All posts by Olivia

Field Season is Right Around the Corner for Lighthouse Archaeologists

The R/V Roper, IMH’s 36’, steel-hulled, ex-shrimp trawler turned dive research vessel approaches the loading dock. She returns June 22 for another summer of research in St. Augustine.
The R/V Roper, IMH’s 36’, steel-hulled, ex-shrimp trawler turned dive research vessel approaches the loading dock. She returns June 22 for another summer of research in St. Augustine.

It’s that time of year again:  the higher humidity is returning to the air while temperatures rise both here on land and in the water offshore; in order to accommodate the busy summer season, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will soon be returning to extended hours; and our research arm, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), is preparing to return to the field for another season of research in the waters of our nation’s oldest port.

We have a lot to look forward to this season: the Museum’s new research center will soon be complete which will have new conservation space, education space, and office space; twelve new students will be joining us for our annual field school in underwater archaeology, beginning June 26th; and the R/V Roper, the Institute of Maritime History’s (IMH) 36’ research vessel, is returning to serve as our main dive platform for the 2017 season.

The story we aim to focus on this season is that of the Anniversary Wreck, an as yet unidentified shipwreck located within a mile of St. Augustine’s shores. Discovered during 2015’s 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, the site is proving to be an exciting project with a dense artifact scatter, the nature of which currently leads archaeologists to believe it may represent a merchant vessel, although the exact time period of the wreck and nationality of the vessel are still unknown.

Here a diver holds recently excavated stoneware sherds from the Anniversary Wreck. The sherds help narrow the time frame of the wreck to sometime between 1750 and 1820.
Here a diver holds recently excavated stoneware sherds from the Anniversary Wreck. The sherds help narrow the time frame of the wreck to sometime between 1750 and 1820.
The marine magnetometer (left) and sidescan sonar (right), that are employed during remote sensing survey.
The marine magnetometer (left) and sidescan sonar (right), which are employed during remote sensing survey.

This season will also include elements of remote sensing survey, where archaeologists employ a sidescan sonar (for acoustic imaging) and a marine magnetometer (for magnetic field detection). These instruments are used to identify potential new archaeological sites for further investigation, as well as to monitor those we have already studied, in order to observe how these sites change from year to year, and to look out for potential damage from things like storms, erosion, or looting.

 

We have a few weeks yet before the Roper and our new students arrive, so for the time being we are finishing up the last bits of yearly equipment maintenance and organization while making sure the final pieces of preseason preparation are in order. Soon, though, we will be back to 6 a.m. starts, and days filled with digging, recording, and hopefully, no small amount of discovery into the maritime landscape of our own ancient city. We can’t wait to share with you what we find.

An early morning sunrise from the loading dock on Salt Run.
An early morning sunrise from the loading dock on Salt Run.

SHA 2017: Tales from the 50th Annual Society for Historical Archaeology

SHA-2017-Logo-Design_300-dpi_THC1Every January, one or more of our Lighthouse archaeologists attend the annual Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) conference, where professionals and students from across the field of historical and underwater archaeology gather to present their research. While we usually share our research with the public through various forms of outreach here at the museum and in nearby communities, these conferences provide opportunities to present our research to the academic community.

No trip to SHA is complete without learning a bit about the host cities own history. As any Fort Worth local will tell you, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to their historic stockyards.
No trip to SHA is complete without learning a bit about the host city’s own history. As any Fort Worth local will tell you, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to their historic stockyards.

This year, Chuck Meide, Brendan Burke, and I attended the 50th Annual SHA conference, held in Fort Worth, Texas. Between us, we presented four papers on research spanning from St. Augustine to the Potomac, participating in a session titled Strategic Partnerships in Archaeology: A Community Approach to Raising Awareness and Preserving Maritime Heritage. The session focused on research and discoveries that resulted from various partnerships between federal, state, academic, and non-profit organizations, including our own research arm, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), the State of Florida, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), the Institute of Maritime History (IMH), and the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group (BAREG). You can find the abstracts for each of LAMP’s papers below. Continue reading

Lighthouse Archaeologists Attend International Archaeology Day Fair

Every year in mid-October, archaeological organizations and advocacy groups come together across the globe to celebrate International Archaeology Day. They gather to share  to share their discoveries with locals and visitors alike, to let people know how and why archaeologists research what they do, and hopefully, to get people excited about learning about our history and the importance of preserving our past for our future.

