September 2019 Speaker & Video

Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Fishing Practices: Insights from the Florida Gulf Coast

Giness J. Mahar, Phd, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida

archaeologist Ginessa Mahar standing at an excavation site

Ginessa Mahar completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research involves the investigation of coastal fishing communities that thrived along the shores of the North Florida Gulf Coast during the Woodland period. Mahar specifically focuses on the fluorescence of civic-ceremonial centers and how fishing technologies and practices developed to facilitate the large gatherings that brought distant communities together at these sacred sites.

Millions of people venture out into Florida’s coastal waters each year to take part in an ancient practice: fishing. Whether for commercial or recreational purposes fishing has deep roots in the region - thousands of years deep. That Florida's ancient inhabitants have benefited from these bountiful coastal waters for over ten thousand years is not surprising. Coastal archaeological sites throughout the state are loaded with the remains of fish familiar to local fishing enthusiasts: mullet, red drum, seatrout, sheepshead and more. But while archaeologists have been able to identify what fishes ancient fisherfolk were catching, they have not been able to discern how they were catching them. Until recently.

Ethnoarchaeology is the study of living human practices to understand past human actions and archaeological materials. Methods like this are often used when archaeological investigations leave researchers with more questions than answers. This presentation tacks back and forth through time—over two thousand years—on a quest to better understand the knowledge, practices, and technologies of Florida's ancient fisherfolk.

This program is sponsored by the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.

September Lecture: Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Fishing Practices: Insights from the Florida Gulf Coast

CGCAS/AWIARE Archaeology Lecture Series:Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Fishing Practices: Insights from the Florida Gulf CoastGinessa J. Mahar, Phd, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of FloridaMillions of people venture out into Florida’s coastal waters each year to take part in an ancient practice: fishing. Whether for commercial or recreational purposes fishing has deep roots in the region - thousands of years deep. That Florida's ancient inhabitants have benefited from these bountiful coastal waters for over ten thousand years is not surprising. Coastal archaeological sites throughout the state are loaded with the remains of fish familiar to local fishing enthusiasts: mullet, red drum, seatrout, sheepshead and more. But while archaeologists have been able to identify what fishes ancient fisherfolk were catching, they have not been able to discern how they were catching them. Until recently.Ethnoarchaeology is the study of living human practices to understand past human actions and archaeological materials. Methods like this are often used when archaeological investigations leave researchers with more questions than answers. This presentation tacks back and forth through time—over two thousand years—on a quest to better understand the knowledge, practices, and technologies of Florida's ancient fisherfolk.Ginessa Mahar completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research involves the investigation of coastal fishing communities that thrived along the shores of the North Florida Gulf Coast during the Woodland period. Mahar specifically focuses on the fluorescence of civic-ceremonial centers and how fishing technologies and practices developed to facilitate the large gatherings that brought distant communities together at these sacred sites.

Posted by Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society on Thursday, September 19, 2019

October 2019 Speaker

Adventures in Downtown Tampa Archaeology – The Lost Fort Brooke Cemetery and 100-Year-Old Love Letters to the Steamer Gopher

Eric Prendergast, M.A. RPA, Senior Staff Archaeologist, Cardno

 

Eric Prendergast, M.A., RPA. Senior Staff Archaeologist with Cardno. Eric is a transplant from the northeast who has only lived in Tampa since 2012, when he came to graduate school at USF. Since then he has worked in CRM and has recently served as Principal Investigator for major excavations in Downtown Tampa and for the Zion Cemetery Project, Robles Park Village.

Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 7 PM – 8 PM at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center

Almost everywhere you dig in southern downtown Tampa, near the waterfront, there are some remains from the infamous military installation that gave rise to the town of Tampa in the early 1800s. It has long been known that Fort Brooke had two cemeteries, but only one of them was ever found and excavated in the 1980s. Recent excavations across downtown Tampa have focused on the hunt for the second lost cemetery, among many other components of the fort. While testing the model designed to locate the cemetery, a sealed jar was discovered. It was crammed full of letters written in 1916. The letters were mailed to someone aboard C. B. Moore’s steamer Gopher, while the ship completed it’s 1916 expedition on the Mississippi River. What were they doing buried in a parking lot in Tampa?

