Tag Archives: fsu department of anthropology

Digitizing the Castro Archaeological Site

In a recent collaboration with the Department of Anthropology, FSU’s Digital Library Center has digitized thousands of objects including photos, field notes, and other fascinating material produced during 2000-2002 of the Castro archaeological site located right here in Leon County, Florida.

The Castro site was one of many Franciscan missions found in Northwest Florida. Established by Spain in 1663, these missions were built on Apalachee homelands and functioned until they were destroyed in the early 1700s by Anglo-Creek military forces from the Carolina colony. These sites were eventually abandoned by the Apalachees and indigenous peoples, and evidence of their existence was buried over time by natural processes.  

Guided by FSU Anthropology Professor Dr. Rochelle Marrinan, students in the Field School surveyed and excavated the Castro site to analyze its settlement pattern and layout with an emphasis on its church complex. In both Anthropological Fieldwork courses, ANT4824, and ANG5824, the students learned and practiced basic survey, excavation, preparation, and analysis of cultural materials.

Students carefully excavating a portion of the Castro site
Students carefully excavating a portion of the Castro site. [See original object]

Using a combination of flatbed scanning and photographic techniques, the Digital Library Center digitized the wide range of material from this project. Included in the Castro Archaeological Site Collection are photographs, video, topographic maps of the site, detailed hand-written notes by each student, and other administrative and analysis documents. The findings of these hard-working teams are now publicly available in DigiNole and can be found here.

Page of student field notes from the Castro site.
Page of student field notes from the Castro site. [See original object]
Digitizing the Castro site material isn’t the first time the DLC has collaborated with FSU’s Department of Anthropology. The Windover Archaeological Site Collection in DigiNole details the digs of an Early Archaic site near what is now Titusville, Florida. Unearthing the secrets of Florida’s rich and complex history is a fascinating experience and we look forward to our next collaboration with the Anthropology Department.

Recording Destruction

The Digital Library Center has been working with the FSU Department of Anthropology for several years now to digitize the materials created at the Windover dig site. We’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel! However, as I loaded the last of the unit excavation forms, I realized something. I had absolutely no idea what these forms were! So, I sent off an email to Dr. Geoffrey Thomas for some clarification.

To start with, and something that I have never really thought about is that Archeology, the act of excavating, is an act of destruction. If they’re doing their jobs right, at the end of the dig, the site no longer exists. So, the hundreds of forms (For the Windover dig, over 600!), called Unit Excavation Forms, are used to record exactly what the archeologists were seeing as they dug the site. The site itself is divided into squares on a grid with each square having specific coordinates within the grid. Each form then corresponds to a specific square, or as they are called, unit.

Per Dr. Thomas, Unit Excavation forms’ primary role then, is to record the process of removal, layer by layer in each unit. Each form is labeled with information like the site name/number, the coordinates of the unit, the unit number that corresponds with a location on the grid, people working on that unit, and the level (depth) of the excavation. The workers then excavate in 10cm levels (ground – 10cm below surface = level 1) and so on to 90-100 cms = level 10. Each and every artifact is recorded as it is found and the workers make sure to mark the location within the unit, depth, and type of artifacts discovered. So, the unit forms and each level gets a form, then tell us what was found and where.

A Unit Excavation Form from Lot No. 1 at Windover during the 1984 season
A Unit Excavation Form from Lot No. 1 at Windover during the 1984 season [see all forms from Lot No. 1]
You stop digging in a unit when you hit a “sterile” layer, or after you have not hit new artifacts for a few levels. You then close that unit and start on a new one. After completion of a dig, the Unit Excavation Forms can be used to reconstruct each unit so that future researchers know where certain artifacts were found and in what context they belong within the dig site.

Pretty cool right? I also asked Dr. Thomas to think about what people will be able to learn now that these forms are online. Having the forms for the Windover dig online allows researchers and people interested in archaeology to gain information on, not only the process of archaeology but the specifics of the Windover site. If someone is interested in a particular burial and would like to find out the context of the burial (for example individual 90,  a subadult with a large number of grave goods), Dr. Thomas, or the patron themselves, could look up burial 90 and have the excavation forms for that unit. This will allow Dr. Thomas and the researcher to see the position of the body and locations of each artifact in the burial, along with any pictures of the burial site if any exist. This will hopefully greatly increase the amount of interpretive power we have for examining the remains and the way they were treated at death.

Now that we know what they are, enjoy browsing through and getting a picture of the Windover site from the unit excavation forms. You will also find field notes and photographs as part of the larger Windover collection. Happy “digging”!

Note: We are in the process of digitizing and loading x-rays and photographs of burials at the Windover site. However, due to the nature of that material and NAGPRA guidelines, those materials will be in collections with restricted access. Look soon for instructions on how to apply to use these types of materials for research in DigiNole.

Digital Windover

Detail from Field Notebook at Windover, 1985
Detail from Field Notebook at Windover, 1985

In 1982, a construction crew started what was supposed to be a routine de-mucking of a small pond in preparation for road construction of Windover Way. It is located in east central Florida, about 16 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. However, in the course of the construction work, human remains were discovered. Once it was determined they were not of forensic interest, the construction company contacted Florida State University anthropology faculty to create a research proposal for the landowners.

What followed was three field seasons at Windover from 1984-86 that uncovered the remains of 168 individuals as well as other culturally significant objects from a mortuary pond dated from between 6000-5000 BC. Because of the peat and small pond nature of the site, not only skeletal material but also normally perishable organic artifacts were also discovered. Perhaps most interestingly, enough brain matter was recovered from some skulls to conduct DNA sequencing on the remains.

A partnership with the Department of Anthropology is bringing data from the Windover digs to DigiNole. We have loaded the first batch of materials which includes field notes and excavation forms from the digs. More field notes and forms will follow shortly. We’ve also working with Digital Support Services at the University of Florida to digitize x-rays of the bones found at Windover. Maps and digitized slides from the seasons will come at a later date as well.

The DLC has been excited to work on this project as it lets us continue to develop models for these sorts of “split” projects where digitization is happening both in the Department of Anthropology and the DLC, allowing each group to work in their area of expertise as well as splitting the work to move forward in a more efficient way.

For more information about the Windover site and the work done there, see Doran, G. H., & Thomas, G. P. (2015). Windover: an overview. Tagungen des landesmuseums fur vorgeschichte halle, 13, 1-19. To see the digital collection, visit DigiNole.