Florida

Diving into the Past: Public Archaeology and SCUBA Stewardship

This summer, the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the University of West Florida have been hosting archaeologist-guided public dives on the 16th-century Spanish Emanuel Shipwreck II to help educate local SCUBA divers and promote submerged site protection. These tours have been a wild success and have helped encourage new levels of community appreciation for Florida’s many historical shipwreck sites!

To see all of our wonderful “Archaeologyin3” videos, visit our YouTube page. To learn more about the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the many outreach resources we’ve made available to other archaeologists and educators, visit our website!

3 Public Archaeologists Go To Summer Camp

FPAN

FPAN

Working in Public Archaeology has to be pretty close to the greatest job ever.  In short, you get to do something you love and then spend a lot of time talking about the thing you love to people who willfully come to see you.  Talking about archaeology, that thing that puts your family to sleep when they accidentally ask about it at get-togethers, is effectively your bread and butter.  I work for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, an organization whose mission is, “To promote and facilitate the stewardship, public appreciation, and value of Florida’s archaeological heritage through regional centers, partnerships, and community engagement.”  Everyone in the Network has worked as an archaeologist of some kind: historic archaeologists who focus on everything from the Civil War to the era of European contact; underwater archaeologists who examine historic fishing practices; prehistoric archaeologists who look at Florida’s First Peoples; we even have a paleoethnobotanist.  And that’s just to name a few.  The benefit to our community is that we take this network of knowledge and apply it to public education about archaeology, cultural resources and how the public can become engaged as good stewards of these non-renewable and invaluable resources.

Entrance to ONP

Entrance to ONP

This summer we have been all over the state.  With kids out of the classroom it’s time for us to engage them in the libraries, summer camps and at special events.  On this Day of Archaeology we found ourselves talking to a group of middle school aged summer campers at a local preserve in the center of Florida.  The Oakland Nature Preserve has been conducting environmental education for all ages for several years and for much of that time they have also focused on cultural resources education.  Each year they hold summer camps for kids in the community and it’s here that we were invited again this year to talk to the campers.

Often, education about local or state cultural history takes a back seat in schools as the focus shifts to major national tests that leave little room for these subjects.  Some kids may only ever encounter Florida’s history in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.  We try to build on this classroom education by bringing archaeology and the work that archaeologists do to life.  In Florida we find that environmental and cultural education can readily go hand in hand.  Florida is a state that is undergoing serious environmental issues and, as archaeologists have discovered, this is not the first time that this has occurred.  Sea-level rise, habitat change, invasive species, and ecological shifts have been occurring since humans arrived to the peninsula during the Pleistocene.  So, on the Day of Archaeology, we focused on some of those themes.

We began the day by dispelling the myths of archaeology; no dinosaurs, no treasure (except information), and no supernatural thrills.  It’s always a little weird to see how much media has created a veneer of mystery for our profession.  However, once folks realize the scientific approach and purpose of the discipline we find that they have an even better appreciation for what it is that we do.  After explaining that none of us has ever fought a Nazi, we got the kids to start thinking like archaeologists.  What is an artifact?  Why do archaeologists look for artifacts?  What is culture?  We take them through a mental excavation of their room, having them pretend to excavate their room with artifacts in situ, what would the archaeologist discover about the culture of the person who used that room?

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We discussed a cultural history of prehistoric Florida and talked about how environmental changes impact cultures.

 

Next, we broke up into groups and analyzed artifact assemblages.  Each assemblage represented a different time period in our state’s history.  The campers had to discern as much information as possible from their artifacts and, most importantly, share their findings with the community.

Summer campers begin their path to becoming archaeologists.

Summer campers begin their path to becoming archaeologists.

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, it was time to get outside and enjoy some of the great Florida summer.  Part of our discussion focused on prehistoric tools and resource procurement.  We ended the day by learning to hunt with an atlatl in the big open field in front of the preserve.

Atlatls at the ready!

