Tag Archives: Archaeology

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum welcomes Cultural Heritage team from Spain

From left: John Regan, St. Augustine City Manager; Manuel de la Cruz, Edriel Intelligence; Carlos Leon Amores, General Subdirectorate of Historical Heritage of the Ministry of Culture for the Nation of Spain; Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum; Francisco Sanchez-Guitard, Edriel Intelligence and member of a Spanish boat building family; Leanna Freeman, Vice Mayor City of St. Augustine; John Valdes, City Commissioner, City of St. Augustine; Irving Kass, Owner of Saint George Inn and Board of Trustees Treasurer at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum; and Chuck Meide, Director of Archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

St. Augustine, FL –The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum welcomed a Cultural Heritage team from Spain on Thursday, April 25 at the nonprofit Museum.

Honored guests from Spain included Carlos Leon Amores, Independent consultant for the ministery General Subdirectorate of Historical Heritage of the Ministry of Culture for the Nation of Spain; Manuel de la Cruz from Malaga, Spain and Francisco Sanchez-Guitard of Edriel Intelligence. Sanchez-Guitard is also a member of a Spanish boatbuilding family.

The City of St. Augustine officials were present at the event, with Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman presenting gold coins with the City seal to the Spanish team. Commissioner John Valdes attended as well as City Manager, John Regan. Irving Kass of the St. George Inn kicked off the entire event as the Museum’s Board Treasurer presenting a copy of the PBS video of the story of St. Augustine from the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine.

A gold coin with the City of St. Augustine seal was presented to visiting Spanish guests.

Sanchez-Guitard has a vision shared by the Museum – to make the St. Augustine area a maritime hub of learning, connecting the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum to the  Fountain of Youth, the settlement site of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and scholars worldwide. This work is echoed by historian Dr. Michael Francis in his La Florida project, revealing Florida history through a digital archive of Spanish heritage in the Americas. Francis and his students are chronicling the lives and culture of those that traveled with Menendez. Please see www.laflorida.org for more information.

Carlos Leon Amores has released the first inventory of Spanish shipwrecks in America (between 1492 and 1898) with more than 600 Spanish shipwrecks on the list. The catalog of Spanish Cultural Heritage is part of the National Plan for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage developed by Spain, under the principles of the UNESCO convention and funded in part through a partnership with NOAA. Amores’ list does not yet include shipwrecks in the First Coast region. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s research arm, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, seeks to become the first archaeological nonprofit to help with this important work and to add the nation’s oldest port to this international database.

“Our Museum’s shared objective with scholars from all over the world is not so much to raise these ships from the ocean floor, but to preserve the information that they hold and to protect them from looting and pillaging, said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“Instead we seek to tell their hidden stories, and reveal our worldwide connections to each other.”

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse


Summer 2018: One Month, Two Wrecks, and so much Discovery!

Large concretion being hoisted overboard to be returned to Storm Wreck.

After two long months in the field, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program finished their field season at the end of August. And it led to many new discoveries!

Following a month of field school, with five students and four supervisors from around the country, that worked on both an offshore wreck and a river wreck, we jumped between two sites returning and recovering artifacts at the different sites.

Up close of creamware plate sherd attached to small concretion recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

First, the return to Storm Wreck! It has been three years since active excavations have occurred on Storm Wreck, our 1782 Loyalist vessel. During those three years, the Lighthouse conservators and archaeologists have been prioritizing artifacts for cleaning and for return to the site. Returning artifacts to the site protection! We can’t conserve everything that we bring up, nor do we necessarily want to. Who really wants to see an exhibit filled with ONLY nails!

So this year we returned! Over two weeks, we returned five large concretions to the site. Many were filled with artifacts we already have in other open or conserved concretions or are simple the unexciting finds.

