(St. Augustine, Fla) – On Wednesday, February 5th, the monthly meetings of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association will be held. A talk will be given by Dr Ryan Duggins titled, Florida’s Submerged Pre-Contact Archaeology: Investigating and Protecting Manasota Offshore.

Florida has the second longest continuous coastline of any state in the USA. Coupled with this, its many rivers, lakes, and sinks mean much of the state’s fascinating archaeological record exists underwater. The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research (FBAR) is responsible for the research, interpretation, and protection of archaeological resources located on public lands and in state waters. Spanning over 14,000 years of human occupation, the state contains some of the finest and most significant submerged archaeological sites in the country. For example, the Aucilla river holds numerous inundated Paleoindian sites that provide evidence of Florida’s first inhabitants; Newnan’s lake contains the world’s largest concentration of prehistoric dugout canoes; within Pensacola Bay rest the remains of Tristan de Luna’s ill-fated 1559 attempt of Spanish colonization; and within the depths of the St. John’s River exist the intact remains of the Civil War transport steamer Maple Leaf. These and the countless other submerged archaeological sites around Florida provide residents with tangible evidence of the past and illuminating insight into the human condition.

FBAR staff have documented a submerged pre-contact archaeological site located in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore of Manasota Key, Sarasota County. Archaeological investigation of the area identified the presence of a newly identified Archaic period mortuary pond dating between 8200 ± 25 and 7214 ± 30 years ago. A sensitive and unique site, Manasota Key Offshore (MKO,) is protected under Chapter 267 and Section 872.05, Florida Statues and requires state archaeologists to preserve and protect it from human and natural impacts. FBAR’s work at the site focused on understanding and protecting the unmarked burials, some of which have already been displaced as a result of natural and human activity. Staff worked extensively to investigate, document, and protect MKO through remote sensing and visual surveys, sediment core collection, and test unit excavations.

MKO is a fascinating example of the south Florida Archaic period cultural practice of interring the bodies of deceased individuals within a pond or water feature. This site provides archaeologists the opportunity to identify the burial practices of a coastal population on the west coast of Florida and compare them with inland east coast populations, such as at Windover. MKO, however, is distinguished from other peat burial sites within Florida because of its location in the Gulf of Mexico under 21 feet of seawater. At the time of interment, waters of the Gulf of Mexico were approximately 30ft below their current level. Given the site’s present depth, prehistorically it likely had an approximate elevation of 9ft above sea level and was located near the shoreline 7200 years ago. MKO represents the first example in the Americas of a prehistoric burial site surviving Holocene sea level rise. Reconstruction of the paleolandscape of the area can provide insight into the circumstances that allowed this delicate site to be preserved. This information can then be applied to other submerged areas to better understand the effects of sea level rise on submerged archaeological sites throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

This presentation will provide a summary of FBAR’s investigations at MKO, with a focus on its unique characteristics, as well as threats to the site. MKO is more than the final resting place of Florida’s indigenous peoples; this site provides clear and unambiguous evidence that the submerged lands of our continental shelves contain significant archaeological sites that demand investigation and protection.

Dr. Ryan M. Duggins leads the Underwater Archaeology Program at the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research. He earned his Ph.D. from Florida State University; his research focused on modeling submerged landscapes and site distribution on the Continental Shelf.

The event is free and opened to the public. The presentation will begin at 7:00 PM in the Flagler Room on the Flagler College Campus, 74 King Street, St. Augustine, Florida 32084. For more information visit our website: saaa.shutterfly.com