Category Archives: Archaeology

Preparation for the New Maritime Archaeology and Education Center

Most of the artifacts found during this survey looked like this - small fragments of modern material.

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!

obstacle course

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

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: What Comes Next?

RV Roper

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

On August 27, 2015, the field work phase of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey came to a successful end. Over the course of the project, 140 hours and 43 minutes of dive time was logged over 161 dives. During this time, 353 probe tests were completed over the 5 most promising magnetic targets, where multiple positive returns were encountered.

Of the five targets, one was dismissed as unlikely to represent a shipwreck due to inconclusive results with the probe, one was dismissed because of the presence of modern material, one was confirmed as a previously identified Iron Box Site,  which had not been witnessed since 1999, and one represents the potentially significant Nine Foot Under Site, although its location under nine to ten feet of sand means it will be some time before archaeologists can investigate this particular site further.

RV Roper

2016: New Discoveries To Be Made

The fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey may yet turn out to be the most significant of them all, and it is this target that we will return to this Friday, July 1st, as we begin our 2016 field season.

Over the past year, we have spent countless hours preparing for the continuation of research at this particular target, preparing the research report for this project, processing more magnetic data, performing seasonal maintenance on our dive equipment and research vessel, and we are finally ready to get back in the water and see what this exciting new target holds.

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & 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. 

Our first divers splash on Friday, July 1. Be sure to check back towards the end of our field season to see what comes of the fifth and final target investigated during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Until then, we wish you all fair winds and following seas!

Archaeologist Olivia McDaniel first joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & 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. 

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Identifying Elektra

Top: Kira Sund; Bottom (L to R): Josh Dotson, Sam Turner, Chuck Meide, Brendan Burke, Starr Cox, and Olivia McDaniel. Even after the slight disappointment of discovering modern debris, rather than a historic wreck, our divers remain optimistic, ready to get back to sea and continue our research.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

The magnetic target known as Elektra was the smallest magnetic target chosen for further investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. Archaeologists hoped that the small nature of the target might represent an older vessel, hypothesizing that an older wreck would have less iron remaining due to degradation over time, and would therefore have a smaller magnetic signature than more recent shipwrecks. A series of target testing dives revealed the source of the Elektra target.

Read on to see volunteer diver Kira Sund’s description of identifying Elektra!

Identifying Elektra

By Kira Sund

The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.
The Elektra magnetic contour was significantly smaller than the others chosen for diver investigation during the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey. It is shown here overlaid with the test probes placed on the target by divers.

You are diving down on a potential new site; magnetometry readings indicated there was the potential for a shipwreck here, so it is time to set up a sample unit to investigate further. As you get ready to set the screw anchor to establish a fixed point to work from, your hand brushes up against a rough object.

You are momentarily startled; everything else around is sand or shells, so what is this strange item?

Leaning in closer you can see the outline emerge from the cloudy green fog; it looks somewhat like a concretion, the concrete like mixture of artifacts covered by shells and sand. Could it be that there is a shipwreck right on the surface?

This was the question encountered on one of the potential new sites surveyed. Continue reading

450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey: Nine Foot Under Site

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

As we begin to move into our 2016 field season, we are excited to introduce the results of the 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, that the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) carried out over the 2015 field season. The “450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey” was a project carried out as part of LAMP’s multi-year First Coast Maritime Archaeology Project, which has been ongoing since 2007. The 450th Anniversary Shipwreck Survey, named in honor of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary which occurred in 2015, was funded by a State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant (No. S1604).

Previous Posts: 

Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.
Divers using a hydraulic probe to ground truth a potential site.

Ground truthing, or testing previously identified targets, was one of the principal objectives of the 450th field season. The first site to undergo this ground truthing was a target that had originally been identified in 1995 by Southern Oceans Archaeological Research (SOAR) during the first purely research oriented marine magnetometer survey of the St. Augustine area.

The target was re-surveyed by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) in 2009 and designated as Hulk. It was selected for additional work in 2015.

Ground Truthing for Shipwrecks

Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.
Archaeologists Olivia McDaniel and Eden Andes prepare for a dive to ground truth the Hulk target.

First ground truthing efforts in 2015 yielded no results for this promising target so it was decided to acquire a new set of magnetic data. This target survey was done on July 15th and once contoured the data yielded a close but different location from which to begin ground truthing operations.

Dive operations began on July 16th, 2015 with a refined placement of the drop buoy by the first dive team. A twenty meter tape was centered on the target running east-west and the team began to test the transect with a hydro-probe, a galvanized steel pipe through which water is pumped at high pressure. Continue reading