This program is sponsored by the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.

December 2019 Speaker

Digital Storytelling and the Past, Present and Future of Egmont Key

Laura Harrison, PhD, Director, Access 3D Lab, University of South Florida

Dr. Laura K. Harrison is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and the Director of Access 3D Lab - a research lab that incubates and supports transformative research in the digital realm. She is an advocate of interdisciplinary approaches in archaeology, as well as open access and digitization in the sciences and humanities. Originally trained as a Bronze Age archaeologist, Dr. Harrison became interested in digital heritage during her research at a threatened site in Turkey. She has worked on archaeology and heritage projects in the United States, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy, France and Romania. She holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Anthropology from the University at Buffalo, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Art History from Ithaca College.

Thursday, December 19, 2019 at 7 PM – 8 PM at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center

Egmont Key is a diminutive island located at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Because of its strategic location, the island played a significant role in Florida’s history. It was a haven for runaway slaves and Union soldiers during the Civil War, a Seminole prison during the Indian Removal Period, an outpost for rum runners during Prohibition, and a defensive location during multiple 19th and 20th century conflicts. Today, these histories (and others) are largely invisible to the public, due to limited tourism and outreach infrastructure on the island. Coastal erosion also threatens to destroy and submerge several historic buildings.

This presentation details an ongoing interdisciplinary project aimed at making Egmont Key’s invisible stories visible to the public, and digitally preserving endangered heritage with 3D laser scanning. A team from the University of South Florida in collaboration with the Seminole Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the Egmont Key Alliance used archival research, community outreach, and virtualization technologies to create immersive 3D visualizations of heritage sites that tell the many stories of Egmont Key’s past, present and future

This program is sponsored by the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.

AWIARE Provides Grants for Weeden Island Research

RESEARCH

Grants Awarded

To further our mission of facilitating archaeological research and educational opportunities, AWIARE, in cooperation with the Levett Foundation, is offering up to $10,000 in grant funds annually to support student research on Weedon Island and the Weeden Island culture.

This year the awards committee chose three worthy recipients to receive funding. University of South Florida doctoral candidate Kendal Jackson will receive funding for 12 radiocarbon dates to assist in dating relict estuarine flooding surfaces to determine how human-environmental interaction shaped the establishment and development of late-Holocene (ca. 6500 BP-present) estuarine ecosystems in Tampa Bay. Kendal’s project is a fine example of using an interdisciplinary approach (archaeology and geo-sciences) to address a topic that also has relevance for today.

Trevor Duke, from the University of Florida, will receive funding that will contribute to his petrographic and instrumental analysis of clays used to make pottery found in mortuary and domestic contexts at Weeden Island and Safety Harbor culture sites in Tampa Bay. Determining whether mortuary pottery was made with different or more restricted varieties of clay, would support the hypothesis of ceramic specialists and will contribute to his doctoral research topic of assessing the role of mortuary pottery specialization in creating, maintaining, and transforming social connections in the region during these periods.

The final recipient, Heather Draskovitch, is an MA student at USF who is currently surveying and testing the Weeden Island site to better understand its chronological development. Her grant funds will help obtain radiocarbon dates to document this development. Congratulations to all three recipients for submitting clear and well-developed proposals that are consistent with the overall mission of AWIARE.

2019 FAS Annual Meeting

EVENTS

This Year's Conference

The 71st Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society

This year's meeting was co-hosted by the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s Central Region and the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society Crystal River. The Plantation on Crystal River served as the conference hotel and the location for organizational meetings and conference proceedings. Presentations and posters on a wide range of topics related to Florida archaeology were presented, as well as field trips to nearby sites, including Crystal River Archaeological State Park, and several archaeological sites along the river.

AWIARE and FAM 2019

EVENTS

Family Archaeology Event

Every March, Florida celebrates Florida Archaeology Month (FAM). FAS chapters, archaeologists, heritage professionals, museums, historical societies, and the public come together to promote and celebrate Florida’s archaeological sites and knowledge about the past through events, workshops, lectures, and archaeology days.

