Category Archives: Archaeology

Wrecked! Uncover the Secrets Behind Artifact Conservation

From now until our Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening on May 5th, we will be sharing weekly videos with insights on the new exhibit every Tuesday on Periscope, followed by a re-cap blog post and video every Wednesday. Follow along as we unveil this exciting new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum!

How do you restore an artifact that’s been on the ocean floor for over 200 years?

From the moment we began excavating the 1782 British loyalist shipwreck off St. Augustine’s coast in 2010, our team of archaeological conservators faced the monumental task of cleaning up all of the recovered artifacts.

Over the six field seasons spent diving on this wreck, now the subject of our new Wrecked! exhibition, more than 600 artifacts were recovered. Each one requires careful attention, from removing the outer crust to removing all of the salt soaked into the artifacts, this critical and tedious process means the difference between saving history and destroying it.

In this week’s video, take an inside look at Wrecked! with two of our conservators — Director of Archaeological Conservation Starr Cox and Assistant Archaeological Conservator Andrew Thomson — as they share what some of the exhibit artifacts looked like before conservation and some insights into the process of saving these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Video Highlights:

  • 0:31 – See what a concreted artifact looks like when it’s first recovered.
  • 1:25 – How are different types of materials treated in conservation?
  • 2:39 – What did the cannon look like when it was first recovered?
  • 3:25 – How do you conserve a shipwreck cannon?
  • 5:35 – What special item was found inside a cauldron that gave us insight into life on board the ship?
  • 6:14 – What clue was part of the concretion surrounding the ship’s bell?
  • 7:28 – What did each of our conservators enjoy the most about working on this exhibit?

Wrecked! Go Behind-the-Scenes with Lighthouse Archaeologists

From now until our Wrecked! Exhibition Grand Opening on May 5th, we will be sharing weekly videos with insights on the new exhibit every Tuesday on Periscope, followed by a re-cap blog post and video every Wednesday. Follow along as we unveil this exciting new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum!

Do you know how archaeologists find shipwrecks?

This and many other questions about the science behind underwater archaeology are answered in our new shipwreck exhibit, Wrecked!.

In this week’s sneak peek video, go behind-the-scenes in the new exhibit with Chuck Meide, Director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), and Olivia McDaniel, Lighthouse Archaeologist.

Video Highlights:

  • 0:58 – When was this shipwreck found?
  • 2:21 – How do archaeologists document shipwrecks?
  • 3:43 – Special “Hello” from an underwater diver!
  • 4:44 – See hanks, iron spikes and bits of sail cloth recovered from this shipwreck.
  • 5:14 – Did you know sailors marked their spoons?
  • 5:50 – How did uniform buttons help solve the puzzle behind this shipwreck?
  • 6:53 - What amazing thing was found inside a cauldron on the shipwreck?
  • 8:08 – Why are there ax marks in the ship’s deck pump?
  • 10:16 – What was it like when this ship ran aground?
  • 11:38 – How many cannons were found on this shipwreck?
  • 13:05 - What was it like when archaeologists recovered the cannon?
  • 13:32 – What clue were archaeologists hoping to find on the ship’s bell?

Introducing Star Waters!

StarOnRoper

Over the next month as we approach the grand opening of our new exhibition, Wrecked!, we will be featuring blog and social media posts from our newest Museum team member, Ms. Star Waters! Star has an integral role in the new exhibition which she will be sharing here and in her total takeover of our social media accounts on May 4th!

Hey guys!

StarSelfies2A
Gotta love those #BeachSelfies!

Wow, is this totally exciting or what? I am so stoked to be part of this new exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. I mean, have you seen this place? It’s awesome! There’s so much cool history to see here — and not just see, but really experience.

So, speaking of experience, you probably want to know what mine is right?

Well, I’ve been interested in archaeology since I was a little kid. It kinda started when I was with my grandpa walking on a river bank and we found this arrowhead that was half-buried in the ground. We took it down to our local museum and an archaeologist there told us more about Native Americans who made arrowheads like that for weapons and what their life was like.

It was SO COOL to find out how much information you can learn about people just from examining their old stuff.

Did you know there are different kinds of archaeology?

