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Florida’s archaeological and historical resources threatened by proposed legislation

A letter from Theresa Schober, President of the Florida Anthropological society:

Dear FAS members:

On November 30, 2015, Representative Charlie Stone of Ocala introduced House Bill (HB) 803 relating to isolated historic and archaeological artifacts recovered in Florida by private individuals on state lands. The bill currently has nine co-sponsors (Representatives Baxley, Grant, Latvala, Murphy, Perry, Pilon, Plasencia, Smith, and Van Zant). An identical bill has been filed in the Senate (SB1054).

HB803 and SB1054 create a permit process that allows people to remove artifacts from state owned submerged lands using hand-held excavation equipment to dislodge them. This is currently illegal under state law. Unlike the previous Isolated Finds Program that was redacted in 2005 based on evidence of wide-spread non-compliance, the current bills provide for the transfer of ownership of the recovered artifacts. The Division of Historical Resources is provided the opportunity to inspect, photograph and analyze the artifacts, but it is required to provide detailed information on site areas to be avoided. Currently site location information is exempt from Florida Sunshine Laws due to its sensitive nature and the propensity for looting to occur on known sites.

This distinction between the previous Isolated Finds Program and the proposed legislation (HB803, SB1054) is significant. The organizations that have hired lobbyists to see this legislation enacted are engaged in the artifact trafficking business. This bill would allow them to dislodge artifacts from Florida river bottoms and immediately sell them for private gain. The organizations with a vested financial interest in these bills recently held a private event in Tallahassee – Collectors at the Capitol – with Rep. Stone as their special guest. This legislation is not intended to support casual hobby collecting although it might be characterized as such. The key individuals involved are based throughout the Southeast and are the principal operators of an antiquities market supplied by Florida’s submerged cultural sites. After the Division of Historical Resources discontinued the Isolated Finds Program in 2005 and after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service engaged in Operation Timucua in 2013, this illicit antiquities market was significantly curtailed. The current legislation will reverse the progress made in protecting Florida’s cultural heritage for all of its citizens.

It is important that FAS chapters, members, and individual chapter members speak out against this legislation. Please educate your delegates about this legislation’s source and special interests, as well as the irreparable damage this will cause to Florida’s unique, non-renewable historical and archaeological resources. The organizations involved in lobbying for this new legislation, such as the Tri States Archaeological Society or the Sunshine States Archaeological Society, may sound like FAS chapters but they do not meet FAS’s ethical requirements for membership.

The Legislature convenes on January 9, 2016. Please provide the following information to your chapters and other groups and individuals concerned with Florida’s archaeological and historical resources. Please call or email your legislators, particularly those on the Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development in the House. Lonnie Mann of the Panhandle Archaeological Society at Tallahassee (PAST) has put together a table showing which districts of subcommittee representatives are within FAS chapter areas to assist in this effort (included at the bottom of this email). The state legislature also has online tools for finding your district representatives. These tools and links to additional information can be found below.

Theresa Schober
FAS President

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Introducing Dakotaraptor


A new giant raptor discovered by Curator Robert DePalma:

“Finally, I can speak about it! The new raptor! As some have already described it…”Feathery…Giant…Toothy”

“Those of you that know me are more than aware that I look out for my colleagues and team members more often than I look out for my own personal interests. I don’t see any of these publications as a way to flaunt myself or enjoy the limelight, it is actually quite the opposite- every time there is a success, a publication, or a media spot, it is a way for me to give something back to my team. For those who have bled with me, dug alongside me, toiled for endless hours behind a research desk, and been integral parts of scientific puzzles, this is when together we share in the glory, my way of coming through for them and not letting them down, a chance for us all to enjoy the credit. When these projects follow through to completion, they are a useful tool for future scientists, the product of much sacrifice, dedication, and combined effort. And the countless people who joined forces to connect all the pieces are not always named or recognized, despite our greatest efforts to do so. The completed project is as much a monument in their honor as it is a learning tool for other scientists.”

