Central Region Programs
Historical documentation from the officers of the Union ships involved in the blockade of Bayport during the Civil War describes the burning of two blockade runners. One was a schooner loaded with cotton; the other was an iron-hulled paddle wheeler that was over “two hundred feet long.” Union sailors watched as these vessels were set on fire by the Confederates to keep them from being captured by Federal forces.
The FPAN CRC, Hernando PAST, a historical preservation society, and other local archaeologists have partnered to locate these remains in order to learn more about Bayport’s Civil War history and to make sure these sites are preserved. FPAN hosted a public day in March 2009, inviting locals to come out to Bayport and share their knowledge of the past. Local stories related to the history are being documented and included in the information submitted to the Florida Master Site File that is managed by the Florida Division of Historical Resources.
In September, marine archaeologists conducted a remote sensing survey of Bayport using a magnetometer and side-scan sonar. A magnetometer is similar to a sensitive metal detector. It detects any anomalies, or changes, in the earth’s magnetic field. The magnetometer will pick up buried or surface deposits of ferrous metals — anything from iron cannons to crab traps! The side scan sonar sends an acoustic signal to the sea floor and allows us to “see” any objects that are sticking up from the bottom. Six sonar targets and five magnetometer targets were judged to be significant to our search for sunken vessels in Bayport.
Field operations were conducted by trained volunteer divers, archaeologists, and FPAN staff in November. Field work was focused on the assessment and recording of the targets found during the remote sensing survey. During the week of field investigations volunteer divers located two shipwreck sites while examining these targets. One site contains a portion of an iron hulled vessel. We did not find any steam machinery on this site. These expensive pieces would have been quickly salvaged by the local population after the vessel was burned. Research continues in an attempt to ascertain whether this is actually the iron hulled vessel from the Civil War—although artifacts recovered and ship construction methods seem to point in that direction.
The second ship located is a sailing vessel. The dimensions of the timbers and construction features indicate that she would have been anywhere from 60 to 80 feet long. Construction methods and materials used point towards a well-constructed watercraft that was probably not built locally. The details of the vessel remains also indicate that the ship was built prior to the Civil War.
Ongoing research into the remains of both of these vessels will hopefully provide definitive answers about their identity and the role they played in Florida/Bayport’s Civil War history.
Traditional Boat Building
Many people own and use boats on a regular occasion, yet the traditional craft of building wooden boats, once practiced all over the world, is now limited to a few specialists and small boat enthusiasts. People who live on the Northeast and Northwest coasts of the United States are lucky enough to have classes to learn traditional wooden boat construction. However, these types of opportunities are few and far between in Florida.
Recognizing that there was a desire to learn this craftsmanship in the area, the FPAN CRC and the Crystal River Preserve State Park now offer an interpretive exhibit that allows the public to experience “hands-on” building of traditional wooden boats. Boat building is almost entirely volunteer-driven. It includes both experienced and inexperienced people using traditional woodworking tools. This exhibit is design dedicated to preserve the traditional maritime heritage of boat craftsmanship on the Florida gulf coast. It also allows the public to participate in the design of a project that is a useful exercise in experimental archaeology. Our goal is to build a collection of watercraft representative of the central gulf coast’s unique and multi-cultural history that can be shared with both boat enthusiasts and the general public.
Anyone interested in joining in the fun is welcome! The Traditional Boat Building exhibit is offered every Wednesday and Saturday from 9-12 pm at the Crystal River Preserve State Park headquarters. See the Crystal River Boat Builders website for more information http://www.tsca.net/CRBB/.
Sifting For Technology
A wall of storm surge from the 1993 Storm-of-the-Century flooded the Crystal River Archaeological State Park and caused the sea wall along the river’s edge to fail. When the new sea wall was constructed, the displaced archaeological materials along the river’s edge were saved. A replica Platform Mound, reminiscent of the Parks’ Mounds A and H, was constructed using the displaced midden deposits. Rangers and support personnel at Crystal River Archaeological State Park created the Sifting for Technology program to teach students about the people who once lived at the site. FPAN has contributed activities and outreach events to enhance the student’s understanding about the artifacts recovered from the site. The major emphasis is the recovery of items of ancient technology; however, we never know what we may find.
Students from local schools, colleges, civic and church groups, and other organizations are invited to participate in the recovery of prehistoric and historic artifacts, shellfish remains, animal bones, and other items that are still contained within these archaeological deposits. Although they are not in their original locations, the items recovered are very real and speak volumes about the peoples who once called this region around the Crystal River site their home.
While excavating, students are asked to look at each artifact and think about how that artifact got there? Who was the last person to touch it? What was it used for? How was it made? What does it tell us about the people who lived here?
Most importantly, students enjoy being able to help contribute to the knowledge of people of the past.
Absolutely no items are allowed to leave the Park. No one is allowed to keep recovered materials. All materials recovered are analyzed by students and then sent to the FPAN lab where they are archived and sent to the Division of Historical Resources in Tallahassee.
