(Click on image for full size)

View from the bridge


In 1995 The Aucilla River Prehistory Project (abbreviated ARPP) embarked on the first large-scale effort to recover and interpret the rich prehistoric record entombed in the Aucilla River. This does not mean that prior efforts were unimportant: on the contrary, previous expeditions made crucial investments in locating the best resources and in developing practical systems for conducting credible underwater paleontolog) and archaeology. The accelerated commitment of ARPP in 1995 is evident in such parameters as funding, personnel, equipment, sites worked, and scientific outreach. Some of these points are highlighted here; others are more fully explored elsewhere in this newsletter.

Continued support from the National Geographic Society, Inc., now for the tenth year.

Order of magnitude increase in funding, thanks to the Florida Department of State and the Florida Legislature which provided a Special Category Grant of about $170,000 for 1995-96 (see "Slate Funds Archaeology Project", page 23). The Committee for Historic Preservation ranked the ARPP among the top ten proposals (and as the highest archaeological proposal) providing strong independent endorsement of this project. Participants in this grant program are invited to help shepherd it through the legislative appropriation process.

On January 10, 1996 following the preservation rally organized by the Secretary of State, nine project members divided into three teams, and stalked the halls of the Florida Capitol, inviting their legislators to support another historic preservation. The nine were Jack Simp-son, Wilmer Bassett, Steve Glover, Joe Latvis, Ed Green, Brinnen Carter, Jody Barker, Dean Sligh and Dave Webb. We would like to take credit for elegant demeanor and eloquent per suasion, but it may have been the beautiful trophy cases that Mark Muniz loaded with per feet Paleo point replicas and a fishhook, that made the good impression. In any event, each of our dozen contacts in the Senate and the House promised strong support for the Historic Preservation Program (see accompanying comment from the Secretary of State, page 23).

ARPP warmly acknowledges increased sup-port by private and corporate benefactors (see "Boosters", page 26). Their contributions are especially vital since neither of the two grants above provide for acquisition of permanent equipment. Virtually every critical piece of field equipment upon which our logistics increasingly rely, bears the name of a private or corporate supporter who wisely earmarked it. Rest assured that these gifts receive affectionate care and maintenance.

Never before has the ARPP been able to work so effectively at three major sites. In 1995 we made major advances at Sloth Hole (in the West Run, below Highway 98), fully opened the new Latvis/Simpson Site (in Little River, above Nutall Rise), and extended our largest excavations at the Page/Ladson Site (in Half-Mile Rise). Preliminary indications as to the scientific importance of these operations are given in some of the en-closed articles.

To staff its increased commitment to field work, ARPP made a major effort to recruit new volunteers. Dive logs show that they invested a total of nearly 800 hours of bottom time last year. Their names are listed inside (see "Class of'9,5", page 17). It is a pleasure to report that the quality of new volunteers was truly remarkable. The new recruits are every bit as good as our old stalwarts, and that is saying a lot!

At last the ARPP was able to place two of its longest-suffering volunteers on the payroll. Jack Simpson became Site Manager and Joe Latvis was appointed as Museum Operations Specialist.

A few years ago, during our Board of Director's meeting at the Ladson House, we were charged by UF Provost Andy Sorensen with involving more students in our project. With stronger funding, we have been able to pursue that challenge. Five outstanding students have now hitched their professional wag-ons to ARPP's star. Although some programs treat graduate students like "cannon fodder we regard these five as "our franchise". The first three are already enrolled as University of Florida graduate students in Anthropology, studying with Jerry Milanich and David Webb. Brinnen Carter is now writing his doctoral dissertation on the Bolen level at the Page/Ladson Site, (see "The Bolen Surface", page 8). Andy Hemmings is working on his Master's degree featuring Paleoindian material from Sloth Hole (see "Sloth Hole Site excavations", page 7). Andy came here from the University of Arizona in Tucson, one of the country's best programs in Archaeology, where he studied with Vance Haynes among others. And Mark Muniz, who has just entered graduate school, plans to select one of the Little River Paleoindian sites for his research. A fourth student, Matt Mihlbachler, currently a senior at the University of Southern Illinois, has worked with the ARPP both in the field and as a research associate analyzing proboscidean digesta (see "Mastodon Dung", page 12). He has now applied to the University of Florida Zoology Department, and we trust that he will be joining us officially next fall. Last but by no means least, Lance Carlson is a UF junior pursuing a double major in Anthropology and Geography. Lance plays an active role in the ARPP, and S. David Webb will feature some of its sites and findings in his senior thesis.

As the ARPP delves more deeply into the ife and times of the first Floridians, it must announce and authenticate its results in scientific and public forums. In 1995 the ARPP substantially increased the number of publications prepared and in press (see "Suggested Readings"). It has also greatly increased the number of public presentations by staff and students. Audiences from Berlin to Detroit and from Monticello to Orlando have been thrilled by the underwater video and splashy discoveries of our team. (See "Public Outreach and Educational Presentations").

ARPP is proud of its 1995 achievements. They place us precisely where we want to be in our five-year plan. Early next century the students now joining the program will be finishing, and some of us old veterans may be seeking honorable retirements. If we maintain approximately the same intense effort, and sustain equivalent levels of public and private support, we may be sanguine about accomplishing most of our goals. The Aucilla River's prehistoric wealth warrants nothing less.

During these next few years the ARPP will begin to alter the emphasis of many of its activities, devoting a greater share of its energies to public outreach, education, exhibits and video. Exploration and primary field work will be balanced by a greater investment in museum curation and scientific analyses. Even next year we are considering inviting volunteers to help in the museum as well as the field. Maturing students will balance collecting efforts with producing publications, as they realize the seriousness of the academic adage, "publish or perish".

Even now the ARPP definitely needs more money for carbon dates; for precise chronology lies at the heart of all prehistory. ARPP's advanced studies will increasingly involve other labs and other experts to fill in the multidisciplinary details that are uniquely preserved in our wealth of river sediments. An essential effort with Joe Latvis' videography and Gene Rowe's photography is to provide a clear and enticing record of ARPP's work both for scientific scrutiny and for public pleasure. These are some of the directions the ARPP is going as we all join in pursuing its destiny into the next century.