The remainder of the month we continued to excavate the Anniversary Wreck site. After weeks of feeling like we were on repeat digging the same sand from the same level over and over again (like being stuck in a revolving door or having our own Groundhog Day), we finally reached artifacts right at the end, with only four days to spare. The hole took as about four feet under the normal level of the sand! Three of the units were mapped and are being added to the site plan as we speak. Thirteen individual concretions were recovered from the site as well as BUCKETS of dredge spoil! All of which are currently being analyzed by conservators and archaeologist with the help of our amazing volunteers. The Anniversary Wreck concretions from this year, as well as the two previous years, have all be x-rayed to show their true colors.

Archaeologist Brendan Burke recovering a pewter plate from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

So far, we have discovered quite a few interesting objects amongst the all the concretions recovered from the Anniversary Wreck site. Many are filled with an exciting mixture of nails, lead shot, and brass tacks—the nuts and bolts of trade items of the 18th century. The more intricate ones show full padlocks and clothing irons. Stuck to the outside of some of these concretions are ceramics, including a piece of a creamware plate—one of the more datable items from our site. We are finally getting to the artifacts that are providing clues to solve the mystery of the Anniversary Wreck! Stay tuned for further discoveries as they come up this winter!

Archaeologists and conservators examining a large concretion with tile recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

What ‘shoe’ don’t know about archaeological shoe fragments 

These shoe buckles are on view in the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

By Elise Carroll

Assistant Archaeological Conservator

Many significant pieces of history are often over looked because of the regularity of the items occurring. Bright, shiny, seemingly significant objects, such as cannon and coins take center stage, while mundane utilitarian items are often overlooked because of their everyday use. Unsurprisingly, many of the archaeological sites we here at the lighthouse study contain these “significant” items, but they are not the only artifacts that catch our attention!

The image above is of copper shoe buckle that is on display in the window of the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Common, everyday items, such as shoe fragments, can tell you more about the specific individuals aboard our wrecks than many of these more popular, significant items. Many of these items are plain, while some are ornate and decorated. These everyday items can provide the researcher with an estimation of class, sex, and potential origins of the members aboard a vessel.

Example of men’s shoes with a buckle from the 1700s. Source: www.timetoast.com

On many of the sites we study, including Storm Wreck, Anniversary Wreck, and Tolomato archaeological site, items associated with footwear commonly occur. Footwear should be expected because of the regular occurrence of the items throughout history.  Specifically, we have found metallic and the leather fragments of footwear.

Leather footwear contained a specific trend, beginning in the seventeenth century. A piece of history, presently associated more commonly with feminine shoes, the elevated shoe heel, originated with the French King Louis XIV and his need to create a more imposing presence by increasing his height. After this, this piece of fashion slowly began to emerge into lower and middle class societies. At the Tolomato site, we have found an intact fragment of leather shoe heel that contains wooden pegs. These wooden pegs would have been used to fasten the leather layers together creating the desired lift in the heel.

The image above depicts a shoemaker’s shop. Source: “Plate 3” Art du cordonnier. Garsault, François-Alexandre-Pierre de. 1767. Paris, France. Image provided by Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département Réserve des Livres Rares and Gallica.

Shoe buckle fragments have also been found on our archaeological sites. Shoe buckles are comprised of different pieces, a loop, chape, tongue, and a pin. On our sites, we have only found the shoe buckle loops, the most substantial part of a shoe buckle. The loops have been comprised of both copper and pewter based materials. Some of the shoe buckle loops are plain and fairly non-descript, while others are ornate with patterns. Many of these loops are desalinating, or removing the salt from the item, in the window of the Conservation Lab for our guests to see. The salt from the desalinating cupreous loops cause the solution to turn deep blue, which is always fun for guests to see!

These shoe fragments are not the only shoe related materials found on site. We just discovered a piece of shoe sole in our dredge spoil! However, the shoe sole is very modern (known to us as “modern intrusive”). Though the modern shoe fragment does not really tell us much about the historic wreck itself, it provides us more information for our site formation process theories, which is also important for archaeologists. Shoes, though not the most impressive or grandiose of artifacts, play a significant role in history and allow us to step back in time.

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!