On March 2nd, the Weedon Island Preserve was full of archaeological activities to celebrate Florida Archaeology Month. Heather Draskovich and Kendal Jackson, who are University of South Florida graduate students, gave two short presentations focusing on current archaeological project at the Weeden Island site. Heather discussed her research to determine when and where Indigenous people were occupying the site and Kendal presented a summary of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) excavations undertaken since 2007.

Also, Rebecca O’Sullivan and Kassie Kemp from the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) created an inventive pop-up exhibit outlining the USFSP excavations with associated artifacts of shell tools, pottery, stone tools, and plant specimens, which gave attendees a new perspective of what has been uncovered at the site over the last 12 years. While people were enjoying the lectures and the pop-up exhibit, visitors also were able to walk over to the AWIARE Research Station where AWIARE’s Secretary Phyllis Kolianos exhibited artifacts from her recent archaeological excavations at two Weeden Island sites along the Anclote River.

The final act of the day was a short hike out to a portion of the Weeden Island site where USFSP and AWIARE have been excavating and Dr. John Arthur (AWIARE’s President) and Elizabeth Southard Razzouk (AWIARE’s Vice President) gave a lecture of the excavations and what they have been finding at the site. If you missed this year’s celebration of Archaeology Month at the Preserve, we will be doing something similar next year. So come on out and celebrate Archaeology Month next March!


FAM 2019: Shared Collections—Shared Stories

A major highlight during the month-long celebration is always the new FAM poster, developed every year to illustrate a unique theme within Florida Archaeology. For the 2019 poster and theme, the FAM team drew from the vast network of archaeological collections on display throughout the state.


 

Weedon Island Pottery Featured on WEDU

COLLECTIONS

Weedon Island Pottery

Two experts discuss pottery types and styles of the Weeden Island Culture

Early this year, a student from SPC contacted us about wanting to do a short video segment on the Weeden Island culture and the Weedon Island Preserve that would be produced by WEDU Public Media. The segment aired in July 2019, and features Dr. Robert Austin of Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) and Dr. Thomas Pluckhahn of USF Tampa, Department of Anthropology. Check it out!

AWIARE Lab In the News

RESEARCH & EDUCATION

Archaeologists and Volunteers at Weedon Island Lab are Piecing Together the Past

A nonprofit group takes old artifacts and makes sense of their stories.

Volunteer Bob Austin holds a red chert (silicified coral) projectile point from Hillsborough County that was used at the end of a spear or knife.

Volunteer Bob Austin holds a red chert (silicified coral) projectile point from Hillsborough County that was used at the end of a spear or knife. He says artifacts help tell how different cultures lived.

After more than four decades of archaeological work, Bob Austin can't handle the Florida summers like he used to.For years, he loved digging into the ground and excavating multi-thousand-year-old artifacts. But now, at age 68, Austin's body limits most of his work to the other aspect of archaeology, the one spent indoors studying the artifacts, compiling data and piecing together history to uncover what life looked like thousands of years ago.

That Austin is able to do this with ancient, mostly broken pieces of pottery or stone tools is what has drawn him to archaeological work for his entire professional life. He doesn't need to be outside digging, even if he'd prefer to be.

"One of the things I've always liked about it was that you have that fieldwork part, but you also could involve your brain and your intellect," Austin said. "What really keeps bringing me back is trying to figure stuff out."

One of 11 board members of the nonprofit Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE), Austin is an expert on lithic technology, or how ancient stone tools were made and used. He received his Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Florida in 1997.

Austin still consults for his former employers, private archaeology companies around Florida, while volunteering for AWIARE. The alliance gets most of its funding from individual donations and the occasional grant.

Many of the rooms at the AWIARE lab on Weedon Island are filled with old artifacts - spearheads, shards of pottery, animal bones. Some are laid out on a large table, a collection of items donated over the years to AWIARE and the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center.

Austin and the lab's other volunteers are organizing the artifacts so they can compare them to items already stored in the lab. That process will help uncover where the donated items came from and perhaps clarify what  purpose they served.

One of the volunteers at the lab, Penny Seabury, is cataloguing a collection of documents belonging to local archaeologist Lyman Warren. After Warren died, his family donated his massive collection of artifacts and papers to AWIARE. Seabury's goal is to create a digital version of the collection that will allow other archaeologists to access Warren's work.

