Students dig for Jacksonville artifacts

Theodore Roosevelt Preserve provides insight into Native American community

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University of North Florida anthropology students are digging into the past to learn more about the people who lived in Jacksonville centuries ago.

Anthropology students are finding artifacts in the Theodore Roosevelt Preserve that no one has touched for 1,000 years.

"Jacksonville has a really cool rich Native American history. I think it's underpublicized and underappreciated," UNF professor Keith Ashley said.

IMAGES: Anthropology students discover artifacts

Students are excavating a Native American community that dates to AD 1000 in the River City. They're finding Indian pottery, animal bones and shells.

"We've got mullet, flounder to larger black drum to red fish, a large variety," Ashley said. "They are really living off the marsh."

The pottery style clues them into the time period. The large amount of seafood found tells the students the Native Americans were hunting and gathering and not in the farming stages.

"These people are sharing the exact same land that we are sharing right now," Ashley said. "They were fishing the same water, walking the same trails. There's a connection between us."

The reason they knew to dig there in the first place? The shells are a good indicator the Native Americans were living off that part of the land, throwing the remains of their food on the ground. It's basically like looking through their trash for clues.

"We want to get to the people," Ashley said. "We want to get to the social relations, get to what their lives were like."

Ashley said the students are getting a hands-on experience reconstructing the past.

"It's really exciting to learn about the past and find these clues to as the way people lived and everything," student Steve DeFord said.

"I always thought it was pretty cool to go from a couple years to 1,000 years as we have here," student Thomas Buchanan added.

The students will excavate for three more weeks. If you want to dig in, starting June 10, UNF will have a public archaeological field school through UNF's Continuing Education program.