For more information, please contact the Crystal River Archaeological State Park at 352.795.3817.
On the Nature Coast, perhaps the best way to view the area’s coastal and river archaeological resources is from a boat, and the best boat to have in these waters is a kayak. In partnership with A Crystal River Kayak Company, Inc., the CRC has offered a variety of outings that are both informative about the historic and prehistoric sites in the region but that are also fun to do!
Each tour has a specific destination or series of locations designated along the travel route. Participants can either bring their own boat or rent one for a nominal fee. The program starts off with a PowerPoint presentation/discussion of the sites, historic events, or destinations we’ll be passing by or whose locations we’ll visit. This briefing includes a paddle plan and any necessary safety instructions. Tour sizes have ranged from three to over 40 people, but 8-12 paddlers makes for an informative and well-paced trip. All of the trips so far have been daytime paddles of between 3-6 hour durations, and rarely go more than a few miles. Some are designed for beginning kayakers, while others are best left to the paddlers with at least some time on the water.
Our destinations to date have included Roberts Island/Crystal River Mounds, Shell Island, Buzzard Island, Kings Bay, Blue Springs, and Mullet Key. Trips to Cedar Key, the Homosassa River/Tiger Tale Island, and the Weeki Wachee River have been discussed and will be planned if there is sufficient demand.
For tour sign-up and other information, please connect Kayaks and Beyond at KayakCrystalRiver.com
FPAN CRC is dedicated to finding new ways of making Florida’s past relevant to today’s students. Archaeology incorporates all the major disciplines – science, math, language arts, and social science – fulfilling many Sunshine State Standards while helping to prepare students for standardized tests like the FCAT. Our Florida archaeology based lesson plans meet Florida Sunshine State Standards and can be incorporated to enhance classroom curriculum. We can also provide lectures, teacher in-service training events, and hands-on educational programs for schools and youth organizations. The best part is, since we are a grant funded program we can provide resource materials, information, and outreach activities to schools free of charge.
Some of the programs we offer include:
Atl-Atl Antics: Spear-throwers, levers, and a whole lot of fun outside!
Shipwreck on a Tarp: a classroom-based underwater “excavation”
Florida Prehistory: a discussion of the major events in Florida’s past
Florida Maritime Archaeology: Underwater archaeology in the Sunshine State
Florida’s Prehistoric Stone and Shell Tools: How stone and shell tools were made and used
Prehistoric Pottery: classroom presentation on Florida’s prehistoric ceramic technology
Presentations are free and available upon request. Program times are dependent on staff availability. Call Jason Moser at 352.795.0208 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GPR, or Ground-Penetrating Radar, is a remote sensing technology that uses microwaves (yes, just like the one in your kitchen!) to locate buried objects beneath the ground. GPR has a variety of uses, from location sinkholes in central Florida to measuring the depth of ice in Antarctica. Our goal is to use this technology to assist our partnering organizations find and evaluate historic cemeteries in our service region. We also assist the other FPAN Centers in south and central Florida with their GPR needs. Often considered a technically-focused specialty (read “geeky”) even among archaeologists, the CRC has purchased a variety of GPR equipment that is both user-friendly and functionally sophisticated.
Our GPR equipment is made by GSSI in New Hampshire, a leading expert in GPR and remote-sensing technology. The GPR can be configured in a variety of ways. The most popular is mounted in the “high-tech” jogger-stroller cart, but it can just as easily be dragged around with a handle and an attached survey wheel, or “distance-measuring” wheel that measures how far the GPR travels. Whether being pushed along or dragged about, the GPR antennas can collect huge amounts of data that are both displayed on a video screen for immediate viewing and also stored in memory for later processing and image enhancement. A GPR collects data in much the same way that you cut or slice into a birthday cake. It makes a thin vertical cut from the top to the bottom of the deposit using microwaves. Special software is then used to turn the vertical “slices” recorded by the GPR into horizontal “layers” that are both easier to understand and can be used to measure the distances to and between the anomalies or targets identified by the GPR. So far, the GPR has been used at a number of historic cemeteries and even inside the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine.
The first thing most of the volunteers realize after the first few passes pushing the GPR and watching the data scroll onto the video monitor is that real GPR data collection and the depiction of GPS and other remote-sensing technologies on popular TV shows like CSI or Crime Scene Investigators have very little in common. Real GPR data looks like shadowy bumps and curved lines – the reflections of radio waves off of buried objects and soil layers, not the well-formed outlines of skeletons, guns, and gruesome crime scenes shown in High Definition. But if all they showed you were static lines and echoed reflections, would you watch the show? Would you really believe that they had found something important?
The Center’s GPR strives to put GPR technology into the hands of partnering organizations in a way that allows them to define the project goals and objectives, collect much of the field data, and use the results to identify, protect, and preserve historic cemeteries and other historic sites in the region.