Atlatls at the ready!

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By the end of the day campers had a better understanding of what cultural resources are and why they need to be preserved.  It always feels great to have even a brief moment to impact the next generation that will continue to care for these important pieces of our shared past.

Text and Pictures: Kevin Gidusko

 

Preserving Sacred Spaces: Community Clean-Up at Oaklynn Cemetery

Day of Archaeology 2013 fell on a special day for me. As an Outreach Assistant for the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Regional Center (FPAN-NERC), I’ve worked with a volunteer cemetery group throughout the summer and today served as another organized cemetery clean-up. Oaklynn, an African American cemetery, rests in Edgewater, Florida. Like many cemeteries throughout the nation, Oaklynn (and those who have dedicated themselves to this project) face significant obstacles resulting from disuse as well as the neglect that often follows. Documents show that the cemetery was in use between the 1920s through the 1970s as an African American site.

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Evidence of vast andalism is pervasive at Oaklynn Cemetery

Unfortunately, the story of the cemetery and those resting within its boundaries is largely incomplete. Fortunately, the cemetery group dedicates much of their time to research which continually renews their passion and interest in this project. Could there be something to make this project better? YES! Descendants of those buried in Oaklynn work with people not associated with the cemetery in any manner. The volunteer cadre spans across generations, races, affiliations to the cemetery, sexes, et cetera; it represents a true community project and a moving shared experience. (Hence the reason I’m delighted and honored to share a bit of our day with you).

Other than clearing debris, what can an archaeologist do in a cemetery? I’m not a bioarchaeologist, so I’m definitely not excavating burials! My role on site is to help guide the volunteers as they clear the site. I recommend where they work, ways to interact with the site (I think of it as cemetery etiquette), answer questions about removing debris (whether natural or man-made), take notes about our activities and new features discovered in the cemetery, and assist in any manner the group might need me. Similar to other archaeological sites, cemeteries demand meticulous care and thoughtful consideration.

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Trudi and Linda diligently clearing a small part of the 6 acre cemetery

Cemeteries serve as outdoor museums, monuments to the past. Although we can enjoy them in the present, its good to remember that such places represent sacred spaces in which real people of the past rest. Embracing these ideas helps to shape how archaeologists interact with a site. At Oaklynn, I carefully consider the impact an action might have on the cemetery (e.g. What might happen if we cut this tree down? What might happen if we remove this large root from the ground?) and continuously evaluate the context of objects and materials found during the cleaning (e.g. Should we dispose of these bricks or are they related to a surrounding burial? Is this spittoon related to a burial?).

Today I was an archaeologist. Today I was a community project participant. Today I was a proud observer of the past and present blending. Today I had appreciated hard work, camaraderie, and a bit of fun!

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Formula for a good start to cemetery clean-ups: ice cold water and a smooth wheelbarrow ride

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A wonderful group of volunteers, including descendants, community members, and FPANners


