|27 November 2006
Prehistoric remains disputed in Florida
A landowner is disputing claims by an archaeologist that ancient bones may be buried on his farm, which is slated for development. The ancient bones of Palm Beach County's (Florida, USA) first humans could be buried in land trenched for tilling at Callery-Judge Grove - a farm that could become a sprawling housing development. County archaeologist Christian Davenport says he thinks the small plot in the grove could earn a spot in the National Register of Historic Places and wants to put a park there. He believes the site could date to the Archaic period, 8,000 to 3,000 years ago Co-owner Nat Roberts' archaeologist determined that the site has been farmed too much to win the designation. And as far as the park goes, Roberts' long-standing plan calls for a water-cleansing flow way to be built there.
Ancient sites have been uncovered from time to time in South Florida. The most memorable was the land known as the Miami Circle, which some scholars believe was used by the Tequesta Indians. The site was on 2.2 acres of prime waterfront property on the Miami River and looked like an irregularly shaped circle of stone carvings.
In western Palm Beach County, the grove for several years has been crafting blueprints to replace its 3,900-acre farm with a 10,000-home community that includes shops, offices, schools, parks and preserved land. Review agencies often recommend that applicants complete archaeological studies. To that end, Callery-Judge in 2004 commissioned a survey that took 37 soil samples. Two samples revealed compelling hints of the past: clustered bones and other remains of white-tail deer, striped mud turtle, Florida soft-shell turtle and pit viper, plus a few unidentified animals.
So Roberts, the grove's general partner, kept farming and in late 2005 started digging ditches on several hundred acres to be leased for row-crop farming. He wasn't sure where the archaeological site was located. But one of Roberts' planning consultants noticed that the GPS location of the site fell within the area being prepared, he said. They immediately called the grove's archaeologist, Anne Stokes of Southeastern Archaeological Research Inc. Unfortunately, the earth-moving had robbed the site of its integrity, Stokes said. "All we have are a bunch of artifacts out of place, and they can't tell you much if they're out of place," she said. That's why she believes the site wouldn't be in the running for the National Register of Historic Places. Still, other undisturbed sites on the grove could be, she said.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Stokes, who plans to perform several hundred samples on the land. Davenport, who did not immediately return calls for comment, wrote that Callery-Judge should not have carved into the site without proper certification from him.
Source: Palm Beach Post (23 November 2006)
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