Site Seeing: Myakka River State Park and the Civilian Conservation Corps

By Becky O’Sullivan

The old horse barn constructed by workmen from the CCC now serves as the interpretive center for the Myakka River State Park

In honor of Labor Day I decided to take a little day trip down to Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FL. Not only is it one of the oldest State Parks in Florida, the land was purchased in September of 1934, it was also the site of the only CCC camp for African Americans in Florida.

The CCC (or Civilian Conservation Corps) was a New Deal program instituted by Franklin D. Roosevelt that was meant to put unemployed men back to work on various projects and improvements to federal and state properties. In some cases, CCC workers even served as excavators on archaeological projects throughout the country.

At Myakka River State Park, many of the buildings constructed by CCC workers during the mid to late 1930s still exist on the property. An old wooden horse barn now serves as an interpretive center for the park, and cabins constructed of palmetto logs are still available for the public to rent out. As you can see in the pictures below the rustic look of these buildings really compliments and enhances the beauty of the natural environment at the park.

CCC label on the old Myakka River horse barn


Although slightly flooded when I visited, palmetto log cabins built by the CCC are still in use at the park today.

Myakka CCC cabin

Many of Florida’s State Parks have their origin in the CCC, so next time you are at Myakka River, Highlands Hammock, Hillsborough River, Gold Head Branch, O’Leno, Torreya, Florida Caverns, or Ft. Clinch State Parks make sure to keep an eye out for the handiwork of the CCC.

Detailed view of Myakka River CCC cabin

I really loved the rustic details of these cabins, wish I could stay in one!

Exterior palm log walls of the cabins are chinked with asphalt and sawdust mortar

Myakka CCC restroom

Even the bathrooms are historic at this park!

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Summer 2012 Newsletter

Check out the newest edition of our newsletter at the link below and see all the exciting things we have been up to at the FPAN West Central office!



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Being the Voice of Reason, Not Just the Voice of Opposition by Rae Harper

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. – Buddha

My Raise-the-Roof Buddha

I have this quote hanging close to my door at home so it is the last thing I see as I head off into the world. It reminds me that to have a positive influence, I need to have positive intentions. Not that I don’t slip into negative thoughts or emotions – I am human – but when I am there, I am more conscious I need to get back on a positive track. So I breathe and look for the positive to change focus.

There is always a positive.

Being a public archaeologist can be a real easy gig. I cannot count the times someone has come up to me and shared that they too wanted to be an archaeologist when they grew up. Its exciting work – searching for clues of past civilizations and finding items lost in the sands of time.  People get genuinely interested in archaeological finds and archaeologists are genuinely excited to share their methods and artifacts with the public.

Passion is contagious.

However, passion without restraint can be destructive. Although we wish to share as much as possible with the public, they have to understand that an artifact taken out of the ground without proper excavation techniques or procedure becomes nothing more than an object. One object cannot represent a person or activity or time period. It is when many objects are found together, or in context, that the picture of the past comes to life.

Several media outlets are focusing on the acquisition of objects. Such portrayals not only give the public a false sense of archaeology, they may encourage others to do the same – leading to the devastation of archaeological sites and information.

The voice of reason rises above the noise of opposition.

Instead of just getting angry, let’s find the positive. We have the opportunity to turn this dialogue into a teachable moment.

Why can’t just anyone dig up objects? What is the difference between what they are doing on TV and what archaeologists do in the field and lab?

Only by answering these questions can we expect the public to know the difference and hopefully make the decision to support archaeology.  As you share these stories and petitions, please remember to take your teachable moment and let people know why they should be as concerned as you are. Make your passion for conservation contagious!

With our positive thoughts and actions, we change the world.

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February 2012 Newsletter

Please follow the link below to read our latest newsletter. There is information about Florida Archaeology Month 2012, Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT), and the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings.

February 2012 Newsletter

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Lab Time with Becky


By: Becky O’Sullivan


Hey guys and gals. As you might know, last spring and summer we did a little fieldwork out at the Ybor City Museum State Park. And where there is fieldwork there is….lab work! I’ve been going through the artifacts we found during our survey (cleaning, sorting, and cataloging) and in the process I’ve run across a few items that might be of some interest. So, check them out below and give me your guesses on what these things might be! (That means you too, all you lurkers out there.)

View of the outer surface of Artifact 1


View of the inside of Artifact 1

Artifact 1 was found about 20-30 cm below the surface in Shovel Test 3, near some of the casitas within the State Park (remember, excavating on State property is against the law without the proper permitting and expertise!) This artifact is made of a plastic-like material and is just a fragment of what probably would have been a round item. On what would have been the inside are some metal pieces and wire, while the outside is decorated with an acorn and oak leaves. Any thoughts on what it might be? Click the link below to answer the poll question…

What do you think Artifact 1 is?


