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FGCU Anthropology Program and Seminole Tribe of Florida's Tribal Historic Preservation Office Collaborate in Archeological Field Trip
7/29/2009

FORT MYERS, FL - Faculty and students in the anthropology program at Florida Gulf Coast University's Department Marine and Ecological Sciences and the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) joined forces over the summer in a collaborative educational and research program to offer an archaeological field school on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida Reservation.

The program united personnel and curricular resources of the anthropology program with the archaeological expertise and community support of the THPO to offer students an unparalleled archaeological training experience.

The FGCU group was led by Annette Snapp of FGCU's Office of Curriculum and Instruction and Department of Marine and Ecological Studies, and Paul Backhouse, adjunct instructor of Anthropology and Deputy Tribal Historic Officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The project aimed to verify the location of Fort Shackelford, a military installation built in the spring of 1855 (at the beginning of the Third Seminole War) but abandoned in June of the same year due to flooding. Reports indicate that the fort was burned down by the Seminole Indians in the same year. For more than 80 years Fort Shackelford lay buried and forgotten until a concrete monument was placed on the approximate location of the structure in the 1940s. The Tribal Historic Preservation Office facilitated this project to confirm and verify the actual location of the fort for its inventory of cultural and historic resources.

The FGCU group took up residence on the Big Cypress Reservation for two, 10-day field sessions during the Summer A term. "Students were directed in a range of contemporary archaeological investigative techniques through classroom instruction, laboratory and field techniques including excavation, shovel testing and metal detecting. The curriculum included complementary cultural activities such as conservation procedures, photography and architectural surveys on the reservation," Snapp said.

"Various rusted metal artifacts, including a square nail that appears to date to the time period of 1855, were recovered by FGCU students. Also found near the modern fort monument was evidence of later use of the area through glass and ceramic artifacts thought to date to Seminole camps of the 1870s as well as plastic artifacts that appear to be associated with watermelon farming which occurred more recently on the land. Evidence for watermelon 'rows' was also discovered by students in the striped patterns they found in the soil."

With no above-ground architectural or landform features of the fort to guide the research, archaeological investigation began with a remote sensing technique known as ground penetrating radar. Supplied by the THPO office, this state-of-the-art method used in tandem with computer software generated subsurface maps of the area around the modern monument, which indicated shallowly buried features and anomalies that directed excavation efforts.

For more information, media representatives should contact Snapp at (239) 590-7588.

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