Digging up Local History: Archaeological Sites in Wakulla County

Wakulla Springs Dig
Wakulla Springs Dig
Posted at 6:45 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 15:24:29-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, FL. (WTXL) -- Calling all history buffs and science geeks. There's an archaeological dig in Wakulla Springs that can use your help. People there have already uncovered items that are nearly 14,000 years old.

Most people typically see Wakulla Springs as the perfect place to cool off and go for a swim, but that wasn't the case thousands of years ago.

"The sea level would have been greatly reduced, probably 340 feet lower than what it is today," explains Andy Hemmings, the principal investigator of the Paleo-Indian unit. "Instead of twelve miles to the south of us to get to St. Marks and open ridge salt water, it would have probably been the better part of 100 miles. Meaning, that we are literally high and dry."

This difference in geography means that our ancestors and early settlers lived very differently than we do today. To determine how differently, historians need to see tools and artifacts that have been buried for hundreds, even thousands of years. The archaeologists working at Wakulla Springs have chosen two dig sites that sit about 300 feet from each other.

At the site known as the "Historical Unit," more modern day items have been uncovered.

"One is related to the fire that was here in the 1930s," says James Dunbar, a board chair for the Aucilla Research Institute. "There seems to be a lot of burn material. It also had colonial artifacts."

The second dig site is about 300-feet away, and called the "Paleo-Indian Unit." It dates back tens of thousands of years ago when the earliest settlers lived in the area.

Items of interest and artifacts that are pulled from dig site then find their way to the on-site lab where they are cleaned and bagged individually. 

Then, the items are sent off for testing to determine their ages, where they may have come from, and how they shaped history.

"What we find in the ground not only supplements that, but it allows us to correct it," explains Willet Boyer , the principle investigator of the Historical Unit. "It allows us in areas where there is a little written history, or about people for whom there may be a limited amount of written history to fill in our understanding about what they were doing in the past."

Some of the artifacts that have already been found include bone fragments, tools, and pottery. It may take a number of weeks, or even months for the testing to be completed on these artifacts. Once finished, the items will be turned over to the state collection at the Bureau of Archaeology.

the dig in Wakulla County will be coming to a close on Saturday, but all are invited to come out before then to help dig and sift through dirt. no experience is needed.

Just go the the Lodge at Wakulla Springs, and let the gate guard know you're there for the dig.