Wednesday, January 25, 2012

St. Augustiine Record: City: Protect historical artifacts --- outrage over TV reality show sparked commission action

Posted: January 24, 2012 - 9:55pm

Outrage over TV reality show sparked commission action

Desiring to protect the city’s historic resources, St. Augustine City Commission this week passed a resolution reminding its residents that local archeological artifacts require protection from exploitation.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline became alarmed after a Los Angeles film company recently requested to film a reality show of city residents digging artifacts from their yards and talking about them on camera.

That project was never developed, though just weeks before, a local resident armed with an expensive metal detector boasted about finding “secret” sites and shipwrecks where he locates and removes thousands of artifacts, including gold and silver from the 16th century.

“It was a double-whammy,” Sikes-Kline said Tuesday. “So it was important to get our message out.”

She also heard that the film company planned digging on the site where Seminole Chief Osceola was captured.

In a prepared statement released Tuesday morning by the city, Sikes-Kline said, “We can all be the best stewards of our property and be sure that when it’s excavated it is not done wilfully but with professional oversight.”

Both those cases sparked an angry outcry from residents and protests from archeologists who said removal of historical artifacts from their locations removes any chance of determining their age and much of the historic value they may hold.

Artifact restoration expert John Powell of St. Augustine said Tuesday that the city’s “archeological integrity” must be maintained.

“St. Augustine has already lost innumerable archeological resources to construction and development,” he said. “Any information we can save about the city’s past we should save. (The city’s) archeological ordinance mandates that any major disruption of soil must be excavated by the city. It’s the only thing that stands between archeological information and the total destruction of those resources.”

Powell praised City Archeologist Carl Halbirt and renowned University of Florida archeologist Kathleen Deagan as world-class “treasures” who have influenced and educated thousands of local residents with their work.

Halbirt said that, by having the archeological ordinance, 600 city properties have been excavated.

“Without the ordinance and investigation, this information would have been permanently lost,” he said. “We’re helping to preserve St. Augustine’s heritage through documentation.”

Sikes-Kline admitted that the new resolution has no enforcement teeth but said it serves to remind residents they should recognize the importance of preserving the archeological significance of what they find on their land.

This can be done by contacting the city prior to any excavation, she said.

There is no telling what Halbirt will find.

For example, while excavating a wooded lot off Magnolia Street for a proposed house construction, he found post holes that led to the conclusion that this site once held a prehistoric Native American occupation that dates prior to Don Pedro Menendez.

Also on that site he found more post holes and archeological items that post-date the 1565 Menendez encampment.

Sikes-Kline said that public property in the county and city is already protected.

“But private property is private property. We can’t tell people what they can or cannot do on their property,” she said. “We just want them to call before digging. This (resolution) is an opportunity to educate people.”


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About Time
By | 01/25/12 - 07:32 am

Finally the city did something to protect itself an its history. I'd like to thank the people responsibile for this one.History be it good or bad is ir replacable once its dug up/ plowed over /built on, or whatever method of destroying it happens.St.Sugistine can preserve its history as well as enlighten vistors who come there for its history amongst other things.Job well done an hopefully people will follow thru. As far as the gentleman who is "secretly" taking treasures an history away from others as they say every dog has its day an time will tell. bdm


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Speaking of looters...
By Soldado | 01/25/12 - 08:35 am

...whatever happened with the entirely justifiable outcry generated a week or so by the Record's spotlight on them and Dr. Deagan's entirely correct commentary? Is *our* local/state/national heritage still being "expertly restored" for private profit, resulting in the destruction of St. Augustine's irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts?

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If the city managed our
By Alaric | 01/25/12 - 09:11 am

If the city managed our resources better the Spanish quarter wouldn't be closing. There is no real danger of private archeologists. The city could benefit from more exposure. It seems that completely rejecting outside and private archologists indicates that the city wants to keep evrything to itself. The city should try and work with them and help maintain the integrity of their work rather than flat out rejecting them.


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How many
By Ravendriver | 01/25/12 - 04:21 pm

artifacts end up in the private collections of government employees?

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By hearmeroar | 01/25/12 - 05:42 pm

Ravendriver: REPORT IT.

Elsewise, STFU.

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By hearmeroar | 01/25/12 - 05:50 pm

Confusing msg.

You're blaming the City for the collapse of the SQ? No. That was the State, which had been running it since its inception, never putting money into it.

The City took over the SQ and buildings in good faith, not realizing the depth of the lack of commitment by the State for DECADES.

The City has a STAFF archaeologist, which does NOT preclude other archaeologists or contract companies from working in St. Augustine.

The reality show woman (Mandelbaum) is a self-admitted "digger" for "treasure." She is NOT an archaeologist.

The metal-detecting Bob Spratley leads his friends from Georgia and elsewhere to archaeologoical sites on government and private property to LOOT -- and just for good measure, he sends his friends back to their home states with cultural material they have STOLEN from us.

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