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From Curator Robert DePalma: “Something Big is Coming!”

Something BigMark your calendars and keep a weather eye on the horizon- something big is, indeed, coming!
Halloween weekend will not only be host to jack-o-lanterns and spider webs, it will also see a new dinosaur enter the playing field. (and for you fellow paleo-nerds out there, the picture won’t help you guess- it has no taxonomic affinity to the new beast! So don’t look too far into it) All I can say is that I can’t wait to delight all of my paleo friends out there when this thing comes out. We are all so passionate about the search for ancient life, we all try to answer the same questions and reconstruct the same long-obliterated worlds, and it is times like this that we get to sit back and enjoy being the huge paleo “family” that we are, coast-to-coast and worldwide.

I wish Facebook had a “Jurassic Park dinosaur footprint ground-rumble” feature to tack onto this smile emoticon

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From the Field Journal of Curator Robert DePalma: KT Boundary part 2

KT part 2: shocked quartz.

I can assure you of this: disaggregating KT sediment in a tent, away from a lab, using pyrex measuring kitchenware, a microscope from the 1950’s, and an I-pad, while surrounded by mosquitoes, is no easy feat. And separating out the shocked quartz is even more difficult.
What is shocked quartz, you ask? Well, it is one of the more easily recognizable types of impact-generated debris that we find associated with the KT impact. And, ranking it a little higher on the coolness list, these particles are actually part of the basement rock of the Yucatan peninsula. They were blasted here all the way from Mexico. They were there that day, 66 million years ago. When the asteroid hit, the material that did not melt and form microtektites became ultra-shocked. Quartz and other minerals that are normally clear and free of internal structure were suddenly endowed with multiple sets of parallel shock lamellae in a fraction of a second. They can be found thousands of miles from the crater, such as here, in the Dakotas. And they are an unmistakable signature of impact events (as well as very beautiful in their own right).

KT2  pic A  KT2  pic B

KT2  pic C  KT2  pic D

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From the Field Journal of Curator Robert DePalma: KT Boundary part 1

Excursion #1: KT Boundary.

(Being the contrarian that I am, I still refuse to call it the now-used “K-Pg” Boundary except in scientific publications where it is required. It’s been KT since I was a kid, and it will be KT till I die. The letters started off as an abbreviation for two slices of geologic time, but they also became a proper name during the process. Correct and amend the terminology all you want to, but the proper name still sticks.)

Today’s task: recon. My student-assistants get their feet wet from the very beginning, with a long, long hike into unexplored territory. They learned a lot about reading the obscure geologic clues, ended their day a whole lot smarter than when they started off- we located a great new KT exposure at an undocumented site (can’t mention exactly where yet, but it is on private deeded ranchland and the spot is annoyingly difficult to clamber up to).

The greenish-grey mudstone toward the bottom is a rooted gley paleosol (paleo ground surface), and the orange-tan stripe on top of it is the KT impactite- the layer of fallout that came down after the Chicxulub asteroid impact. It is composed entirely of material blasted out of the Yucatan and the now-fragmented asteroid, that’s why it looks so different from the typical Hell Creek sediments. Above that, the black carbonaceous material is from a swampy pond. We each got to touch that miniscule ejecta layer, that tiny vestige that signifies an event that brought an end to the Mesozoic and the dinosaurs’ reign on earth. What a powerful connection to the past.

 10534865_10153389341110132_250367030270939517_o  11538153_10153389372555132_5711547625200434479_o
11221852_10153389354005132_2434399338755184171_o   11700996_10153389379185132_5872320124078776638_o

— with Karyn Chiapella and 3 others.

