Map of Carribean

Salt Springs Project

Salt Springs ProjectSalt Springs Recreation Area lies in the middle of the Ocala National Forest, some 6 km west of Lake George. In May 2008, the public swimming area at the spring was closed to enable the U.S.D.A. Forest Service to repair retaining walls that had eroded over the years. Proposed repairs were a significant threat to site 8MR2322, the spring-side portion of which consisted of shell-bearing deposits dating as early as the preceramic Mount Taylor period. Mike Russo of the National Park Service was deployed to conduct mitigative excavations in the area of direct impact. Upon completing his work, Russo suggested to Ken Sassaman that additional testing would be possible in the portion of a shoreline deposit that was exposed by drainage of water behind a coffer dam (below). Through the courtesy of personnel from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, St. Johns Water Management District, and the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Sassaman and several graduate students spent five days in early July 2009 excavating a one-meter-wide trench through the shoreline deposit.

Salt Springs ProjectSalt Springs ProjectThe areas investigated in both phases of excavation consist largely of saturated near-shore and subaqueous anthropogenic deposits with excellent organic preservation. The 8-m-long trench opened by LSA archaeologists was divided into one-meter units, and alternate units sampled in bulk to recover minute traces of human activity and paleoenvironmental indicators. Because subaqueous, near-shore deposits accumulated both vertically and horizontally, the samples provide a fine-grained record of both fluctuating water levels in the spring, as well as the progradation of the anthropogenic deposits as water levels rose. Three distinct macrostrata were observed in the profiles exposed in the trench (below): (1) shell-free waterlain sands with stringers of organic matter and abundant macrobotanical remains, including squash, nutshell, miscellaneous seeds, and wood; (2) an initial shell-rich deposit that is attenuated towards the spring; and (3) a thick, prograded shell-bearing midden with evidence of occasional periods of desiccation. All strata date to the precermaic Mount Taylor era, estimated at ca. 5700-5100 radiocarbon years before present, and nicely sequenced from bottom top and from shoreline to spring in the six AMS assays so far obtained.

Jason O’Donoughue is leading the effort to analyze and report the findings of LSA testing at Salt Springs. A technical report was completed in March 2011 summarizing the testing protocol, material culture, faunal and botanical remains, and stratigraphic intepretations. However, analysis is ongoing as we continue to mine the recovered materials for more detailed information.

Salt Springs Project

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Laboratory of Southeastern Archaeology

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Laboratory of Southeastern

1112 Turlington Hall
PO Box 117305
Gainesville FL 32611-5565
Phone: 352.392.6772
Fax: 352.392.6929