• Ancient Digger teaches Archaeology and History to all Ages!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Indian Artifacts Discovered on USF Golf Course

The University of South Florida's golf team now has a brand new place to train, take showers and stow belongings at The Claw, the school's public golf course.

But first, to make way for the new Chowdhari Golf Center, USF archaeologists had to look through remnants of the course's first guests — prehistoric Florida Indians — for material to help us understand how people once lived.

The Claw golf course is part manmade hills and part swamp. When Shaukat and Antonina Chowdhari, parents of USF men's golfer Adam Chowdhari, donated $1.3 million this year for the expansion, the university looked to USF archaeology professor Nancy White and her students to perform a state-mandated excavation of the site.

State law requires that a construction site where artifacts are present must undergo a full anthropological excavation. Questions arose about a part of the property north of the campus that was to be disturbed in developing the 5,040-square-foot golf building.

The USF campus is home to a number of archaeological sites that show evidence of human occupation as long ago as 3,000 B.C. The north side of the campus was investigated during the 1960s, but no formal report was written until 30 years later — leaving some holes to fill for White and her team of about 20 students and volunteers.

Over the summer, the team closely monitored construction of the new building, parking lot and lift station and excavated a 1,600-foot-long trench for the building's sewer line.

One of the students was Christine Bergmann, vice president of the USF Anthropology Club and a senior at USF, who sifted soil and found pottery shards and pieces of chert, sedimentary rock that often contains fossils.

Finding chert modified with sharp edges could mean people here knew how to make stone tools for cutting meat to eat, Bergmann said.

"When you combine the history of the land with the artifacts, you can get a sense of the reality of people that existed during a certain time period," she said. "Anthropology can make you feel very small and temporary in this ever-changing world ... but in a good way."

The golf course is now surrounded by stop-and-go traffic on Fletcher Avenue, student housing high-rises on North 46th Street and USF parking lots. But the area of the Claw — so named for the distinctive shape of its 14th hole — was considered a paradise by its native inhabitants. The nearby swamp provided everything they needed for survival.

"To a prehistoric person, a steaming swamp is everything," White said. "It's a Walmart, next to a Home Depot, next to a Publix."

* * * * *
The entire university area was once home to Florida Indians, who disappeared as the land was settled first by the Spanish and British and later by Seminole Indians from Alabama and Georgia.

The name of the area studied by the USF team is the Observatory Site, so named for a building that once stood nearby.

Recent USF anthropology grad Nathan Gil said knowing Native Americans once roamed the land where his alma mater sits helped him take on the tedious task of shoveling and sifting through sediment.

They received no pay for their work.

"As the volunteers were mostly students, the atmosphere was much like that of a classroom, where questions were asked and answered, a very positive experience overall," Gil said.

There was a time limit for getting the work done because construction had already begun on the new golf center. But other than a few rainy days, there weren't many problems, he said.

* * * * *
Most of what the students dug up was "modern fill" — layers of dirt brought in when the golf course was developed in 1967.

But the team also discovered pieces of charcoal, shell fossils, shark teeth, flint and pottery shards and two chipped-stone projectile points created about 1,500 to 4,000 years ago, according to their report.

Matching their find to the people of the era proved a challenge.

"It wasn't just one site that they came and lived in one time and then they left … because all the resources they needed are in here," White said. "All the animals, all the plants, water, this would be like the shopping mall."

An Indian burial mound and a church site, now called Buck Hammock, stand in the woods near The Claw, which would have allowed ancient Floridians to pay "homage to their ancestors" just steps away from the campsite.

Most of the contents of Buck Hammock were excavated by the Florida Museum of Natural History in the 1950s and are on display at the museum in Gainesville. White's new findings sit in a box on a shelf in the basement of USF's Social Science Building.

Even here, though, they can play a key role in unraveling the mysteries of Florida's oldest inhabitants — if students remain interested in them. With new technologies being developed every day, more thorough investigations are possible.

"The whole point of having collections is that they are available for future researchers," White said.

"You know how they finally found the Unabomber? The DNA on the postage stamp. Traces of humans that we can analyze become more fabulous every year, and we can do all these great studies and find out what really happened in the past."

Source: Tampa Bay Online


Post a Comment

We appreciate comments, but we delete SPAM.

Like Ancient Digger? Why Not Follow Us?

Subscribe Via RSS Feed Follow Ancient Digger on Facebook Follow Ancient Digger on Twitter Subscribe to Ancient Digger Via Email

Get widget



Ancient Digger Archaeology Copyright © 2015 LKart Theme is Designed by Lasantha