AWIARE's biggest project, and the one that garnered the most publicity, was the excavation of an 1,100-year-old canoe on a Weedon Island Preserve beach. In 2011, Austin and Phyllis Kolianos, another AWIARE board member, led a trip to remove the 40-foot canoe from the ground in pieces. Austin said he also worked with designers to set up the canoe's display, located in the Cultural and Natural History Center.

"It was our really big project," Austin said. "And that's what got us publicity and got us funding."

An artifact as monumental as the ancient canoe is an anomalous discovery; most of AWIARE's work involves items of lesser significance. But they  each offer a glimpse of Florida's prehistoric era. Austin's job is to figure out what the shards of pottery or worn-down stone tools might reveal.

That process is tricky for even the most experienced archaeologists. Interpreting old artifacts and data such as measurements and locations  requires a large amount of guesswork. But the results can be revealing.

"It helps you understand how different cultures, people who belong to different cultures, lived," Austin said. "That there are differences  between cultures, but there's also a lot of similarities."

Bob Austin measures projectile points used as spears or knives.

Bob Austin measures projectile points used as spears or knives. Austin and other volunteers are organizing artifacts to compare them to items already stored at the lab.

One advantage of archaeological research that is different from other methods of studying history is its capacity to reduce historical bias, Austin said. While those in power often dictate what is remembered, they have little say in what gets discovered thousands of years later underneath the ground.

"History is written by the winners," Austin said. "And history is slanted.  People forget things, or they don't want to talk about certain things, or they want to slant things a certain way."

To express this point, Austin likes to use an adage from the late Florida archaeologist Calvin Jones: "The dirt don't lie."


BY JASPER SCHERER, TAMPA BAY TIMES STAFF WRITER -- JULY 2017 -- photos by CHERIE DIEZ
http://www.tampabay.com/sports/outdoors/at-weedon-island-lab-piecing-together-the-past/2330695

2018 FAS Conference

EVENTS

Florida Anthropological Society

The 70th Annual Meeting was hosted by AWIARE in St. Petersburg on May 11-13, 2018

With the support of the Anthropology Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP), the 2018 conference was a huge success. The meeting attracted a total of 211 Florida-based and out-of-state attendees.

FAS 2018 kicked off Friday evening with a fun welcoming reception at 3 Daughters Brewery, featuring the Florida Archaeological Council’s Stewards of Heritage Awards ceremony. Saturday morning and afternoon were devoted to paper and poster presentations on the USFSP campus. In all, 65 papers and 10 posters were presented. A panel discussion on rising seas and archaeological site loss also took place during the conference. Over 20 vendors exhibited technological displays and had related books and artwork for sale during the day.

The presentation topics were far-ranging, thought-provoking, and entertaining. An enjoyable banquet and awards ceremony, highlighted by keynote speaker Dr. Michael Francis, capped off an eventful conference on Saturday evening. Over ninety individuals attended the banquet. Two local tours were held Sunday morning: 30 attendees toured the Cultural and Natural History Center at Weedon Island Preserve and hiked to the location of recent archaeological investigations at the Weedon Island site; and 28 individuals visited the four archaeological sites currently located in City of St Petersburg public parks.

AWIARE wishes to thank the FAS Board and its entire membership for all of their help and support with the event. We are honored to have served as hosts of the 2018 (70th annual) Florida Anthropological Society annual meeting.

Hands On Training

RESEARCH & EDUCATION

Anthropology Students Get Hands-On Training at One of the Most Famous Archaeological Sites in the Southeast

Hidden deep in the heart of Weedon Island Preserve, a nearly 3,200-acre natural area on Tampa Bay, is an archaeological dig site that dates back 1,000 years.

Students working at the Weedon Island archaeological site.

From left: Kristina Wood, Bethany Brittingham, Zorana Knezevic, and Chandler Lazear working at the Weedon Island archaeological site.

