Category Archives: Archaeology

LAMP 2018 Field School: Student Perspective

The 2018 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) field school has successfully concluded. This year we had students from across the country come to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum  to learn about underwater archaeology, enhance their diving skills and help excavate our the Anniversary Wreck site and at several other shipwreck locations.

By Mily Llanos and Amy Green

The first week at LAMP was probably one of the most nerve wracking things that any of the students had experienced. Most of the week consisted of an overall orientation of the program, and training to prepare us for the weeks to come. The blackout-mask obstacle course was definitely the highlight of our first week. As new LAMP divers, blind and snagging on the traps left by our supervisors, we pretty much thought we were going to die in a 15 foot pool. But surprisingly enough, it was a ton of fun and we all passed with flying colors. That same week we visited the wreck we would excavate for the rest of the summer, and thank god for that blackout course, because it was dark as night down there (the visibility at the site is very poor). We familiarized ourselves with the site, and our dive supervisor Chuck Meide even had us beginning the excavation process. We were all excited to get out on the ocean and begin learning the methods and techniques of underwater archaeology.

The following week was mostly spent aboard the USRV Roper out on the ocean. It was a fantastic learning experience; we could barely see our fingers underwater, and we frequently suffered the wrath of the jellyfish, but we survived. After setting up the site with grid squares, baselines, travel lines and everything necessary to dig in the dark, we began the arduous task of digging meters below the sand to find the ancient shipwreck. Taking opening and closing elevations was by far the most challenging part of it, thanks to the visibility. Trying to communicate underwater in poor viz was a bit problematic at times, but good team work and buddy trust made for a successful week. Some of us got sea sick, some days the surge was strong, but we pushed through.

Due to a hurricane up north, we spent our third week on the St. Johns River where two brothers out fishing one day stumbled upon hull planks and a bottle dating to the American Civil War. We had the pleasure of attempting to map what they found. When we first arrived, the red tint of the water cast an eerie light on the partially buried timbers, while the alligators and unseen water moccasins made the 5-foot-deep wreck scarier than it should have been. We began by marking points of interest on the site with bamboo rods, and by the end of the week had created a scale drawing of the now-presumed river barge wreck.

During the last week of the field school, sadness began to set in as we realized that most of us would part ways and never see each other again. But deep down, we knew we would come away with one of the most exciting summers of our lives, full of adventures and challenges. Living in a communal space made us very close to one another, and many movie nights led to us all knowing every single Disney movie ever made. We spent the week on Roper as much as possible, and though Florida weather did its best to thwart us, we got some excavation done. We also got a chance to speak to the public about our time here at LAMP, telling them about ourselves and everything we had learned here. The very last day, we circled a sea buoy as a victory lap to celebrate a successful field school, which basically just meant that no one died.

In conclusion, what did we take away from the whole thing? Well, we now realize that recreational and scientific scuba diving are two VERY different things. Not all sites are as beautiful as they put on the cover of magazines and tv shows. Not as glamorous as Indiana Jones, either, though probably just as dangerous. We learned that sometimes you literally have to dive in black waters and oh! Things you will touch… trust me, it’s better not to know.  But the comradery of everyone on board made every single day wonderful. So even though we had to say our good byes and our see you soons, we’ll never really say goodbye to the LAMP field school experience.

2018 LAMP Field School: A Supervisor’s Tale

The 2018 Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) field school has successfully concluded. This year we had students from across the country come to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum  to learn about underwater archaeology, enhance their diving skills and help excavate our the Anniversary Wreck site and at several other shipwreck locations.

Written by Megan Bebee and Silvana Kreines

As supervisors, we have conquered the challenges the students will face during the season. Most of us originally came here as students, with this being our first experiences with underwater archaeology. With this experience under our weight belts, we are able to relate to the students, better understand what they are feeling, and better understand what they are expected to accomplish and learn; with this knowledge and experience, we can better guide them through their time at the LAMP field school. Supervising and leading students both underwater and on land has honed our leadership skills, which will prepare us for our professional future both in diving and archaeology.

The difference between our experience as students verses supervisors is that now we get to see all the behind the scenes operations which include getting the site ready for the students’ arrival, preparing tools and materials for their use, and participate in scheduling and planning activities. We now feel more confident in our abilities to go out into the world and create a safe and productive operation plan. As supervisors, we get the fulfilling experience of watching the students grow as the weeks progress. From some starting with just weeks to a couple years of experience to being able to navigate their way through the low visibility and harsh waters for which St. Augustine is famous.

As supervisors we get to help students hone their diving and archaeological skills. Between the five supervisors this year, we have 32 years of diving experience. This allows us to guide students effortlessly on site and help them develop good diving and safety habits and practices.  It is amazing to see how the students develop and evolve as divers from the first week of training dives to the last week on site. By the end of the season, all of the students have become much more comfortable and confident in the water to the point that sometimes they lead us around.

However, the most moving part of this journey that we get to witness is how much they each grow as individuals. We spend all week diving together, living in the same house, and going out together on weekends. As we all know from our personal experiences, field school is an amazing place to make lifelong friends, and, as supervisors, we have gotten to watch these relationships develop between students. This in turn allows the students to grow more confident and independent. As the students continue in their careers, they will come to realize that these new friendships are the start of a vast professional network that will help carry them through to amazing future prospects.

Though the techniques and methodology they learn through the field school is invaluable, the relationships the students have made with each other and the supervisors and staff at LAMP will prove the most valuable for their futures. We cannot wait to see where they go next and the projects they will one day direct themselves!

