Interns Dig Archaeology!

By Victoria Lincoln, Tribal Archaeology Section Intern

My name is Victoria Lincoln, I am a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) studying Anthropology and History and also am employed with Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). Upon graduating I intend to further my education by attending graduate school focusing solely on archaeology within the Southeast! For the past six months, I have had the pleasure of interning with the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) within the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). Through this internship, I have gained hands-on experience in the preparation, execution, and documentation of Phase I and II cultural resource surveys.

Victoria
TAS Intern, Victoria Lincoln, on excavation at Pineland

Before joining the TAS as an intern, I had limited knowledge or experience with pre-excavation strategies. In May 2016, I attended a field school hosted by FGCU. At this field school, students were immersed in Phase III fieldwork and learned the process of an excavation. However, this was done without learning any of the other phases of archaeological investigations (Phase I and Phase II). Although I learned a lot from this field school, I lacked the ability to perform Phase I and Phase II surveys. To prepare for my future career as an archaeologist, I felt I needed to enhance these skills. Surveying land, performing Phase I shovel tests, and setting up Phase II excavation units are essential to professional archaeological fieldwork. The archaeology internship program provided by the TAS allowed me to really dig my heels in and explore the realities of Tribal Archaeology.

This internship was divided into four stages. First, I learned how to conduct desktop analyses, then Phase I and II cultural resource surveys, which made up the majority of the internship. The final two portions of the internship consisted of lab work and report writing. This structure allowed me to quickly immerse myself in skills valued by contract archaeology firms, THPOs, and State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO).

Shawn and Kitten.png
Archaeologist, Shawn Keyte, conducts a shovel test with the help of a curious kitten from the Brighton Reservation

 

The first month of the internship was dedicated to getting acquainted with Geographic Information System (GIS), a tool used by archaeologists to store, manage, analyze, and interpret spatial and geographic data. Knowledge and experience with GIS is extremely sought after by employers. While working with TAS, I used GIS to create maps of the Areas of Potential Effect for numerous projects. I learned how to create modern aerial maps, historic maps, topographic maps, and elevation maps. In doing so, I gained an appreciation for the background research involved in archaeological investigations. Another important step in desktop analysis is determining the probability of encountering cultural material in an archaeological survey. By working closely with the TAS crew, I began to determine this probability myself and plot to be excavated shovel tests in GIS. Over the course of my six-month internship, I have completed nearly 20 desktop analyses putting me well ahead of my fellow classmates who have never used GIS.

Rachel MD
Archaeologist Rachel Morgan uses a trimble and a metal detector to complete a survey

 

Nick Trimble
Archaeologist Nick Butler uses the Trimble during a survey

As mentioned previously, field work made up the majority of the internship. This is the step where APEs previously mapped out during the desktop analysis are visited and Phase I shovel tests are excavated. I was taken out with TAS employees to sites on the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations, where I was able to learn how to maneuver through hammocks and cypress domes. Although this was definitely challenging, it was by far my favorite part of the internship. During Phase I surveys, I excavated holes to a depth of 100 centimeters. I did not encounter any archaeological artifacts during my time with TAS. Nonetheless, I think this phase of the internship provided a valuable means of understanding the preparation, challenges, and documentation involved in archaeological fieldwork, skills that will undoubtedly be useful in gaining future employment as an archaeologist.

 

Interns2
TAS Inerns, Marshall Sterling and Victoria Lincoln, put their Phase I skills to the test in a pasture on the Big Cypress Reservation.

As the hot summer days of May came upon the Reservations, I began alternating between lab work and report writing. I became acquainted with the process of cleaning, organizing and documenting cultural resources in the Collections Lab. I had very little experience working in labs prior to this internship. My time in the lab allowed me to gain knowledge in the specific steps taken to ensure cultural materials are handled in an ethical way. Lastly, I learned how to write reports. This was probably one of the less exciting things, but an essential part of any scientific fieldwork. After each cultural resource survey, a report is completed explaining the reason for the fieldwork, the scope of the project, and the results of the survey. Just attending classes at university did not allow me to effectively interpret archaeological investigations. Lab work and report writing allowed me to look at results from the field and confidently communicate findings. This ability will greatly aid me in attaining my future goals.

