Category Archives: Education

Archaeologists + Dating = Success Through Collaboration

The past three months have been very busy for our Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) archaeologists. They have been analyzing artifacts discovered on the Museum property during last summer’s construction of the new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, as well as sites through St. Johns and Flagler Counties uncovered during the storms.

Our analysis started by contacting Dr. Lee Newsom, a Professor of Anthropology at Flagler College. Dr. Newsom is an expert in examining preserved plant remains from archaeological and paleontological sites as well as examining faunal remains, or bones! We were looking to determine the types of animals found in the trash pits uncovered during construction of the new Center. Once the bones were handed over, Dr. Newsom and her students at Flagler College went to work on identifying the types of animals in these pits. They came back with incredible data.

Dr. Lee Newsom directs Flagler College students on bone identification.

There are three areas we uncovered and examined: an 1880s trash pit to the north of the northern-most outdoor brick kitchen, a trash pit dating to the 1900s, and a 1930s pit near the Tin Pickle. Many of the bones in all three areas were identified as cow bones – meaning the keepers here had access to various cuts of beef on the island. Other bones included deer, turtle, snapper and turkey. All of these animals could have been caught on or around the Light Station. This knowledge brings to light the foodways of the Lightkeepers.

We also tasked Dr. Newsom and her students with dating our wood samples taken from the November canoe discovery. This canoe had shifted around during the high tides following Hurricane Irma and became quickly exposed as the high tides and storm surge subsided. To further understand the canoe, wood samples were taken by a joint team of Museum Archaeologists  and the Florida Public Archaeology Network of Northeast Florida. Tests of these samples would yield dates and a wood species. Speciation is determined by looking at the wood at a cellular level and identifying grain patterns within the wood. From their microscopic data based on one of two wood samples taken from the canoe, Dr. Newsom and her students determined the canoe to be made of cypress. Dating wood is a slow process, and only requires a tiny sliver of wood to complete. The second of the two wood samples was sent to the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies. The wood is dated using radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating looks at the amount of Carbon 14 remaining in a decaying piece of floral or faunal remains. As life stops exchanging Carbon 14 with the environment upon death and Carbon 14 decays at a constant rate, the older the piece being sampled, the less Carbon 14 will be present in the wood.

Wood sample taken from canoe for dating and speciation.

The analysis determined that the canoe is 830 years old ± 30 years, from 1950. From today’s date, that translates to a dating of 1000 CE. This is well before the Spanish ever laid foot in Florida. While this does not make our canoe one of the oldest in the state, it is believed to be one of the oldest in Northeast Florida.

LAMP and FPAN archaeologists examine the dugout canoe.

Now that the hardest date to obtain – that of the canoe- was determined, the LAMP team moved on to finding dates for our artifacts! The artifacts discovered on site (pottery, children’s toys, housewares) provided us with dates through historical research based on shape and maker’s marks present on individual objects.

Further research can be done into both the Light Station and the canoe to provide a fuller history of the northeast region of Florida. We appreciate the willingness of Dr. Lee Newsom and her students as well as the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at UGA to aid us in discovering new areas to be explored regarding this wider maritime history.

Contributed by Archaeologist Allyson Ropp, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

Summer Camp 2017

Did you know there are camps at the Lighthouse? We offer camps three times per year which follow the St. Johns County Schools’ calendar during summer, winter, and spring breaks. Our camps also reach out to underserved and at-risk populations through scholarships and donations from our generous supporters. Scholarships and donations allow students to attend our camps who have high academic achievement and potential but do not have the economic means to attend. This year we also partnered with First Coast Blessings in a Backpack to ensure those students who need it would receive nutritional meals when they are not at camp. See below for more information.

Beginning May 30th, campers survived a shipwreck on Anastasia Island, immersed themselves in local folkways, tried their hand at archaeological conservation, became a tourist, and kept our light going. Whew! Each week has a different theme that brings STEAM-based learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Mathematics) and fun to campers. Guest Speakers, field trips, science experiments, crafts, and activities bring each theme to life. Of course, there is the opportunity to climb the tower and explore our exhibits, too.