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Review: Paul J. Callsen, “Broward’s Early Residents: Native Americans and How They Lived in the Glades”

Archaeologist Paul J. Callsen gave a fascinating lecture this past Tuesday night on “Broward’s Early Residents.”  He covered two intertwined threads about the Native Americans of southern Florida.  One was about the peopling and cultural development of Florida from the Paleo-Indian to the Formative periods.  He started some 10,000 to 9,000 years ago with the Paleo-Indian hunters of megafauna like the mammoth and mastodon.  Fossils of some of these same animals are on display as part of the PBMNH’s Expedition Ice Age exhibit currently showing at the Plantation Historical Museum.  Callsen then moved onto the Archaic, when Florida Native Americans became increasingly sedentary.  Finally, he reached the Glades Culture, southern Florida’s version of the Formative Period that started about 500 B.C.  It was from here that he launched into his second thread.

Callsen’s second thread wove together the intricacies of the Everglades environment and how that impacted the peoples of the Glades Culture before European contact.  Using advanced mapping software, geographic information system or GIS, he plotted the locations of all known Glades-era archaeological sites.  This mapping demonstrated quite clearly that Native Americans did not live on the high ground of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.  Rather, they preferred spots on Everglades tree islands, and along the waterways that connected the Everglades and the coast.  For these original Floridians, water was essential because it provided them not only a drink, but fish and reptiles to eat, and easy transportation via canoes.

A few photos from the event, including the requisite post-lecture beer:

Callsen Lecture 2Callsen Lecture 3Callsen Lecture 4

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Event: Paul J. Callsen, “Broward’s Early Residents: Native Americans and How They Lived in the Glades”

Next Tuesday, archaeologist Paul J. Callsen is presenting a lecture that focuses on early Native Americans living in and cultivating the Everglades, along with the lasting impact their culture had on the area.  It is part of the Broward Moments Lecture Series, which addresses significant moments in the County’s 100 years history.  Come and learn about your local archaeological heritage.

When:  Tuesday, August 11th, 6pm

Where: Stirling Road Branch Library, 3151 Stirling Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

Admission: FREE

Callsen 1Warning: Archaeologist At Work

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In The News: “Remains of English Jamestown colony leaders discovered”

One of my favorite areas of research combines bioarchaeology and history.  Being able to identify people and link them to their skeletal remains enables insight into their lives, such as connecting evidence for broken bones to specific life events.  If the past is a story, combining bioarchaeological data and written documents adds flourishes to already fascinating tales.  The identification of four of the leading men from early Jamestown is one such example.

BBC News: Remains of English Jamestown colony leaders discovered

Scientists say they have identified the remains of four men who were among the early leaders of Virginia's Jamestown settlement.

Even more interesting then the news report, however, is the chance to view the burials via three dimensional  capture.  The Smithsonian's X 3D program has put up a number of these 3D models, including the Jamestown burials.

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In The News: “Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit”

Funding for museums is always a challenge. Yes, there are many revenue sources, from gift shops and workshops to donations and fees.  But over the last few years, as governments have tightened funding, museums have started to search for alternate funding sources.  A few years ago we at the PBMNH tried out Kickstarter to raise funds.  Although the Expedition Dinosaur 2012 project ultimately was not funded, the video was quite impressive:

Still, the use of such crowd-funding sites is an important way for museums to fund projects.  So if you have a few extra dollars, consider contributing to the Smithsonian Institution’s Kickstarter to preserve Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit.

Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit

“July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a feat so breathtaking in its scope and ambition that it captured the collective imaginations of audiences around the world. At the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, we use the power of real objects to tell stories like this one – stories of the vision, intellect, and courage of men and women who have overcome challenges and pushed boundaries to take the next giant leap for humankind.

For the Smithsonian’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign, we are proud to announce plans to conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit in time for this milestone anniversary…”


Of course, if you have a few more extra dollars, why not pick something up from the PBMNH’s Museum Store.  We have everything from a $45 replica Tyrannosaurus rex claw to a $42,000 replica mounted skeleton of Nanotyrannus lancensis.


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Congratulations: Patty Flynn

Congratulations to Patricia “Patty” K. Flynn for her reappointment to the Florida Public Archaeology Network‘s Board of Directors.  If you are not familiar with FPAN, make sure to check out their website to learn about their great lectures, workshops, and other activities.


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