 

Victoria and Kitten
Kittens make even note taking fun in the field

 

Overall, this internship was an amazing experience which allowed me to become better acquainted with field work and the steps taken prior to Phase I and Phase II excavations. Throughout this internship, TAS’ perspectives and strategies were shared broadening my archaeological perspective. I have also gained a newfound understanding and respect for the views the Seminole Tribe hold regarding their cultural materials and their history. This internship opportunity allowed me to understand the importance of collaborating with indigenous groups and their representatives on research; they share valuable knowledge of the area and people who lived there. This type of collaboration can help to avoid pitfalls in projects archaeologists face when they attempt to downplay indigenous roles and rights. All in all, this internship allowed for hands-on involvement in the field I wish to work in upon graduating. It allowed me to become confident using the tools I need to complete archaeological surveys. As I come to the end of this internship, I feel much more stable in my pursuit of a career in archaeology.

The Tribal Archaeology Section and Historic Camps

By Karen Brunso

Hello from the people you see carrying backpacks and wearing boots that go up to our knees, or as we are known around here the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS). One of the many tasks we undertake in the TAS is documenting and recording historic Seminole camps, which are an important part of Seminole history and culture. Camp research is an essential way in which the TAS works with the Tribal community in documenting and preserving the past.

What is a camp?

If you visit the museum, you will know how important camps were to the Seminole Tribe. Camps were, as Alexander Spoehr wrote in 1941, the center of everyday life for the Seminoles. These camps would be located within the hammocks and pine flats of South Florida. The camps were mostly based on a matrilineal kinship system, or a person’s clan was determined by their mother’s side of the family. Camps were comprised of members from the same clan along with a few members of different clans that were married to camp members.

     How does the TAS know where a camp was located?

Camps are recorded in multiple ways. Many times Tribal members tell us the location of camps in order to allow for their preservation. Camps are also recorded when the TAS uncovers artifacts that might point to the existence of a camp at that location. The TAS’s best resource to explain the artifacts is to ask the Tribal community about the artifacts found and if they are associated with a camp.

What happens after a camp is located?

After locating a camp, the TAS begins to gather information about the camp and the Tribal members who lived in it. Surviving camp members are interviewed to help provide more personalized details about each individual camp. The interviews bring the camp and its occupants to life. Camps transform into places where people lived, worked, played, and learned. Camp members map out the camp layout explaining the unique makeup of each camp. Interviews also bring the camp members to life showing their personality and character so that one can almost feel these people leap up from the photographs. Tribal members also help us identify people in photos, locations of photos, and correct any mislabeling of photographs that may exist.

THPO employees interviewing Onnie Osceola at the site of her house situated on the same location as the camp she lived in.
THPO employees interviewing Onnie Osceola at the site of her house situated on the same location as the camp she lived in.

In order to further document the camp, the TAS will go out and survey each camp. The methods we use are shovel testing (digging a hole one meter into the ground to determine the presence or absence of artifacts), pedestrian survey (walking an area to see what is on the ground surface), and metal detection. The TAS may use all or one of the methods mentioned, depending on each camp’s unique circumstances.

Hand drawn map of the Little Charlie Micco Camp by his son Billie Micco.
Hand drawn map of the Little Charlie Micco Camp by his son Billie Micco.

    What happens to each camp after the TAS researches, surveys, and records it?

The Tribal community decides what to do with each camp. Sometimes the camp is preserved so that Tribal children can learn about this important chapter in tribal history. Other times the area will be developed. The Tribal community will decide how the land should be used and who can build on it. It is through the entire process of researching camps that the TAS is able to work with the Tribal community in order to document and preserve these camps for future generations