Monday, May 18, 2009

Key Marco, Florida

Key Marco is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Florida. A shell mound located on an island off the southwest corner of the peninsula, it was excavated in 1895 by Frank Hamilton Cushing of the Smithsonian Institution, who uncovered a trove of over one thousand wooden artifacts in a swampy area. The wooden artifacts included beautiful statues that revealed a previously unsuspected aesthetic. Most of the wooden objects were not properly preserved after excavation because knowledge of conservation was not sufficiently advanced at the time. As a result, they warped and disintegrated. The collection from the site remains immensely significant as nothing similar has ever been recovered since.

For my birthday, my dear wife took me to Marco Island for a night in a kindly but probably misguided attempt to get me to stop working and relax, if only for a few hours. We happened to stay at a hotel on top of the archaeological site. Marco Island is today almost completely urbanized and what was a large site is unfortunately buried or destroyed. About 6:30 in the morning, we went out to look for artifacts. We found many small sherds along a major road wherever the underlying shell midden was exposed to one side or the other of the sidewalk. A surprising percentage of them are red (Glades Red type?), but that could be because the red sherds are easier to see, and therefore they might be overrepresented in the collection rather than truly being more common. Most of the non-red sherds are black and so are camouflaged in the soil.

It seems appropriate for FAU to have a collection from Key Marco. All I need to do is to find someone to wash and label the sherds.

No comments:

Post a Comment