Excavating an Archaeologist’s Desk

In honor of the Day of Archaeology, in which we endeavor to display the “wide variety of work our profession undertakes day-to-day across the globe” (Day of Archaeology 2012 [archaeologists cite things]), I’m throwing this together as an archaeologist who embraces three different roles within the profession, has worked across 10 states and 3 foreign countries (Mexico, Cuba, and the British Virgin Islands), and still hasn’t finished graduate school (much to the chagrin of many, including myself).
To convey this complex existence, I’m choosing an archaeological metaphor and excavating my desk. My workspace is, to no surprise, a reflection of the many things that occupy my time, pique my interest, and, I hope, lead to some insight into the pasts of the common people of history, a group that counts my ancestors, German and Welsh immigrants, among its numbers. I have imposed a classification system on the contents of my desk, by which I will unpack the contents and, in turn, my life as an archaeologist working in the SAU Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
Books
Indiana Jones once told a student (while running from the KGB) “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you gotta get out of the library.” While I fully endorse this sentiment, you must realize that a lot of archaeological research involves bookwork. We read a lot about the work of our forebears as a way to help orient our own research, building on and modifying that which came before, and to avoid scientific dead-ends. The books on my desk include those oriented towards:
Dissertation: I am a doctoral candidate at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, the cradle of historical archaeology in the United States. I am trying to knock out a dissertation that will be the final step in my formalized education. This requires both books on epistemological issues relevant to the way I do research, such as Tim Murray’s Time and Archaeology or Anders Andrén’s Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. Combining the clarity of thinking derived from such sources with the results of fieldwork are then combined with the insight derived from other books, such as D.W. Meinig’s The Shaping of America and Kenneth Lewis’s The American Frontier to produce a document that will add to the historiography of southwest Arkansas and the American West… and earn me a diploma (please please please).
Teaching: I just finished teaching two classes at Southern Arkansas University, one a survey of world archaeology and the other a criminal justice research methods class. The detritus from preparing the lectures, including Catherine Hakim’s Research Design and Henn et al’s A Critical Introduction to Social Research still haven’t left my desk. They’re actually checked out from the University of Arkansas (5 hours away), so the next time I get called up to the coordinating office in Fayetteville, I’ll drop them off.
Methods: We demonstrate our competence as archaeologists in the field, showing each other and the cosmos that we can dig properly (carefully and fast), map precisely, and document our findings appropriately. I’ve got Hester et al’s Field Methods in Archaeology on my book rack for reference, and the bookshelves surrounding my desk are full of books on aerial remote sensing and LiDAR research.
Conference preparation:  One of the high points of any archaeologist’s professional year is a conference. For me, that usually means the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings, though in my current position the Arkansas Archeological Society conference is important as well. I’d like to go to the Fields of Conflict conference this year, but Budapest is a bit out of the range of my wallet (my truck needs work…). This week, I’ve been pulling together a session for the SHA with colleagues and classmates at William & Mary, and I’ve been using the abstract books from past conferences and De Cunzo and Jameson’s Unlocking the Past to write abstracts and encourage the session to take form.
Fieldwork Papers
As mentioned above, proper note taking is an integral part of archaeology. Documentation of context is key. It separates us from looters, provides a basis for scientific work, and is a backstop for ideas and information that might otherwise get missed. If ideas were baseballs, an archaeological dig is like being a catcher behind home plate, facing a battalion of pitching machines. Even if you’re Johnny Bench, you can only hold so many of those baseballs at once. Paperwork is like having a canvas bag to put those ideaballs (I’m liking this metaphor less and less) in so you don’t lose them. On my desk may be found
–        A green 3-ring binder from Area B of the 2012 Arkansas Archeological Society Training Dig, directed by my boss/friend/mentor Jamie Brandon. See his post here on the dig itself. The stack of papers inside is probably 2 inches thick. All of that came from two weeks in the field. It’s a lot of stuff to sift through, but every sweat-stained word is archaeological gold.
–        Field books. I see three, though there may be more buried in there somewhere. These nifty little books, usually with yellow covers, have waxed pages, making them resilient in rainy or sweaty conditions, and are the place where we jot our notes about the project we’re working on. My field book from the Society Dig contains the shot log for our surveyor’s total station, so we have a redundant copy of all that information. I also have my field book for site visits done on behalf of the Survey. The notes I take in the field can then be transposed into either a site form, which I submit by way of report to the Survey, or included in subsequent publications on that research. Writing notes, particularly under hot or busy conditions, is one of the disciplines that archaeologists must learn. As with so many other things, when it comes to notes, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. In some positions, such as federal jobs, field books are part of the paperwork associated with a project and subject to subpoena and other legal strictures, so don’t draw too many cartoons about gophers in them.
Technology
The final big section of research-related equipment can be classed as technology.  Technological advancements in computing, remote sensing (Johnson 2005), data sharing (Kansa 2012), and numerous other fronts in the past twenty years is revolutionizing archaeology. The very fact of this blog post, the internet, and personal computing is evidence of this. Hallmarks of this advancement are, of course, found on my desk.
