Field campaigns beyond the Aucilla

By Thadra Palmer and Melanie Damour

Thadra Palmer

My summer of ’98 field campaigns began in the Virgin Islands. The National Park Service was conducting archaeological excavations on seven sites located on a small island called Water Island, under the supervision of Dr. David G. Anderson. Water Island is located right off of St. Thomas, and is only two miles long by one mile wide. Water Island is owned by the US Army and is slowly being turned over to the local government. Before the island could be completely handed over an archaeological survey was required to determine if there were sites in need of protection. One of the largest sites was Carolina Point plantation which had formerly been owned by a freed black slave who had bought the plantation and owned several slaves himself. The site includes the main house, a kitchen, an overseer’s house, several slave cabins, and other additional buildings. This main house included one room that had burned along with a large amount of china. This room alone yielded more artifacts than all of the rooms combined. It was hot and sticky work cutting down the jungle just to dig. But hey, this was the Virgin Islands, so after a long day of work you could walk down to the beach and go snorkeling in the crystal blue water. After six weeks in the Virgin Islands I headed to Italy.

For the past twenty years Florida State University has been conducting excavations in Gaiole de Chianti, Italy. The site is called Cetamura (walled city), and has Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval occupations all stacked on top of each other. This year’s work concentrated on two areas, the first being an old well. The well started at 6 meters at the beginning of the season, and by the end of the season reached a depth of 13 meters, and still kept going. Building rubble, tiles, and ceramics were all recovered from the well. The second area was the fortification, which is known to date to Roman times with Medieval material on top. It was hoped that the Romans had expanded the wall from the Etruscan occupation and that by the end of the season we would have moved enough material to reach the possible Etruscan level, but that did not transpire. The unit for the fortification was six meters square, and most of the Medieval material had been removed. Several coins were found, and a bronze mirror handle was also recovered. The area of Chianti reminds me of Napa Valley, CA, with grapevine and olive trees covering the hill sides. Of course Chianti wine was the main crop since this is where Chianti wine originated. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant, and I quickly found out that Italians really do eat pasta every night. After six weeks in northern Italy, I spent two weeks traveling to Rome, Munich, Paris and London. It was a busy summer for me, and I was actually happy to get back to Tallahassee, if only so I could stop living out of a backpack.

Melanie Damour

The summer of 1998 proved to be very long and full of field work, 12 weeks total with very little time for vacation. After spending 6 weeks at the Aucilla River Prehistory Project in May and June, I spent another 6 weeks in June and July with Dr. Michael Faught and Chuck Meide at the Clovis Underwater 1998 Project (see “Paleo Aucilla Prehistory – Clovis Underwater ‘98”). I was a crew chief for Chuck Meide in the St. Marks River portion of the Clovis Underwater ‘98 Project which comprised the survey of several shipwrecks and river bottom sites. The majority of the project was spent surveying and mapping the remains of a mid-19th century wreck located on the western bank of the Wakulla River at Fort San Marcos de Apalachee. Other shipwrecks surveyed include a modern wreck that is mostly intact and another wreck which may be the remains of the vessel “Spray”. Some survey and sampling of prehistoric and historic refuse scatter on the bottom of the St. Marks River, in Newport, Florida was also completed.

In November, I organized and directed a four day survey of a modern wreck located near the St. Marks Lighthouse. The project was part of a class at FSU which requires each student to develop and run a project using diving techniques in science. After obtaining an Archaeological Research Permit from the Department of Historical Resources, I was able to implement my project. Four days were spent mapping and measuring the wreck to try and identify remaining structures. The wreck was a subchaser in World War I that was later used by the State of Florida Shellfish Commission. With a busy summer and fall behind me, I am gearing up for another busy year full of archaeological projects with more emphasis on shipwreck survey, my primary interest.