This past weekend I went to the annual conference of the Florida Anthropological Society that was held in Fort Myers. It was better than expected. I have an offer to give a paper next year, and write a forward of a book. And some folks want to interview me. (I never thought of myself as a cultural resource before.)
Also part of the conference is FPAN, the Florida Public Archaeology Network.
None of this is paid, if you were wondering. That is why the cost of the conference was only $100 plus the $25 for the Saturday dinner. This is very low for a major, state-wide conference with several technical papers given. And I saved on the cost of the hotel because it was close enough that I slept at home. Archaeology / anthropology are not known as a highly paid field, but the people in it love the work. (Sounds like being a park ranger.)
Here are some more highlights from the conference that I took away with.
There have been a number of significant advances in the study of Florida archaeology and anthropology in the past few years, which was evident at the conference. Not only what we know, the models and paradigms of the study itself have changed. This is what I gathered from listening many of the lectures and papers given. One example is the use of radar penetrating radar, as shown at Fort Shackleford and in the main basilica in St. Augustine. You can see what is under the ground to pinpoint where to dig, or not dig at all.
Several of the talks on Saturday morning were by the Seminole Tribe's Historic Preservation Office (THPO), on the study of Fort Shackleford. The location of the fort has been determined. Few artifacts were found, due to the fort only being there for two months, and the acidity of the soil that destroys most artifacts. But shot from weapons common in 1855 were there.
There are 564 federally recognized tribes in the country, and 87 now have THPO offices. I think the Seminole tribe leads the way in tribal historic preservation. But the Seminole YHPO office receives three to four thousand archaeology reviews a year to go over, from all over the southeast.
I want to try and find a copy of American Antiquity, Vol. 75/2, April 2010. It has an article that talks against using tribal input for archaeology. We thought that was amusing, seeing that now many archaeologist feel that the input from Native people is important to get a better cultural understanding.
There were several papers given on the archaeology of the Ten Thousand Islands. There are about several large mound complexes from Marco Island to Chokoloskee, and they are about the same distance apart between each mound complex island. The interesting thing was that they were all abandoned about 1300 AD. I will give the theory why this happened, in a soon-to-be added blog about my trip to Pine Island.
One of the best and enlightening talks was on the "falcon" plates excavated at Lake Jackson. The talk was about the dual gender and nature of the characters depicted. The talk won the FAS award for a student paper given at the conference.
One talk was about the St. Augustine childrens' archaeology day camp. I really enjoyed this, having done similar programs.
And at the end of the day was a panel about the relationship between archaeologists and local governments. Florida has one of the best systems to record archaeological sites, with the site file office in Tallahassee. But as far as preserving sites and local governments protecting them, there's much room for improvement. Florida is a state with the population of 20 million, 67 counties, and hundreds of cities, but only five counties and three cities have archaeologists on staff. When Miami wanted to do a project downtown and the archaeologist recommended against it, the city fired the archaeologist!
Saturday night at the FAS conference, Dr. Jerald Milanich gave a talk on a recently found photo collection of the Seminoles in their camps, dated from 1905 to 1910. The pictures are beautiful, and the detail is outstanding. They are being edited for an upcoming book. Most of these were at locations in what is today Collier County.
On Sunday we visited the Randell Research Center on Pine Island, but I will save that for my next blog.