–        Computer: Shocking, I know. Nowadays, computers are everywhere and used in most pursuits, but mine is special, consarnit! First, it’s a laptop on a dock, which is necessary given the high mobility of many archaeologists. Since you can’t bring sites to you, we have to go to the sites, often for extended periods of time. We just finished two weeks at Historic Washington State Park, and in the last year, I’ve spent weeks at Toltec Mounds, Wallace’s Ferry, and Prairie Grove, all in Arkansas, as well as making numerous trips to the Coordinating Office in Fayetteville. My Army job was just like that, as was my time with the NPS, just that in the federal gigs, the projects are usually spread over greater areas. Laptops are essential in taking our computing power along with. Crucial to that computing power is the software held on the machine, particularly, in my case…
–        Geographic information system (GIS) software. I do a lot of work with spatial documentation and analysis, so I need mapping software. Being able to document the location of sites and areas within sites is an important part of the documentation process.
–          Scanner: I scan lots of things, primarily to make back-ups (hard to lose all copies of a document) and to share them with colleagues. Information sharing is a big part of the research process, as those who share your interests and expertise are not likely under the same roof as you. This is partly why conferences are so important. Information exchange stimulates, as Poirot liked to call them, “the little grey cells” and advance the discipline. Scanners help make that possible.
–        Telephone: Again, rather mundane, but an important part of my job. The Arkansas Archeological Survey does a lot of public outreach work for people of all walks of life from across the state. My station covers 11 counties in southwest Arkansas, and I get calls to come out and look at sites or assist colleagues at museums and parks in the area with public outreach work (come to the Red River Heritage Symposium at Historic Washington State Park on the 28th of July). Much of that begins with a phone call.
Other/Miscellaneous
As this all should indicate, I spend a LOT of time working, well more than 40 hours a week. As a result, I spend a lot of time in the office or in the field, and my desk contents reflect that.
–        Coffee mug and empty Coke/Diet Coke cans: I am a caffeine addict, plain and simple. I often get little more than 5 hours of sleep a night, and with as stacked of a to-do list as I have, it’s rather unavoidable. I can’t keep up with a friend, who runs on five cappuccinos a day, but there are times when I wonder how awesome that feels. I’m guessing “pretty.”
–        Mulerider Baseball cup: Our host institution and my erstwhile employer, Southern Arkansas University has a great baseball team, and the Muleriders just won the GAC Championship… again. Great job, guys! One of the ways I avoid having the pressures of all of these jobs and responsibilities burn me out is by having a mental outlet. For me, that’s baseball and hockey. We don’t get much of the latter down here. However, the baseball stadium is right across the parking lot from the office (really, I can see it from my desk), and those evening games are a nice break from the grind.
–        Yellow duct tape: Why yellow, you might ask? Because every station in the Survey system was allocated a color to mark their equipment with so that we could tell whose stuff is whose when we collaborate on projects. Our station’s color is yellow, Henderson State’s is orange, Toltec’s is blue, etc. etc. etc. Marking things as ours helps avoid confusion and trowel fights.
–        Field hat: I saved this for last because it’s one of my favorite things. For archaeologists, the attachments we form with crucial bits of equipment can be very strong. Many people still have their first trowels, and carefully guard them (think of a mitt for a baseball player). They’re things, but they’re things intimately tied up in the art of our discipline, and that makes them special. For me, there are three things that fall into this category. My trowel is the first, and I keep it distinct from all other trowels by wrapping the handle in hockey stick tape. The second is my Brunton pocket transit (think a compass on steroids with neon flames shooting down its hood), which is not only a very useful bit of equipment, it was also my father’s when he was doing his dissertation, and that carries great meaning to me. Finally, there is my field hat, a mid-crown cattleman with a 4” brim from Sunbody Hats in Houston, Texas. No matter how hot it gets, it’s always a little cooler under this thing, and it was a wedding gift from Jimmy Pryor, the owner of Sunbody and a childhood friend. It’s a link to home and my wife all at once, and it cheers me up when I’ve been out on a project for a couple of weeks and starting to get a little barn sour.
Now, having looked at these piles for a few hours while writing this, it may be time to do some cleaning…
References
Andrén, Anders
1997     Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. New York: Plenum Press
Day of Archaeology
2012    About the Project. Electronic resource (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/about-the-project/, accessed 29 June 2012).
De Cunzo, Lu Ann and John H. Jameson, Jr.
2005     Unlocking the Past: Celebrating Historical Archaeology in North America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Hakim, Catherine
2000     Research Design: Successful Designs for Social and Economic Research. New York: Routledge.
Henn, Matt, Mark Weinstein, and Nick Foard
2006     A Critical Introduction to Social Research. Los Angeles: Sage.
Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer, and Kenneth L. Feder
2009     Field Methods in Archaeology. 7th edition. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Lewis, Kenneth
1984     The American Frontier: An Archaeological Study of Settlement Pattern and Process. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Meinig, D.W.
1988     The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Murray, Tim, editor
1999     Time and Archaeology. New York: Routledge.

