Tag Archives: maritime

Archaeologist Brendan Burke speaks about Maritime Traditions in Tarpon Springs

On September 20, the City of Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum opened a new exhibit on Greek Maritime Traditions at their beautiful facility located on the banks of Springs Bayou, a true Florida gem.

Brendan Burke, Associate Director of Archaeology for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum was asked to provide a keynote presentation on Greek boat building impacts throughout Florida to open the exhibit.

 

The City of Tarpon Springs and Brendan Burke, guest speaker, were honored with the presence of Mr. Dmitris Sparos, Consul General for the Hellenic Republic of Greece. Mr. Sparos has also served as Consul General for Greece at The Hague, Peru, the Middle East, and as Directorate for Russia and the Balkans. A natural polyglot, he speaks five languages fluently and was kind to help Brendan refine his pronunciation of a few Greek words used in the presentation. Sparos and Burke are joined by Wally Ericson, master boat builder in Tarpon Springs and Tina Bucuvalas, Curator of Arts & Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs. For those of you not having visited Tarpon Springs, you must! It is an amazing community of Greek diasporans who maintain their cultural affiliation as Greek very strongly. Of course, their tradition as a sponging capital couples naturally with St. Augustine’s role as a fishing and boat building port, indeed sometimes linked by blood! It was a wonderful experience, well attended by the community, and we wish the City the best with their new and important exhibit.

Mrs. Ourania Stephanides approached me after the presentation with an amazing tale, she is the 4th great-granddaughter of Hezekiah H. Pittee, Superintendent of Lighthouse Construction during the 1870s. Pittee oversaw construction of the St. Augustine Lighthouse from June of 1872-October, 1874. It was amazing to connect with her, what a marvelous coincidence!

Mrs. Coutroulis, pictured here with Brendan, was a special guest to the opening of the exhibit on Greek fishing heritage in Tarpon Springs. Her family built boats in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, primarily shrimp boats, and she brought pictures from their decades of experience.

 

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.