Really, there’s like a million different specialties within archaeology. Like some scientists just focus on agricultural stuff — the origins of plants and how they affect eating habits of different cultures — and some research specific time periods in history.

But the two main categories of archaeology are terrestrial and maritime. Terrestrial archaeology looks at historic sites on land while maritime archaeology focuses on historic sites that are underwater.

Both kinds involve a ton of patience and research, but nautical archaeology comes with lots of other complications because you have to do all the same careful excavation that terrestrial archaeologists do, but you have to do it all under water!

Have you met my friends at the Lighthouse?

As soon as I found out about the nautical archaeology program at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, I HAD to come check it out. After I got my junior dive certification they even let me go out on their research vessel, R/V Roper, and dive with them on this old shipwreck!

StarOnRoper
Check me out on board the R/V Roper getting ready to dive on a shipwreck!

Man, I can’t tell you how amazing it is. Continue reading

Lighthouse Volunteers Record Jacques Cousteau Anchor

Here Kira Sund uses a plumb bob to take measurements on specific points during the recording of the anchor.

On January 27, archaeologists with the Museum’s research arm, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), received an interesting call about a historic anchor that had recently been recovered from Ponce Inlet, about an hour south of St. Augustine.

The Calypso docked at St. Augustine in 1985, after the completion of an extensive overhaul by St. Augustine Trawlers. (photo from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal, April 13, 1985)
The Calypso docked at St. Augustine in 1985, after the completion of an extensive overhaul by St. Augustine Trawlers. (photo from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal, April 13, 1985)

When LAMP received the call from a charter boat captain who runs his boat out of Ponce Inlet.

The story told was not one of the origin of the anchor, but rather of an interesting turn of events after the anchor was parted from its original vessel.

As the story goes, the anchor was plucked from the sea floor by none other than Jacques Cousteau, the well-known scientist, conservationist, and explorer, while he and his crew were bringing his research vessel Calypso to St. Augustine for an extensive overhaul in 1984.

Cousteau and his crew were approximately 40 miles from St. Augustine when they discovered the anchor grown into the live bottom of a fishing spot. It was in about 128 feet of water, and while they looked for a nearby wreck or associated artifacts, they found none. They retrieved the anchor and brought it with them to St. Augustine, where Cousteau sold it to the Timmons family, the owners of St. Augustine Trawlers, who were completing the overhaul on Calypso. Continue reading

SHA 2016 is a Success! – Storm Wreck Symposium Presented in the Nation’s Capital

Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program staff and students presented a Storm Wreck Symposium at the annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C. this January. Shown here are nineteen of the twenty-eight archaeologists associated with the program in attendance at the conference.
This letter, concerning the Storm Wreck vessel's wrecking event, was written exactly 233 years before lighthouse archaeologist presented research on this wreck at the 49th annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C.
This letter, concerning the Storm Wreck vessel’s wrecking event, was written exactly 233 years before lighthouse archaeologists presented research on this wreck at the 49th annual SHA conference in Washington, D.C.

On January 9, 1783, the commander of the British Royal Army in East Florida, Lieutenant Colonel Archibald McArthur, wrote a letter to the British Commander in Chief, Sir Guy Carleton, to inform him of the loss of the Rattlesnake, two victualing ships, and six private vessels upon the bar at St. Augustine.

Exactly 233 years later, archaeologists, students, and colleagues of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s research arm, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), presented the culmination of six years’ worth of research on the Storm Wreck, which archaeologists believe is one of the ships in the convoy Lieutenant McArthur refers to in his letter.

The fifteen papers presented featured many aspects of Storm Wreck research, from various artifact classes, to public outreach programs and the development of the Storm Wreck exhibit, to the microscopic clues found in the sediment surrounding the site. (Read our paper abstracts below!)

The historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, where this year's annual SHA conference was held. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_Shoreham_Hotel#cite_note-4
The historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, where this year’s annual SHA conference was held.

This daylong symposium was part of the 49th Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology, hosted by the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA). This year, archaeologists from around the world convened in our nation’s capital for the annual conference – an appropriate place as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, both of which played a significant role in the growth and development of the field of historical and underwater archaeology. The conference was held at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, which, for those history buffs out there, housed Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and served as the base of operations for the Philippine government during World War II, and hosted every inaugural ball for 20th century American presidents beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Continue reading