The embossed writing on this bottle was in Spanish!

Artifact 2 was also found in Shovel Test 3 near the casitas, but was slightly higher at only 0-10 cm below the surface. This piece of clear glass is embossed with some words, not uncommon for historic bottles, but these words are in Spanish. We were in Ybor City after all… It reads “JARAB[E]…. PARA LA…..” but there are obviously some words missing. Put your High School Spanish lessons to work, what might this bottle have once contained?

What do you think Artifact 2 contained?


Front view of Artifact 3

Back view of Artifact 3.

This last item was also found at the top of Shovel Test 3, but it’s a bit of a mystery. Maybe you can help me figure it out? This artifact is made of cast metal, and it’s super heavy so probably lead. The metal is painted grey but I can also see some small areas where black paint was used to add details. It obviously broke off a larger item, but what might it have been?

So, what do you think it is?

Let me know your thoughts, and next week I’ll reveal the answers!




Artifact 1 is a bakelite electrical plug from the early 20th century, it was that acorn and oak leaf motif that gave it away. Thanks Google! Here’s a pic of a modern reproduction and here’s a pic of one of these plugs attached to a light fixture of the day.


Artifact 2 most likely came from a cough syrup bottle and would have read “JARABE DE LEONARDI PARA LA TOS CREOSOTADO LEONARDI’S COUGH SYRUP CREOSOTED TAMPA, FLA“. There was also an english version of this bottle, but it’s cool that we would find the spanish version in Ybor City!


Artifact 3 is a bit of a mystery, but my personal guess is that this might be from a cast metal toy. Maybe the leg of a horse? Can’t say for sure. We’ve found a few other toys during our excavations in Ybor, but that’s a subject for another blog!

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Why I love archaeology, as explained by The Little Mermaid


By Becky O’Sullivan

As a kid growing up in the early 90’s I of course had my favorite animated Disney movie: The Little Mermaid. I could recite the dialogue from the entire film almost verbatim and would often wish for long red hair and a fish tail as I swam around the neighborhood swimming pool. While I still wish I was a redhead, now I think I might understand why I loved the movie so much. Given the right education and training, Ariel (the “little mermaid” of the movie title) would be a killer archaeologist.

Ariel probably fits more in the antiquarian school of Archaeology, but I know she really wants to be a post-processualist.


Ariel loves to study and collect the things that human beings have discarded on the ocean’s floor. Although it doesn’t seem she is so interested in the items’ context, what is clear is that she is very interested in learning more about the people who created these strange (to her) objects. One of the things I love about archaeology is the detective work that goes into figuring out an archaeological site. While it might seem ridiculous to us for someone to misinterpret what a fork is used for, because archaeologists for the most part only have material items to go off when they are trying to understand a past group such misunderstandings are bound to happen.

Remember, taking artifacts from shipwrecks is against the law (and might get you eaten by a giant shark.)

But in the end Ariel isn’t singing about how cool her collection of arrow heads is, or how she just finished developing her own bottle chronology she is singing about her desire for understanding. Artifacts themselves are really just old garbage. Without understanding where they came from and who made them they are just a dusty old collection. The thing that would make Ariel a good archaeologist, and the thing I love most about archaeology, is the desire to learn more about the people behind the artifacts. The stuff that we find as archaeologists can be pretty neat, but ultimately I want to be where the people are!



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Archaeology at the Fort: SHA Day 4!

By: Becky O’Sullivan


So it’s the last day of SHA, it’s been a long conference but I heard a lot of great papers.

While I went to hear some fantastic papers in the morning, in the afternoon Barbara and I went to check out the SHA Public Archaeology Day at Fort McHenry.


Checkin’ out the tent at the SHA Public Archaeology Day.


It was nice to talk to some of the groups that are engaged in presenting archaeology to the public in the region, and a few even had out some artifacts and activities that they use in their outreach programming.


Learning about Archaeobotany by sorting and identifying different kinds of seeds.


After checking out the tent, Barbara and I headed over to some park ranger led interp (it was obvious he had NAI training because of how engaging his talk was!) One thing he had the visitors do was unfurl a replica of the “Star Spangled Banner” that had once famously flown over the fort. He talked about the importance of this material item to the people of Baltimore during the War of 1812, but also of that importance to people today in this country. Then he tied that in to the importance of artifacts to archaeologists, how we learn from material objects not just about past people but about ourselves.


