September 2, 2014

Anthropology: Florida anthropologists uncover a jungle town

Amy Keller | 6/1/2012

» Interstate Commerce
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Florida residents have apparently been cultivating business relationships with other regions for much longer than you might imagine. Keith Ashley and his students at the University of North Florida have unearthed evidence that the natives who lived in the Jacksonville area around 1000 A.D. participated in long-distance interaction and trade networks that brought mica, galena, copper and stone to the region. “We have copper that’s been sourced to the Appalachian Mountains and to the Lake Superior region” in the upper midwest, says Ashley, an anthropology professor and coordinator of archaeological research for UNF. Ashley says they likely moved the goods via waterways. “It’s just faster and easier to go by canoe, but undoubtedly there’s going to be areas where they’re going to have to move by land.”

Ashley and his students, along with colleague Robert Thunen, are also searching for La Caroline Colony, known today as Fort Caroline, which was built in the Jacksonville area in 1564 by French Huguenots. “What we’re trying to do is reconstruct the social geography of the Native American landscape in the 16th century,” says Ashley.

UNF dig
UNF students dig for clues to Florida’s past.

» A Home for Freedom
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Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

In the late 1700s until around 1821, as many as 700 escaped slaves lived in a community they founded called Angola somewhere along the Manatee River in what is now Bradenton. What we know about Angola today was pieced together by Florida historian Canter Brown Jr., who first read references to Angola in historical documents when he was researching his book “Florida’s Peace River Frontier” in the late 1980s. But the exact location of the settlement, which was destroyed in 1821 by members of the Lower Creek Native Americans, possibly under orders from Andrew Jackson, remains a mystery. Uzi Baram, a professor of anthropology at New College and lead archaeologist in the “Looking for Angola” research project that aims to locate the remains of the settlement, says its discovery would contribute significantly to African-American archaeology. “These communities show that people did not want to live as slaves. They refused to accept that tyranny, and they had to take great chances to escape it and live as free people,” Baram said.

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