PaleoAucilla Prehistory -- "Clovis Underwater '98"

By Dr. Michael K. Faught

Many of you have heard that the PaleoAucilla Prehistory Project will carry on the Aucilla River Prehistory Project’s tradition of educational and multi-disciplinary scientific research offshore, in portions of the Aucilla that are now submerged on the continental shelf. This research has been conducted since 1986 under a variety of project names, including Offshore Archaeology 1989, Clovis Underwater 1992, and Clovis Underwater 1998. “Clovis Underwater” was coined for my EarthWatch project, and I continued it in 1998 for the inaugural field research under FSU’s Program in Underwater Archaeology. But now we have a project title that will endure many seasons of research out on the continental shelf looking for prehistoric sites submerged by Pleistocene sea level rise. The new name focuses on the fact that we are exploring the Aucilla River offshore.

FSU’s research this past summer focused on the J&J Hunt Site, located about 3 miles offshore, on the margins of what we think are remnants of the Aucilla. Previous research has shown that this location became submerged about 6,800 radiocarbon years before present. We also looked for additional sites at a place we call Locus T, further offshore, but we were turned back by poor weather before any new sites were found. As part of FSU’s commitment to training students in both submerged prehistoric sites and historic shipwrecks, work was also undertaken in the St. Marks River, on an early 19th Century vessel sunk near the confluence of the St. Marks and the Wakulla Rivers. Chuck Meide, Program Assistant for the Program in Underwater Archaeology at FSU, directed that exciting research project, ably assisted by Melanie Damour. James McClean acted as field staff for offshore portions of the research operation.

There were 10 students and eight staff at Clovis Underwater1998. These included: Joe Latvis and William O. Gifford of the ARPP; Dr. Lynette Norr, her daughter Jenni, Pat Gensler, and Eric Wilson from the University of Florida. Krister Efverstrom from Sweden, Susanne Finney from the University of Hawaii, Gregg Fisher from Ohio, Doug Blash from Boston University, and Daria Merwin from Stony Brook, New York. Jadah Rauchwerk, a high school student, came in from New Orleans. FSU students included Bobby Francis, Ben Tanner, and Michael Lavender. Then-Representative Carl Littlefield (now Developmental Disabilities Coordinator and Assistant Secretary for Developmental Services with the Bush administration), also participated in the survey cruise offshore (see “State Rep. Carl Littlefield...”).

Work at the J&J Hunt site produced eight test pits, several new transect collections, sidescan sonar images, and a significant amount of mapping. In addition to numerous pieces of chipping debris and some tools, a diagnostic Bolen point was found on the surface of this site, confirming it as the location of an Early Archaic occupation. In addition, there were several Middle Archaic diagnostics located this year, indicating that the site was occupied by more than one group. This next summer we will put major effort into additional mapping and survey of the areas surrounding the J&J Hunt site, and concentrate on surveying for new sites further offshore. Chuck Meide will continue our focus on historic shipwrecks with his Dog Island Shipwreck Survey. Students and qualified volunteers will both participate in this cutting edge research. Those interested in participating, or supporting this in other ways, can find more information about it on our web site (

Editor's Note: Dr. Michael Faught is Director of the Program in Underwater Archaeology, Department of Anthropology, Florida State University.