Unfurling the flag in the shadow of where the “Star Spangled Banner” once flew over Fort McHenry.


All in all a great day, but very happy to be back in the warmth of Tampa!


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Archaeology at the Museum: Day 3 at SHA!

By: Becky O’Sullivan


On Friday I skipped out on listening to papers, although there were lots of interesting ones scheduled, to go into Washington D.C. and visit a few of the Smithsonian museums. Three exhibits in particular got my attention because of the way they showcased archaeology.

The Smithsonian set up a complete house in their "Within these Walls" exhibit, that's one big artifact!

The first exhibit was at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, titled “Within these Walls“. It consisted of an entire Georgian style house that had been moved into the museum, complete with interior furnishing that exemplified different eras of the house’s occupation. While they didn’t talk specifically about archaeology, the main message of the exhibit was that the material things that people choose to have around them say something not only about the person but also about the time they were living in. A great exhibit to practice thinking like an archaeologist!

The interpretive panel makes you think about the importance of material culture in learning about past people.

Next, I went over to the National Museum of the American Indian. On the day I visited Tsimshian carver David Boxley and his son were putting the finishing touches on a beautiful totem pole that had been commissioned for the museum. It was great to watch him work, but it was also great to talk with the artist and get the story behind the figures that decorated the pole. The rest of the exhibits were equally inspiring, especially because they tell the story of America’s native peoples through their own voices.

The figures that make up the totem pole tell a story about the importance of being kind to others.

Finally, I swung over to the National Museum of Natural History to see one exhibit in particular about the archaeology of Jamestown. I really liked this one in particular because they showed the archaeological process and presented the bones along with the artifacts that were found in the burial.

Letting museum visitors piece together the mystery of a burial in Jamestown based on artifacts and forensic anthropology.

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Presenting Archaeology: Day 2 at SHA!

By: Becky O’Sullivan


Well, it’s been a long day of listening to papers but now it’s time to sit back and relax.

FPAN West Central Director Jeff Moates talking about HADS and SSEAS, he did a great job!

Today Jeff and I presented our respective papers in a symposium on involving the public with archaeological projects titled “Toward an Archaeological Agora Revisited: Using Collaborative Approaches in Facilitating Public Participation and Creation of Archaeological Knowledge and Understanding” (fancy I know.) Jeff talked about new trainings for divers in Florida that not only teach them to understand and preserve underwater archaeological sites, but also empower them to take an active role in protecting them. My paper was on the Driftwood project that we completed two summers ago in St. Pete. I focused on all the ways we had tried to engage the Driftwood neighbors and included their local knowledge and memories in our project. They seemed to go really well, and afterward everyone had a great discussion about the triumphs and “tragedies” of seeking out involvement from the public in archaeological projects.

Presenting at a professional conference can be nerve-wracking, I’m naturally pretty adverse to getting up to talk in front of large groups, but the benefits of sharing your work with others and in turn learning from their work far outweigh those drawbacks. A good presentation can make you re-think even your most basic assumptions about what archaeology is and should be and make you a stronger researcher as a result!

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Archaeology in Baltimore: Day 1 at SHA!

By: Becky O’Sullivan

A illustration of Baltimore around the time of the Civil War, the wonderful historic character of the city makes for a perfect venue for SHA.

Well, after a short plane ride I’m here in Baltimore for the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference! It might be a bit too cold here for a Florida gal like myself, but I’m already loving the historic vibe of Baltimore.

Tonight is the opening night of the conference, so no papers yet, but FPAN North Central Outreach Coordinator Barbara Hines and I took the opportunity today to do some exploring around the neighborhood.

One little gem we stumbled upon is the Baltimore Civil War Museum. It’s located less than a block from the conference hotel….and admission is free, so you know I’m all over it! Coming from the deep South of Florida it’s really hard for me to think of Maryland as a southern state. To me, if I wouldn’t want to eat BBQ in your state then you are not part of the South (they are famous for crab here for goodness sake!) But looking around the museum gave me a different perspective on the state of Maryland, and what it must have been like for the residents of Baltimore during the Civil War living in a state that was straddling the North/South divide.

Checking out a cool recreation of the Pratt Street Riot, I'm all for a well done diorama.

There are several really interesting exhibits about the conflicts that occurred in Baltimore during the Civil War, as well as the impact of slavery and the war on the African American community (did you know the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to Maryland?) They even have an exhibit on the archaeology of an early train depot that used to stand in the city, complete with excavated section of rail!

Yankee propaganda showing their view of a typical Baltimore resident during the Civil War.

If you’re at SHA make sure to check it out!

Outside view of the Baltimore Civil War Museum

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