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Why are UNF students digging on Big Talbot Island?

Professor hopes they’re close to a huge discovery

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some students at the University of North Florida are digging for history on Big Talbot Island during the fall semester.

Their end goal? To find the indigenous communities' political center.

Archaeologists from UNF have been digging on Big Talbot Island since 1998.

Keith Ashley, an assistant professor for the UNF archaeology program, said they’ve found part of a structure in the same spot in in 1998, which got them one step closer to a big discovery.

“We think we’re at the Mocama village of Sarabay, and Mocama is the dialect of the Timucuan language that was spoken here," Ashley said.

The artifacts found indicate that the indigenous community dates back to the 1500s.

“We know that in the early French and the Spanish accounts in the 1560s to the early 1600s, there’s a Mocama or Native American village known as Sarabay, and we think it’s on the south end of Big Talbot Island -- that’s where we are, and we’re pretty confident that we have it," Ashley said.

While digging, the students have unearthed pieces of pottery that they refer to as San Marcos and San Pedro pottery, native to the indigenous people.

“I’d really want to find in their council house, their main political or discussion center, and all Timucuan villages were supposed to have a council house, just none have been found," Ashley said.

The artifacts found are for the right time period for Timucuan villages, but they’ll keep digging until they get lucky and find that specific area.

The fall dig session will end by thanksgiving of 2020, but UNF will continue to dig at the same location for the next three to four years.


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