By Sarah Miller, Florida Public Archaeology Network and Florida State Coordinator
Project Archaeology first came to Florida in 2006 when I was hired as Director of the Northeast Regional Center for the Florida Public Archaeology Network. As part of the grand opening of our Center we cut the ribbon with the mayor then marched in 18 teachers for our first Intrigue of the Past workshop. Two years later we were ready to start developing our own regional investigation for Lesson 8 of Intrigue of the Past. Teacher-Ranger-Teachers at Kingsley Plantation prepared the “Investigating a Tabby Cabin” Teacher Instructions and Student Handbook as part of their service to the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve (NPS). This was the first Investigation for Florida, the only one in the southeast, and the only Investigation to date to highlight a NPS park.
We’ve gotten a lot of mileage off our Kingsley Plantation Investigation and hold annual workshops at the park. But most of the Project Archaeology activity is still bound to the northeast. Are other areas of Florida reluctant to use Project Archaeology materials? Do Florida teachers feel supported by the Kingsley investigation in all parts of Florida? Do they connect with Kingsley Plantation across Florida as we do in the northeast?
For Project Archaeology to take off statewide it was felt we needed another investigation and one that would highlight a site type common across Florida. One heritage educators could easily partner with and find supporting organizations. So we at FPAN asked the question: What sites do all regions of Florida have in common?
There are 40 lighthouses along the Florida coastline, 31 of which are historic and listed on the National Register. The lighthouses span from the early 1820s to the 1920s across 16 different counties. Lighthouses are also endangered. When they are no longer in service as a navigational aid, they are decommissioned and often taken over by benevolent non-profit organizations or local government. Many become heritage museums and tourist destinations in part to promote Florida’s maritime past, and to help keep up with the costs of preserving such an unique structure.
Today we’re one step closer to making an “Investigating a Lighthouse Keeper’s House” shelter a reality; I just hit send on a Florida Department of State small-matching Community Education grant!!!!
The grant we submitted today would incorporate in the historical context all the lighthouses in Florida, but we still have yet to identify which of the 31 with be the lucky featured site. Many lighthouses have living descendants to interview, archaeologists who have done previous work at these sites, and archaeological data recovered that we can put to use in our curriculum. But which will have the trifecta of all three?
Plus there’s endless opportunities to highlight seafaring cultures and indepth archaeological analysis. For Kingsley we focused on sacred objects found at Kingsley Plantation and what spiritual practices the slaves were allowed to maintain in their daily lives. If we select the St. Augustine Lighthouse, we can focus on the Menorcan culture. During Florida’s British Period Andrew Turnbull brought over 1,400 indentured servants from 17 communities of the Mediterranian conveniently called Menorcans. Turnbull’s colony in New Smyrna Beach failed and the Menorcans petitioned the governor of Florida to be released from their contracts. Amnesty was granted and the Menorcans marched north to St. Augustine where the culture thrives today. All the lighthouse keeper’s at the St. Augustine Lighthouse can claim this Menorcan heritage and may be just the perfect fit.
Or do we pick Ponce Inlet Lighthouse? This is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and we recently held an Investigating Shelter workshop for homeschool parents at the site last fall. Archaeology has been conducted on site and of the keeper’s house where the family lived. Near to the site is the Commodore shipwreck of Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage fame. The shipwreck was the focus of an underwater archaeology investigation and many of the artifacts from the site are on display at the lighthouse museum.
Keep your fingers crossed our grant is selected for full funding and check back to see what site we select!