Following a nearly invisible trail through groves of pine trees and ferns, the ground rises a bit, right before the dig site appears. This rise is called a midden, or shell mound. Soft chatter from a group of students can be heard, followed by the scraping and brushing of earth and rapid swoosh-swoosh sounds coming from screens where dirt and small debris is sifted out.

Led by Dr. John Arthur, Associate Professor of Anthropology at USF St. Petersburg, 16 undergraduate anthropology students are working to uncover remnants  of human history. Arthur couldn’t take all his students to the highlands of southwestern Ethiopia, where he has conducted research for 23 years  on the history and prehistory of the Gamo people with Dr. Kathryn Weedman Arthur, Associate Professor of Anthropology at USFSP. The Weedon Island archaeological site is the next best substitute to provide a  local hands-on experience for students to learn methods of archaeology.

“I wanted to take students out to a site that they could excavate and see if they actually liked archaeology,” said Arthur. “So, this is a  perfect place. It is close to campus and it is accessible.”

Weedon Island is one of the most intact and famous archaeological sites in the southeast U.S. and has provided substantial evidence of early Florida inhabitants. The shell mounds being excavated by USFSP students are human-made piles of shell. Students are primarily uncovering “household” artifacts. Households include pottery, different types of modified shells and shell tools such as scrapers and hammers.

“Excavation allows me to practice the methods we are learning about,” said Shana Boyer, a senior majoring in Anthropology. “I’m a hands-on learner, so being able to actually excavate with my own hands has really enabled me to learn on a deeper level.

This is Boyer’s first time at the Weedon site but not her first time excavating. Previously she did work at the Gamble Plantation in Ellington, a Civil War era site that was a very different experience.

“It was really easy to get through multiple levels of soil in a day, as opposed to here, we may get through two levels a day,” said Boyer. “We were finding a lot of discarded nails and bottles. Here we are finding animal bone and shells.”

Another student at the site is Kristina Wood, a senior at USFSP majoring in Anthropology. This was not the first time Wood was involved in digging at Weedon Island. In 2014, she assisted a graduate student on her thesis project.

“I did all of it! I am pretty sure that I analyzed the entirety of the material that was dug during that year,” Wood said.

Over the course of her studies, Wood has volunteered more than 100 hours in the lab analyzing artifacts.

Archaeologists adjusting a screen at the Weedon Island Archaeological site.

From left: Shana Boyer and Andrew Haines adjusting a screen at the Weedon Island Archaeological site.

This hands-on archaeological experience is all part of an anthropology course called Seminar in Archaeological Methods and Theory. When not excavating, students read theory throughout the week. Then during lunch on the days they work at the site, they talk about the articles they read.

“This course was started at USFSP,” Arthur said. “No other university in the state has it.”

Arthur is also president of the non-profit organization Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE). The Alliance made headlines in 2011 when its members excavated a nearly 40-foot prehistoric canoe from the island’s  shoreline. The canoe is the longest dugout found in Florida.

On this day, Wood stands over one of the three screens at the site.  The one-quarter inch by one-eighth-inch screen, framed and held together by pieces of two-by-four in the shape of a ‘z’, sifts out small shell particles and dirt, leaving the remaining shells and shell pieces intact. The shells are then placed in three-gallon Ziploc bags and  labeled with detailed coordinates and other data, to be taken back to the archaeology lab at USFSP for analysis.

“We are very precise about where it was that we took artifacts out of the ground,” Wood said. “You will find different artifacts depending on the layer of soil they are found in.”

They also record everything with a camera, taking pictures of sediment striations, darkened areas in the soil where postholes once were, and exact locations where artifacts are found.

Both Wood and Boyer have plans to go onto graduate school and continue their work in anthropology. Boyer is planning to study  paleoethnobotany at USF Tampa and Wood has her sights set on a graduate program in Liverpool, England, studying bioarchaeology and genetic research.

“I really enjoy all of it, which is why I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to focus on for grad school,” Boyer said. “I just find it all so interesting. There is a takeaway from everything in anthropology.”


BY KARLANA JUNE, USFSP CONTENT SPECIALIST -- MARCH 2018 --
https://www.usfsp.edu/home/2018/03/07/anthropology-students-get-hands-on-training-at-one-of-the-most-famous-archaeological-sites-in-the-southeast/