The Florida Public Archaeology Network
|March 2014 FREE Lecture|
March 1, 2014, 10-11a.m.
Sams House at Pine Island, Merritt Island
Paleo Florida: The Archaeology of Florida's First Peoples presentation
Come kick off Florida Archaeology Month with a presentation on Florida's first people, who came to Florida around 13,000 years ago. Learn about the world they inhabited, one very different from our own. Kevin Gidusko of FPAN will discuss important sites throughout the state and cover what we know about these Paleoindians. Click here for more information
Dr. Rachel K. Wentz, RPA
FPANFlorida is one of the most interesting states in our country. Humans wandered onto the peninsula over 12,000 years ago, exploiting the abundant natural resources that, to this day, draw people from all over the world. That lengthy human occupation has left behind a wealth of evidence; evidence that is quickly being destroyed by the influx of residents, tourists, and development into the region.
It is this clash of the past with the present that necessitated the development of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). FPAN is a state-wide network of professional archaeologists whose primary mission is to educate the public about the importance of archaeological resources within our state. As Regional Director of the East Central Region, hosted by the Florida Historical Society, I oversee outreach and education within an eight-county region that includes Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee. I am assisted by Kevin Gidusko, who serves as Outreach Coordinator, bringing archaeology into the classroom and providing training for area teachers.
I joined FPAN in 2007 after completing an MS and PhD at Florida State University. I specialized in bioarchaeology - the analysis of human remains from archaeological contexts. I trained under Dr. Glen Doran, whose previous work on the Windover Site would lay the groundwork for all my future research.
The Windover SiteIn 1982, during construction of a housing development in Titusville, Florida, a skull was discovered during the de-mucking of a small pond. That skull would set in motion events leading to one of the most important archaeological sites in North America, Windover (8BR246). Excavations commenced in 1984, under the direction of Dr. Doran and Dr. David Dickle, and lasted for three field seasons. Their work produced some of the most astounding finds in American archaeology.
One hundred and sixty-eight well-preserved skeletons were excavated from the base of what would turn out to be a mortuary pond - a small pond used for the interment of the dead. What was even more amazing than the number and condition of the remains was their age: radiocarbon dating placed the burials at over 7,000 years ago, making Windover one of the largest, oldest, and best preserved cemeteries in the Americas.
These sophisticated burials contained a wealth of information about Native Americans living in Florida 7,000 years ago. The bodies were carefully wrapped in hand-woven textiles made from palm fiber and many of the burials had associated grave goods. These goods included tools and utensils made from bone, antler, and wood; articles of adornment, such as shells; and weaponry that included atlatl weights and stone points. Most astounding of all - 91 of the crania contained preserved brain matter.
The Windover site continues to offer clues to ancient life in Florida. The DNA extracted from the bones revealed ancient links to Asia. The textiles are some of the most ancient in North America and speak to the sophistication of their culture. The well-preserved remains have provided information about health and nutrition. My research has examined rates of trauma and arthritis; various forms of dental disease; incidence of infection and congenital abnormalities; and signs of nutritional stress.
These studies reveal a people challenged on many levels. Not only were they living among the harsh environs of ancient Florida, with all its associated risks (mosquitos, heat, and gators!), but they were able to survive serious biological insults. Signs of long-term illness and injury provide clues to their social structure, for individuals who were sick or maimed were cared for, not abandoned. Some, like the young boy with spina bifida, had a multitude of health issues, yet was nursed along for almost eighteen years until he finally succumbed.
Windover represents the extent to which archaeological sites speak of the past. These sites hold clues and information about a world vastly different from our own and only through their protection can we continue to learn about the ancient inhabitants of our state.
Dr. Glen Doran and Dr. Rachel Wentz
with her books: Raising Bones
and Life and Death at Windover.
Life and Death at Windover:
Excavations of a 7,000-year-old Pond Cemetary
By Dr. Rachel Wentz
Amazon Book Description
Publication Date: March 31, 2012
In 1982, a backhoe operator working at what would become the new Windover Farms housing development in Titusville, Florida, uncovered a human skull. The bones of several other individuals soon emerged from the peat bog. It would be determined that the human remains uncovered at Windover were between 7,000 and 8,000 years old, making them 3,200 years older than King Tutankhamen and 2,000 years older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt. This was just the beginning of an archaeological adventure that continues today.
Windover is truly a unique site that continues to astonish. Dr. Wentz does a wonderful job of telling the two stories of Windover. One is the story of the people who lived in the area and are buried in the pond. The other story introduces you to the amazing people and circumstances which made the excavation possible. From its discovery by a backhoe operator and a concerned and interested landowner to the crew who worked on the project, Wentz effectively captures the stories of a fascinating archaeological discovery. -- Dr. Glen H. Doran, Principal Archaeologist of the Windover site
About the Author
Dr. Rachel Wentz is director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) East Central Region, which includes the Windover site. As a Bioarchaeologist she has spent many years studying the Windover skeletons.
Kindle - $7.95 Paperback
Rachel K. Wentz, PhD, RPA
Florida Public Archaeology Network
Florida Historical Society
435 Brevard Ave
Cocoa, FL 32922
321-690-1971, ext 222
Visit the Windover Pond
pages on the Trail of
Florida's Indian Heritage website.
Brevard Museum of History and Science - THE WINDOVER STORY
The Windover Archaeological Research Project
Indian River Anthropological Society
Florida Public Archaeology Project
Florida Historical Society
North Brevard History
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