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St. Simons Island dig yields no signs of 400-year-old Spanish mission

A team of archaeologists sampling the soil in an island park found plenty of Native American pottery but no signs of a 400-year-old Spanish mission that was once located on the south end of the island. 

Jack Caldwell holds a bag of materials found in a sample hole as archaeologists try to find the location of a Spanish mission on St. Simons [Credit: Terry Dickson/The Times Union]
University of North Florida professor Keith Ashley and Brunswick archaeologist Fred Cook believe the site was at or near what is now Neptune Park and the commercial village on the island’s southernmost tip. 

The Spanish built the Santa Cruz y San Buenaventura de Guadalaquini Mission on St. Simons in 1606, and relocated it in 1684 to Black Hammock Island near Jacksonville. 

In hopes of finding evidence of it, the archaeological team dug sample holes 50 to 60 centimeters deep and 50 centimeters in diameter in a grid of sample sites about 20 meters apart. 

Cook, whose previous findings on the island include pottery shards from the Swift Creek Indians, said the land near the lighthouse and Neptune Park was probably best because of the deep, natural channel just off the beach “where they could get ships in close.” 

Kevin Kiernan tosses a shovel of soil from a test hole into a screen that Tom Sweeney shakes to find pottery, shells and any other artifacts. The two were assisting archaeologists in sampling sections of Neptune Park for the location of a Spanish mission [Credit: Terry Dickson/The Times Union]
But that also meant the current could have eroded the site and washed away any artifacts, Cook said. 

“Mission sites were very concentrated living places with a lot of pottery,’’ Cook said. They would expect to find a lot of Indian pottery mingled with a lesser amount of Spanish pottery, Cook said. 

“Usually pieces of olive jars — an all-purpose vessel — and very small amounts of Spanish tableware,’’ he said. 

Ashley said the team will resume their dig today but should know befo 

Author: Terry Dickson  | Source: Florida Times Union [March 15, 2012]

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