A Day of Archaeology at Mission Escambe

Today was pretty much a typical day of fieldwork at Mission San Joseph de Escambe in Molino, Florida.  We are in our fourth field season out at the mission site, which between 1741 and 1761 was home to a small community of Apalachee Indians and a Franciscan friar, along with a small Spanish infantry garrison of 4 men for a decade, and a larger 16-man Spanish cavalry garrison for just over a year. Our crew, consisting of ten students and one professor, gathered as usual at 7:30 a.m. on site to begin work.  The photo essay below will illustrate some of our normal daily activities as we gradually gather more and more information about the mission and its residents during the colonial era.

As shown below, upon arrival at the site, our first task is to unstitch our excavation units from the plastic sheeting covering them, which is carefully sealed with rows of sandbags every afternoon before we go home in order to avoid water damage in case of Florida’s common afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

At the same time, the total station is set up and resectioned for use during the day, fixing the instrument at a known point with respect to our established site grid, and allowing us to take vertical and horizontal measurements in all our active excavation units throughout the day’s work.  Sometimes this must be performed again during the day, especially after lunch when heat and simple gravity may have altered the tilt of the total station.  The photo below shows graduate supervisor Michelle Pigott working with her sister Eileen, volunteering this week at the site.

Before beginning any new work, each unit must be carefully cleaned of all loose dirt that may have fallen in from the walls or ground surface during the stitching operation, and then bags and tags must be labeled for each separate provenience to be excavated, and paperwork filled out before any new dirt can be excavated.  Tools are unpacked and field notebooks updated to record daily site conditions, crew members present, and the objectives of the ongoing work.

Once everything has been properly staged for the day, excavation can begin in each unit, sometimes using flat shovels designed to slice off thin layers of sediment across each unit and provenience, hoping to see soil stains or in situ artifacts before proceeding any deeper.  In the photo below, graduate supervisor Katie Brewer uses a flat shovel to excavate the uppermost deposits in a unit designed to track the course of a stockade wall constructed in 1760 at the site.

More careful excavation requires the use of a trowel in order to exercise greater control over depth and speed of excavation.  The Marshalltown 5-inch pointing trowel is the instrument of choice.  Below, site supervisor Danielle Dadiego excavates a portion of the stockade trench already exposed in her unit.

Below, undergraduate student Nick Simpson uses his trowel to remove loose dirt next to a profile excavated through a burned clay floor, possibly associated with the 1761 Creek Indian raid that destroyed the mission community.

Our next post will show more scenes from our day.