Some questions we asked the campers to consider during their first week for the theme, Shipwreck Survival:
• What is the most important thing to do when stranded?
• Would you create shelter, make fire, find water or scavenge for supplies first?

Staying dry and lessening your exposure to the elements is priority number one. Heat stroke or hypothermia would cause problems that could prevent you from being able to tackle those other necessities for survival. Other IFS (Important For Survival) skills were learned and practiced by campers to ensure the highest number of survivors possible, which for us was 100% just as expected!

Can you name all the cultural influences that shaped St. Augustine before and after its founding in 1565? Our second week aimed to do just that by inviting community members and staff to share with campers their heritage and traditions from the past. Cuban foodways, Greek culture, and Seminole clothing design are just a few of the customs with which the campers engaged.

Some questions that arose as we learned:
• Is it hard to find the queen bee in a group of bees?
• Does using an atlatl really make a difference?
• Can I navigate from point A to point B?
The answers that we found to those questions:
• Very hard!
• Yes it really does make a difference!
• Not when it is raining unfortunately.

What do eggs and vinegar have to do with shipwreck conservation? The third week focused on the methods our Maritime Archaeological Conservationists use to process artifacts. Topics included: concretions, cleaning artifacts, preservation, casting, artifact cell absorption of salt water, non-Newtonian fluids, and the meaning of maritime archaeology. ***TRY AT HOME*** Putting an egg into vinegar for 24-36 hours removes the calcium from the shell and the outer membrane becomes “rubber-like”, while the yolk inside remains unscathed. Conservationists may use vinegar to remove the calcium in a concretion that is on a soft metal, like a coin. The concretion can be removed without scratching the metal underneath. Give the egg a try at home but be careful because the membrane can break easily. A highlight for campers was performing emergency conservation triage.
What is a spectroscope? Our campers not only learned what one is, but they made one, too. The last week of camp concentrated on the Science of Light as it relates to our Fresnel lens in the tower. Two of the topics were reflection/refraction and magnification. Our man-made lens does all three, but can you think of another natural resource that does this too? Water! A highlight for this week was seeing how a kerosene lantern worked. DID YOU KNOW? The Lighthouse went from oil to kerosene in 1885.

Are you curious about unanswered questions? Well, you know the answer to that! Come join us at the Lighthouse, visit our website www.staugustinelighthouse.org, or register for a camp to learn more. Additionally, please visit the below links to learn more about the wonderful mission of First Coast Blessings in a Backpack who helped us to make a difference this year in over half of our campers’ lives.

https://www.firstcoastblessingsinabackpack.com/home.html
https://www.facebook.com/FirstCoastBlessings/

Enlightened: Episode 1, Part 3

Join us in this edition of Enlightened! as we continue our look into the history and science behind the Fresnel lens. In this installment, we will talk a little more about French scientist Augustin Fresnel and how his incredible invention shaped lighthouses forever!

Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel for future episodes of Enlightened!, a Nation’s Oldest Port educational program. 

Enlightened: Episode 1, Part 2

Did you know the U.S. Lighthouse Service initially declined the use of Fresnel lenses?

In part two of our first episode of Enlightened! (click here if you haven’t seen it yet!), find out why the federal government refused to utilize these revolutionary new lenses even after they were adopted throughout much of Europe.

Enlightened! is a St. Augustine Lighthouse educational program designed to serve our mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of our Nation’s Oldest Port as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse.

We’re Still Here: Hurricanes
and St. Augustine

It’s been about a month now since Hurricane Matthew took a swipe at St. Augustine and the rest of Florida’s East Coast before basically tracking along the shoreline up to North Carolina and finally heading out to sea. Low-lying residential areas, especially along the beaches and inland waterways, were hit hard with floodwaters and many downed trees and power lines. Downtown St. Augustine suffered flooding as well.

The Hurricane and the Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime windowsMuseum, despite our location on Anastasia Island, weathered the storm well. When the U.S. Lighthouse Board picked the location for this Lighthouse to replace the old lighthouse that was threatened by beach erosion, they chose well. No floodwaters reached the Lighthouse or Keepers’ House. The only physical damage, besides several downed trees, were a few shingles missing from the roof of the Keepers’ House and a set of windows blown out of the Lighthouse and later found in a nearby tree. Continue reading