This year, International Archaeology Day took place on October 15th. The Jacksonville Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) held an Archaeology Fair at the Beaches Museum in celebration of the day.  Lighthouse Archaeologists Brendan Burke and Olivia McDaniel joined the festivities, presenting our research on the submerged cultural resources in Northeast Florida.

Other displays invited visitors to engage in mock digs, make their own pottery in Native American styles, and displayed artifacts ranging from prehistoric times to the Civil War. A great day of archaeological fun was had by all, and we here at the lighthouse were glad to have been a part of the festivities! Keep an eye out for next year’s International Archaeology Day, and maybe you to can join in on the fun.

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The Lighthouse’s display at the Archaeological Institute of America’s Jacksonville chapter International Archaeology Day Fair.

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum team in 2012 as a student at LAMP’s Underwater Archaeology Field School. She officially joined the lighthouse family as an archaeologist in July, 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Idaho. 

Preparation for the New Maritime Archaeology and Education Center

MAEC2As many of you may know, some big changes are in the works for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in the coming months!

First and foremost, we are preparing to start construction on our new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center. As archaeologists, part of our role in the planning for the new buildings was to perform an archaeological survey of the area that was to be disturbed during the construction process. This type of survey, often referred to as Cultural Resource Management surveys, or CRM, are required by law before any sort of construction or similar project take place. This meant that Kira Sund, one of our regular volunteer archaeologists, and I traded our scuba gear and shipwreck sites for a bit of terrestrial archaeology here on the Lighthouse grounds. Read on to see Kira’s take on our Lighthouse archaeology experience!

Lighthouse Shovel Testing

By Kira Sund

We may not have had ancient buildings, but it certainly felt like cutting our way through the jungle at times!
We may not have had ancient cursed tombs, but it certainly felt like cutting our way through the jungle at times!

When people visualize archaeology, they typically imagine lost ruins in the deep jungle or ancient cursed tombs. What they don’t usually picture are teams working next to roads or in construction sites digging small sample holes to survey the area. Yet this is one of the most common forms of archaeology; the shovel test, a method used to determine whether there is even archaeological material to be found, and what to do if any is found. It might not seem glamorous (it frequently isn’t), but without these tests many sites would not be found. This kind of testing is frequently performed before construction projects commence; seeing what might be there before it would be built over or demolished.

As the Lighthouse looks to expand with new archaeological and maintenance buildings, this same testing is required. The location of the proposed building was marked, and a pair of archaeologists worked a grid pattern to dig a series of twelve pits one meter (3.3 feet) deep each. Each shovel full is dumped into a screen so it can be sifted for artifacts. There is always a little thrill when something turns up in the screen, even when it is just a shard of glass bottle or a fragment of mortar; anything found might provide an insight into who or what was there before. Continue reading

2016 LAMP Field School is in Full Swing!

The 2016 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Field School in Underwater Archaeology is in full swing with a great new group of students!

This is LAMP’s 10th Annual Field School, and is a big year for us, both because of the milestone season, and because we are hosting our largest group of students to date. Over the past two and a half weeks, our 12 students have completed various training exercises around the lighthouse and surrounding area. These include the usual blackout mask obstacle course, used to prepare them for St. Augustine’s low visibility diving….

obstacle course
Traversing the blackout mask obstacle course. Photo by Silvana Kreines

…to training dives in Alexander Springs, where we had the practice basic underwater archaeological methods in clear water, before asking them to perform these same tasks in the aforementioned low visibility. Continue reading