Spanish Mission Archaeology near Pensacola, Florida

Students photo-cleaning the floor of an excavation block showing criss-crossing wall trenches from mission structures rebuilt over the course of the mission’s 20-year occupation between 1741 and 1761.

In recognition of the 2012 Day of Archaeology, the University of West Florida terrestrial archaeological field school at Mission San Joseph de Escambe will be spending the day as we have been for just over five weeks now, heading out to our site in Molino, Florida to begin yet another day of fieldwork in this mid-18th-century Spanish mission. With ten students and a professor, our crew works between about 7:30 am and 3:30 pm each day, confronting heat, humidity, and mosquitoes while peeling back the layers of time at this pristine mission site along the Escambia River. We will be taking lots of pictures today to post later on, but in the meantime, our project blog can be found at the following link, with many daily posts describing our activities and finds:

http://pensacolacolonialfrontiers.blogspot.com/

Please check back for an update on our day today.

A Week in the Life of a FLO (And Her Helpers)

A week in the life of a FLO – Wendy Scott, Leicestershire and Rutland FLO and Rebecca Czechowicz, FLA.

Monday

I added records to the database from an elderly long-term finder. We visited him at home last week and recorded objects found many years ago, before the scheme started here. We obtained accurate locations using maps and had a chat about his best find, a small but significant Viking coin hoard –The Thurcaston Hoard.

Tuesday

More inputting  (it never stops!).  In the run up to the Festival of Archaeology, myself and my manager have a meeting with our press office to plan our press releases. This year we have 73 festival events to promote, including a launch event at Kirby Muxloe Castle with EH (14th July), an event to promote a new Iron age coin hoard going into Harborough museum with coin striking activities (17th July).

We are also plugging two Leicestershire objects being in the final 10 of Britain’s Secret Treasures, an ITV programme highlighting the 50 most important finds made by the public (16th-22nd July).

We have help from a volunteer today. James Kirton is helping us to get all the amazing Bosworth Roman objects onto the database.  Amongst hundreds of brooches, we have 99 horse and rider brooches! Along with coins and other objects; all found as part of the Bosworth battlefield survey.

Wednesday

We have an appointment at Oakham Museum to meet a finder to record her many objects. Rebecca measures and weighs whilst I photograph and identify all the objects. Handily this co-incides with an invitation to visit Time Team filming at Oakham castle. We met up with Danni, FLO for Devon who works for Time Team, and local detectorist Dr Phil Harding who was detecting the spoil for them, to see what they’d found. A local journalist asked the other Dr Phil Harding if he actually did the digging! He was posing for a photo with a spade at the time,  so he replied “What do you think I do with this?”

Our Dr Phil detects the spoil whilst the other one supervises his trench.

Thursday

Downloading and editing photos and researching objects from our recording yesterday, ready to add them to the database.  I have spoken to the finder of the IA hoard. We are arranging a photo opportunity for the press next week, prior to the event and I needed a quote for the press release. I also spoke to colleagues about one of our museums purchasing a treasure case, a medieval finger ring, for their collection. In the afternoon we were all distracted from work by a violent thunderstorm, with flash flooding and hail the size of golfballs!

Friday

Day of Archaeology! Today I am getting on with recording the objects we identified yesterday. I am also preparing leaflets and flyers for the Festival. Before I leave I will be gathering material for a weekend event. Sunday is the annual open day at Burrough Hill fort, Leicestershire’s best Iron Age fort. The University of Leicester are conducting a five year research project there.  We will have the latest finds along with other Iron Age and Roman objects from the area found by detecting and field-walking. We have Iron age Warriors, coin making and I will be on hand to record anything that people bring along.

With the exception of Time Team being in my area, this is a pretty average summer week. There are always more objects to record and input, events to organise and promote and people to see. . . . .

