New Artifacts Revealed in X-Rays

As the Summer 2015 surveys and excavation draws to a close, it is time for all the research, reporting and paperwork to begin. For conservation, that means documenting and X-raying the artifacts excavated during the fieldwork.

This is done for a few reasons. First, we obviously want to know what was brought up. The concretions often do not resemble anything or give clues as to what the artifacts are. Second, we want to figure out what the artifacts can tell us about the site itself and if they offer any new information on the wreck.

Finally, it gives us an idea if the artifacts are worth the conservation effort. Conserving artifacts can be costly and time-consuming. Determining an object’s uniqueness, historical value or public interest level helps manage the conservation expectations.

Depending on the size of the pieces, we take them to either of two locations gracious enough to help X-ray and identify the concretions. Larger items or oddly shaped pieces go to Flagler Hospital while smaller artifacts go to Monahan Chiropractic Medical Clinic.

So far, this year, we have only X-rayed five smaller concretions from the Storm Wreck and new test sites.

The first artifact appears to be a long, thin piece of metal with a few shells and unknown objects attached. It is most likely a strap.

Artifact 15S 441.1
Artifact 15S 441.1

The X-ray pretty much confirms the hypothesis that it is a metal strap of some sort, with hardly any original material left. Continue reading

450th Events: Lighthouse To Host Maritime Folklife Festival Sept. 5th

Pam Solano weaving palmetto leaves into textiles.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum and Florida Folklife Project will highlight North Florida’s maritime heritage as part of the citywide celebration of St. Augustine’s 450th birthday. 

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. –Traditions of St. Augustine’s Spanish, Minorcan and Greek ancestors will be on display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum’s Maritime Folklife Festival on Saturday, Sept. 5th, during the citywide 450th birthday celebration. This free festival is co-sponsored by the Lighthouse and the Florida Division of Historical Resource’s Florida Folklife Program.

Latin music performer Goliath Flores
Latin music performer Goliath Flores

“So much of our maritime history is tied to the cultural roots of this community,” said Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “This event ties in perfectly with our museum’s dedication to folk culture, like our traditional wooden boatworks and exhibits on shrimping and boatbuilding. It’s also a great fit with the 450th celebration.”

The festival will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will include elements of food, music and history (see full schedule below). Volunteers from the museum’s Heritage Boatworks will showcase some of their traditional wooden boatbuilding skills during the morning session, followed by a Minorcan castnet demonstration from Michael Usina. Lunch will feature Cuban and Minorcan food samples provided by Marisella Veiga and Mary Ellen Masters. Continue reading

13 Things You Learn on a Lighthouse Archaeology Boat

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1. Dramamine is always a good idea.

Better safe than sorry. If you are not used to being out on a boat for an entire day watching the horizon move up and down for 12 hours straight, then trust me, you will want to take some Dramamine. Even if your family owns a boat that you take out on a regular basis, you will still want to take it. You might be a little groggy throughout the day, but at least you’re not sick.

oh no

2. You will wake up at hours that you have never seen before.

It’s so early that coffee might not even do the trick. The team meets at the barracks to go out to the boat at 6 a.m., meaning you have to get up at about 5:15a.m. to get ready to go. Even by the time you get to the barracks, it is still dark outside. Then, when you are getting on the boat at about 6:45 a.m. you will see other people that are awake at this time too. You will be very confused, but too tired to really think about it that much.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.21.13 AM Continue reading

Lighthouse History 1974 – 1994

This eighth installment in our ongoing series on the history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse focuses on the restoration of the light station and the creation of the museum organization.

Click the links below to read previous posts in the series:

1974 – 1994

After a 1970 fire left the Keepers’ House burned out and uninhabitable, community members began to plan for its eventual restoration. The Junior Service League (JSL) of St. Augustine, “an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of its members for volunteer participation in community affairs and demonstrating the effectiveness of trained volunteers within St. Johns County” turned their attention to the damaged and abandoned Keepers’ House in September 1980.

The Keepers' House before the JSL restoration.
The Keepers’ House before the JSL restoration.

By March 19, 1981 the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Keepers’ House was on the National Register of Historic Places, “the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation” and “part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.” With the structures’ historical significance officially recognized, restoration work could begin. Continue reading

The Quest to Find New Shipwrecks

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From St. Augustine Beach, especially north of the pier, there is a persistent speck on the horizon. The speck appears from the inlet with the rising sun. Turning south and growing bigger on the horizon, the speck becomes a boat, plunging into the morning swell. Aboard is our research team.

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450 years of maritime history live in these waters.

As you may well know, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum houses a maritime research division. Comprised of archaeologists and historians, our goal is to bring our mission statement to life in the most tangible and exciting way that we can.

For over 20 years, the museum has studied the Atlantic coastline, which we know of as the ‘First Coast.’ We have surveyed the ocean, dived it, probed it, sampled it, drawn, photographed, measured, and dug into it.

Unlike treasure hunters, who seek riches and glitter, we look for something much more valuable, the intact story of a shipwreck.

I have never known the sinking of a ship to occur without emotion, often with loss of life, always with loss of belongings. The stories of people go down with them, often hidden in Poseidon’s strongbox for centuries. Continue reading