Indigenous Heritage Month: UNF hosting exhibition with artifacts from 4,000 years ago

News4Jax reporter Aaron Farrar shows us the pieces of history being found in our backyard.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northeast Florida is home to some of the country’s oldest artifacts, proof of indigenous people who lived here long before us.

The University of North Florida is working to keep their stories alive as November is Indigenous Heritage Month.

There are tangible pieces of the past in our backyards.

“We think the Native American history in this area is incredibly rich,” said UNF assistant professor of anthropology Keith Ashely. “It’s diverse it’s ever-changing but really few people know about it.”

That is why Ashley and anthropology students at UNF are showcasing pottery and other artifacts to the public Friday. All of them on display were found in northeast Florida from more than 4,000 years ago.

Some of the oldest pieces in North America were found from the Savannah River down to the St. Johns River.

Ashely says the process of getting these pieces ready for an exhibit includes discovery and analysis in the school’s archaeology lab.

They are reviewing artifacts like pottery, animal bones, and copper.

A portion of the findings is from Big Talbot State Park, specifically from a site called Sarabay.

The artifacts from the late 1500s in a Mocama-speaking Timucua town.

Nicole Abreu is an anthropology major. Magdalynne Alley is studying anthropology and history.

They are honored to tell these stories, many untold.

“Coming to Jacksonville, I did not realize they had indigenous people from here,” Alley said. “I’m from South Florida so I’m [familiar with] Seminole and Miccosukee [groups]. I didn’t know [groups were] from Jacksonville specifically.”

“Having an understanding of the people before Europeans who lived here is extremely important,” Abreu said, who says she’s dreamed of working in this line of study since she was young. “I would like to see schools teach this more.”

To this anthropology department, these finds are more than just displays.

“We’re really trying to create a deep, deep history centering around indigenous peoples,” Ashley said.

UNF will hold an exhibit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, showing those artifacts and plenty more.

It will be at the school’s Archaeology Lab in Building 51.

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