 

Human Remain Detection Dogs Help to Identify Unmarked Graves in an African American Cemetery

Since its creation, the  Florida Public Archaeology Network’s North Central Region office, located in Tallahassee, has worked hard to assist local organizations that are working on various preservation projects in the region. The most recent of which involves a historic African American cemetery located in Tallahassee, Florida. The Munree Cemetery, as it is known, was established in the late 1800s to 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 on having the cemetery properly documented. 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. After all, cemeteries are a non-renewable resource – once they are gone, they are gone for ever! And when a cemetery is abandoned and disappears over time, the priceless information that cemetery provides to archaeologists and historians is lost forever as well. Burials are not only a reflection of those buried there, but also of the community and the cultural practices of those that were present at the internment of those buried.

On June 29th and June 30th  a team of archaeologists from both organizations and volunteers from the Munree Cemetery Foundation, Inc. will take two days to document the cemetery and conduct some much needed maintenance. The Southeast Archaeological Center is generously providing use of their GPR equipment to assist with this effort. On June 30th the volunteers and local citizens will have the opportunity to get some hands on experience using the GPR. The group will also take this opportunity to learn how to safely and properly clean cemetery monuments using D-2 Biological Solution and learn how to document sites using the Florida Master Site File cemetery form. In addition to using these more common methods of cemetery documentation, a unique opportunity has been presented. On June 29th, which happens to be the 2012 Day of Archaeology, we will utilize specially trained Human Remains Detection (HRD) canines to help identify unmarked burials. After several months of planning, three dog handlers and their specially trained dogs will be assisting in identifying the boundaries of this cemetery and will also help to identify the locations of unmarked graves. This information will be compared with the results of the GPR survey. The public is  invited out to the cemetery while the dogs and archaeologists are conducting their survey. Of course, we all will take time to answer questions and educate visitors about the importance of protecting historic cemeteries.

Tomorrow we will post another blog about this project! We will also be live tweeting, look for the hash tags #Munree and #Dayofarch!

 

Spreading the word about archaeology in Tampa Bay: Creating an e-newsletter

As an Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network (http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org), most of my duties revolve around educating the public about Florida’s cultural resources. Today I am working on the latest installment of our e-newsletter.

For those of you not familiar with an e-newsletter, it is a newsletter that is written to be shared on electronic formats. The template is very flexible in regards to amount of content and links can be added to the document for readers to delve further into subjects if they are so inclined. This works very nicely with our other social media platforms, and the link to our e-newsletter is shared on our Facebook page.

In our e-newsletter, we have articles that share what the center has been doing, is doing, and has planned to do. Articles this quarter include a look at this fiscal year’s Annual Work Plan (started July 1st), information on teacher training programs, some results from a community archaeology project, and the launch of the ARCHAEO CART.

If you are interested in reading our e-newsletter, here’s the link http://flpublicarchaeology.org/uploads/wcrc/Newsletter%200711.pdf.

Enjoy,

Rae Harper, Outreach Coordinator for FPAN’s West Central Regional Center at USF

Adventures with the Maya

On Fridays, my husband and I are usually writing or researching or doing school visits, but this week we were at home working on our website. We co-write and illustrate a Maya-themed adventure series for 9-14 year-olds called The Jaguar Stones. Eight years ago, we gave up our jobs in a London advertising agency to become writers in rural Vermont. At that point, I knew nothing about the Maya and never dreamed that one day my life would revolve around them – to the extent that we’ve now explored nearly forty sites in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, got to know many leading Mayanists, presented at the AIA Archaeology Fair, and visited countless schools around the United States.

Our books – note the Bulgarian edition that just arrived!

It all started when we decided to write a children’s book set in the jungles of Central America. My husband Jon had grown up there and the book grew out of his memories of a wild childhood. So at first, the Maya pyramids were just a cool background for our story. But the more we researched the Maya, the more we realized that truth was more fascinating than fiction.  It soon became apparent that most textbooks were out-of-date and did not reflect the latest archaeological findings. Since then we’ve made it our mission to bridge that gap.

