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Video: UNF Helps National Park Service Assess Jacksonville Archaeological Storm Damage

The damage hurricanes Matthew and Irma did to many First Coast businesses, homes and roadways has been well documented.

However, these storms also threatened the safety of historical artifacts in the Jacksonville area. 

Areas like the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve faced damage from downed trees and washouts caused by the high wind speeds and torrential downpour.

Dr. Keith Ashley, Professor of Anthropology and his students from the University of North Florida have stepped up to help the National Park Service in researching the archaeological areas damaged by the two hurricanes.  

Ashley’s students are focusing on shell mounds, large collections of shells, bones and other detritus, which were formed by the native people known as Timucua discarding their garbage.  The remains of oyster shells, animal bones and pottery are pieces to the puzzle that help explain the lives of these industrious hunter-gatherers.  

These mounds represent generations of Timucua life and activity in the area around the St. Johns River. 

The artifacts that Dr. Ashley and his students are finding help the team collect an idea and timeline of what life was like along the St. Johns River for Native American’s living nearly 2,500 years ago.  

Many tools were found, including an awl carved from deer bone. An awl is a small pointed tool used for pericing holes. Fragments of pottery that represent the technical skills and lively culture of the original inhabitants were also found.

The oyster shells strewn along the trail ways of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve are only the surface to an underground collection of native history.