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The Remnants of an Ancient Culture Appear - Part 2 of 2

Having the bulldozer on the ground during a burn can sometimes turn out to be the best tool of all because of the v-shaped plow that will create a line of bare soil to stop a problematic fire. While it can be destructive, it is one of the best ways to defuse a situation that has become unmanageable. While the dozer went to work, some level of commotion amongst the crew ensued. Within a few minutes, the fire jumped the line in an unwatched area while it continued to roar to life in the area we were focused on. Rick laid the plow into the ground and began to cut a line around the main fire. The main fire had become so hot that it required the line to be pushed through the thick vegetation and over the top of an old sand dune formation. We watched as the machine climbed the 20 foot tall dune, rocked back and forth on the crest, and quickly disappeared out of site along the back side. Rick soon chimed over the radio that the dune was too steep to climb back over and that the machine was unable to get out.

After trying several times to climb back up the dune, his only option was to find another way. Any time a dozer is involved, we always tried to keep a "light hand on the land" so to speak, but in this case the decision had to be made to push trees out of the way in order to get Rick safely out of the area that he had to drive into. It unfortunately made a heck of a mess in the process. After the mishap, he went to work plowing another line around the other problematic area. The crew spent the rest of the day extinguishing the remining hot spots, and by 5PM we were able to successfully contain and prevent any more fire from getting out.

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At the end of the day, I followed the path that the dozer had made over top of the dune to check things out. As I slid down the back side on the turned up soil, I noticed a few peculiar items when I came to a rest at the bottom. Ancient pottery littered the ground everywhere! Surprisingly, we had inadvertently stumbled across an unknown Timucuan site. It appeared that this old sand dune served as a shelter from the ocean breeze for the ancient people of this maritime haven.

As I waked around, I found many different shapes and sizes of the pottery pieces. I also found bones, which I believed to be from animal origin. After counting close to thirty pieces of pottery with various designs, we went to work at once to notify the Florida Division of Historical Resource to catalog the site and protect it for the future. In the excitement that ensued, several archaeologists came to the area. It turned out that the site dated back to the St. Johns period, which lasted from about 500 BC until European contact. Interestingly enough, that plow line was the only way that they could actually get to the ancient encampment because of the dense undergrowth.

Sometimes unexpected events give way to pleasant surprises. We were happy to formally name the area the "Scrub Fire Site", and it forever remains on the list of historically significant areas in Northeast Florida. To this day it is monitored by staff to ensure it remains a protected resource.


CWL, 12/18/22


Fire on the foredune, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Circa 2013

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