Everything we write is checked by Harvard professor, archaeologist and epigrapher, Dr Marc Zender, who keeps us up-to-date with the latest thinking. For example, one of our main characters was a Maya king nicknamed Lord Six Rabbit, a name we loved. Six Rabbit was supposed to be his birthday in the Maya calendar, but Dr Zender advised us that the Rabbit interpretation of that day glyph is now seen as Aztec. (The Maya reading now being star, as in Venus the morning star.) Given the amount of misinformation that’s already out there about the Maya, we wanted our books to be as accurate as possible. So, with a sigh, we changed our king’s nickname (and his birthday) to Six Dog.

When we visit schools, we often wear pith helmets in a tribute to one of my personal heroes, Sylvanus Griswold Morley – the dashing, daredevil director of the Chichen Itza project and WW1 secret agent. (I even gave the hero of the Jaguar Stones the middle name of Sylvanus.) Or sometimes we wear leather hats like the most famous archaeologist of them all, Indiana Jones. But one of our greatest pleasures is meeting and talking to real life Mayanists. We’re trying to film as many of them as possible for our website and today Jon was editing an interview with Dr Mark Van Stone, Professor of Art History at Southwestern, leading expert on 2012 and author of one of the best books on the subject. When it’s up, you can view the interview here, along with all the others. Link to archaeologist videos

In the clip, Dr Van Stone is talking about how the myth of the world ending in 2012 arose and why it’s complete nonsense. If kids google 2012, they find literally thousands of websites proclaiming doom and gloom and blaming it on the Maya. Many children are terrified, but it’s virtually impossible for them to access the truth. So when we visit schools, we try to empower the students to question everything they read on the Internet and give them a much broader understanding of the Maya world. We also try to convey something of an archaeologist’s life with a video mash-up of archaeologists and anthropologists talking about their hairiest experiences – usually involving skulls, snakes, scorpions, giant centipedes, cave spiders, killer bees and, in one case, a cockroach sandwich.

This student made dolls of four characters from our book. Ah Pukuh - Maya god of death, Lola - a modern Maya girl, Lady Coco - a howler monkey, Lord Six-Dog, Maya king.

This student wrote a hilarious tourist guide to Xibalba, the cold, wet Maya underworld, "a wonderful place full of suffering, misery and sorrow."

While Jon was editing videos, I was scanning in some amazing projects presented to us by students on our last book tour. I’m trying to create some new teacher pages to go along with our lesson plan CD. Sometimes we’ll walk into schools and find ourselves surrounded by Jaguar Stones projects on every wall. Other times, they’ll decorate the school like a jungle in our honor. One school even had a fog machine to generate an appropriately spooky atmosphere. Recently, a student wrote to us and said: “I used to want to be a doctor and save lives, but now I want to be an archaeologist.” Not sure how I feel about that one.

The Maya king holding court in our dining room.

If we get the website sorted before the end of the day, I’m also hoping that we’ll get around to packing up the Maya king costume that’s currently adorning a mannequin in our dining room. We originally made it to take to schools, and we set it up last week for some passing tourists, but now it’s scaring our dinner guests! I think it’s the taxidermy eyes in the jaguar mask that freak people out. Of course, no actual Maya king costumes survived the jungle and the Spanish conquest, but we based our design on wall paintings and sculptures. I spent many long hours on eBay bidding for the feathers and found a Las Vegas showgirl headdress that we deconstructed to form the base. The whole thing was made and put together by our niece who’d had experience making circus costumes at university. When we take the costume to schools, it’s usually modeled by a teacher, much to the students’ delight. We had it with us for school visits in Florida when we went to the Maya at the Playa conference last year. Predictably a late-night reveler insisted on trying it on and wore it back down to the bar where the eminent archaeologist speakers were still, ahem, gathered. We thought they might be horrified at the liberties we’d taken in our design but they all loved it and many of them posed for photos with it!

As soon as we’ve got the website updated and the costume packed away, it’s back to work revising, editing and illustrating The Jaguar Stones book three.”