help it last longer on ocean-going vessels. Eventually the trees stopped producing any significant amount of resin and the turpentiners  gradually moved south to  new stands of trees. After some time, in the late 1800s, they made their way into Florida’s pine forests.

The Convict Leasing System lasted in Florida from 1875 to 1923.

As you can imagine, this was hard work and dangerous.  Collecting the gum was very labor intensive and working the still was hot and very dirty work. The workers, who in some

A box ax recovered from a turpentine site, now part of the State of Florida Collection.

cases may have been leased convicts, lived in camps situated close to the area they were currently working. The housing was considered temporary and was usually poorly constructed. If they were paid (which would not include the leased convicts), usually they would receive their pay in the form of company script or coin. This could only be used at the company commissary, where they could also purchase items on credit. Many workers found themselves in debt to the company store, and of course, could not leave their employment until they settled their debt. Convict laborers were usually treated very harshly and their living conditions varied, but usually were not very hospitable. The camps were usually very remote and not well regulated by the state government.

There were tools and supplies that were very specific to the naval stores industry. The best known tool of the trade is probably the herty cup, which was developed by Dr.

Herty cups were developed by Dr. Herty, who founded the Herty Turpentine Cup Company in 1909.

Charles Holmes Herty, Sr. in 1909. Dr. Herty’s method for gathering gum was more economical, allowing for a higher yield of resin and extended use of the trees. Other tools specific to the trade include box axes, dippers and pulls. A box ax was used to cut boxes into the base of the tree to collect the resin prior to the use of cups. Dippers were used to collect the resin from these boxes and pulls were used to cut the cat face scars into the tree. Eventually, all the resin collected would go to the still to be processed into various grades of turpentine to be put into barrels and shipped off to be used as ingredients in a variety of products (in addition to being used for ship building, as previously mentioned).

Early example of a container lid for Vicks VapoRub, which once contained turpentine as an ingredient.

Many early products contained turpentine, some of which seem bizarre today. Vicks VapoRub, which you can still find on store shelves today, originally contained turpentine. In fact, at many of the turpentine archaeological sites that I have excavated have contained the fragments of the cobalt blue glass from the small jars of Vicks VapoRub.  Apparently its use was popular at the time and many company commissaries carried it. Many household cleaners contained turpentine as well and many people would mix turpentine with beeswax to make their own furniture polish. It was also used medicinally to treat burns, bites and stings. However, since that time turpentine has been found to be carcinogenic and there are strict guidelines for the proper handling of turpentine (and it is no longer an ingredient in Vicks VapoRub).

In 1923 the convict leasing program was abolished in Florida due, in part, to the death of Martin Talbert. He was a convict that was killed at a turpentine camp as a result of very harsh physical punishment. By the mid-1900s the industry started its decline due, in part, to the advent of steel ships and the development of synthetic chemicals. By the 1970s the industry had pretty much vanished from the Florida landscape. However, the turpentine industry left a lasting legacy on the landscape. This industry was very destructive to the longleaf ecosystem and the many plants and animals that depended on it. Fewer than 3 million acres of old growth longleaf forest survived. Today on many of the trees in Florida’s old growth forests you can still see the old cat face scars. While hiking many of these same forests you might come across pieces of herty cup or similar metal cups that once collected the resin (and as a reminder, it is against the law to remove artifacts, like herty cups, from state and federal land!).

The turpentine industry helped to shape a fascinating time in Florida’s history and has had a lasting effect on our environment and our culture. Much of the land that is part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was once part of various turpentine operations. Today wildlife and habitat restoration efforts are being undertaken to restore these stands of forest to their previous state, prior to being worked for turpentine. I hope you can join me on June 3rd to learn more! If you are unable to join us though, there are many wonderful books dedicated to this industry. So be sure to visit your local library and check some of them out!

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