With her hair pulled back in sweaty pigtails, glasses smudged from digging through archaeological units, and hands muddied from sifting through piles of shells, construction debris and pottery remains, ten-year-old Ana Shaw concluded, “This is the coolest camp I’ve ever been to.”
Currently in its fourth year of operation, the “I Dig History” Archaeology Camp teaches fourth and fifth-grade students basic archaeological concepts and allows campers to get their hands dirty in real archeological digs. Taking place over two week-long sessions in June, campers play games, make crafts, learn how to measure archaeological units and dig for hidden treasures—taking a step back in time to learn the history of St. Augustine
This year, campers attended daily digs at Mary Peck Yard in the Colonial Spanish Quarter where they dug-up, sifted and washed artifacts with the assistance of volunteers and Florida Public Archaeology Network Outreach Coordinator Amber Grafft-Weiss. But unlike some archaeology camps, the treasures these campers found were historic and held real value.
According to camp counselor Rosalie Cocci, St. Augustine is one of few cities that can offer archaeological camps where participants get hands-on experience with historical sites.
“The kids start to see St. Augustine less for the tourism or the candy shops and more for its historic value,” Cocci said.
Camper Ian Sinclair said he originally thought the camp would be “just like other archaeology camps where they put stuff in the ground for you to find.” He changed his mind after one day at the dig.
An important lesson Cocci says campers take away from the week is the value of teamwork in archaeology. For example, campers in the first week’s session uncovered a tabby wall in one of the plots in Mary Peck. Campers from the second week were left to examine and determine what it was. Guesses ranged from a sidewalk to the remnants of a burnt down house.
Because the wall was an unexpected discovery, it will take more time to find out its true history. Cocci says next year’s campers may return to investigate.
The “I Dig History” Archaeology Camp has been held for the past four summers for two weeks in June. This year’s camp was held from June 14 to 18 and June 21 to 25, from 9:00am to 3:30pm daily at the cost of $175 per week. “I Dig History” Archaeology Camp is made possible through a unique networking opportunity between the Department of Heritage Tourism of the City of St. Augustine, the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) and the St. Augustine Archaeology Association (SAAA). For more information about the camp contact the Department of Heritage Tourism at 825.6830.