Updates from the Lab

While our beautiful new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center (MAEC) was being built, conservation was disassembled and all artifacts were put into a state of monitored wet storage. Taking those items out of storage and getting conservation back on track has been a slow and detailed process. This process requires an inventory and condition analysis of all items, as well as setting up each area of conservation in order for treatments to begin.

Though we are not quite running at 100% yet, we have made great leaps and bounds. Part of our inventory includes new items recovered from our current shipwreck, Anniversary.  Since everything was essentially put straight into a holding pattern, we are just now starting to analyze the items we recovered last summer. In fact, dredge spoil from the site is still being sorted and new items are being discovered daily.

One of our biggest challenges is to discern what items, if any, are contained within the concretions we recover. Conservation is expensive, so we must focus on items that can answer certain research questions, like the time period or the nationality of the vessel. One way for us to do this is through X-ray analysis. While x-rays won’t show 100% of what is contained within a concretion, they do show us a lot visually and help us narrow our conservation focus.

X-rays allow us to look into concretions without damaging the items inside. This particular X-ray shows a padlock.

Due to the generosity of Doctors Eric Searcy, DMV and John Yselonia, DMV at Antigua Veterinary Practice, we can now begin to take our own x-rays! They donated their previous machine for us to use in our MAEC building, and we have just begun to analyze last summer’s concretions.

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Over 25 brass tacks were found using our new X-ray machine!

Our very first in-house X-ray proved to be exiting for more reasons than just being our first X-ray.  Inside the concretion are more than 25 brass furniture tacks, something we have not encountered on our previous wreck sites, and an iron padlock. We are uncertain if either of these items will help us better date or identify this wreck, but it is always exciting to reveal what history has left us.

Contributed by Director of Archeological Conservation Starr Cox, edited by Social Media Specialist Daniel Lee

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

Storm Wreck, a 1782 St. Augustine shipwreck, added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places

Pulling up an artifact on the site of Storm Wreck shipwreck. The cannon is now on display in the Wrecked! exhibit at the Museum.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – On Friday, November 3rd, Florida Department of State Secretary Ken Detzner announced three Florida resources on the National Register of Historic Places. Amongst the three was Storm Wreck, a wrecked British Loyalist ship from 1782 discovered by St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) archaeologists in 2009. The site now joins only a handful of other inaccessible offshore wrecks given this designation of distinction due to the level of its historical significance.

In a press release from the State of Florida on Friday, Secretary Detzner says, “I am pleased to announce the designation of these three resources on the National Register of Historic Places. The Michigan Avenue Bridge is one of the last bobtail swing span bridges in our state, and Oaklawn Cemetery, the first public cemetery in Tampa, has been a consistent presence in the city’s history. The Storm Wreck, a mile off the shore of St. Augustine, dates back to the American Revolution. These resources demonstrate the wide variety of historic sites throughout Florida.”

From 2009 to 2015, LAMP archaeologists mapped, recorded and excavated the site. Since then, conservators at the Museum in partnership with the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research Conservation Laboratory have worked together to preserve the objects and ready them for display at the Museum’s Wrecked! exhibit. The wreck site is one mile off St. Augustine’s coast and therefore inaccessible to the public, but the artifacts found onsite of Storm Wreck are now on display daily at the Museum. The Wrecked! exhibit tells the story of Charleston colonists seeking refuge in one of the last colonies loyal to the British Crown, which at the time was St. Augustine. The ship itself has not been identified but LAMP archaeologists were able to determine that the ship was one of sixteen in total making this desperate journey to a safe harbor when it ran aground on St. Augustine’s dangerous sandbars.

When asked what this designation means for the shipwreck and its story, LAMP Director Chuck Meide says, “the Storm Wreck is of national significance for two primary reasons. The first is that this ship brings to life such a dynamic yet mostly forgotten story, that of American Loyalists seeking refuge in British Florida during the Revolution. The second reason is that this shipwreck is full of stuff—it is a well-preserved time capsule with thousands of artifacts related to the daily life of Americans during the Revolution. It’s wonderful to see such a world-class shipwreck get the recognition and protection it deserves.”

The Museum looks forward to seeing more important archaeological sites such as Storm Wreck added to the Register in the future as the designation helps facilitate meaningful preservation efforts. In the meantime, locals and visitors alike are encouraged to go to the Museum to see artifacts such as the ship’s bell, personal belongings and 18th century weaponry on display in the exhibit.

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ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:
A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime
Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES:
The National Register of Historic Places is a list maintained by the National Park Service which includes historical or archaeological properties including buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts, that are considered worthy of preservation because of their local, statewide and/or national significance. Nominations for properties in Florida are submitted to the National Park Service through the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. Florida has over 1,700 listings on the National Register, including 292 historic districts and 174 archaeological sites. There are more than 50,000 sites contributing to the National Register in Florida. For more information, visit flheritage.com/preservation/national-register. For more information about the National Register of Historic Places program administered by the National Park Service, visit nps.gov/nr.

ABOUT THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S BUREAU OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION:
The Bureau of Historic Preservation (BHP) conducts historic preservation programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, preserving and interpreting the historic and cultural resources of the state. The Bureau manages the Florida Main Street Program, and under federal and state laws, oversees the National Register of Historic Places program for Florida, maintains an inventory of the state’s historical resources in the Florida Master Site File, assists applicants in federal tax benefit and local government ad valorem tax relief programs for historic buildings, and reviews the impact that development projects may have on significant historic resources. For more information, visit flheritage.com/preservation.