Wednesday, July 3, 2013

7/3/13 Report - Florida History and Recent Finds

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Men have forever been drawn to beaches.  Beaches are special places.  They are dynamic places of constant movement and change.  I've said that plenty of times before.  It is where you see the four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire (sun) coming together, and the three forms of matter: solid, liquid, gas, along with the transforming catalyst fire

Three thousand years ago the environment and animals were similar to modern day Florida, but life was very different.  I can imagine a fellow walking along the beach, feeling the same things we do today and hearing the wind and waves just like today. 

(This link will give you some of that type of history.

The beach was, of course, a place for fishing and gathering, but it also was a place where it might have seemed that the sea provided gifts.  Our beach combing friend from thousands of years ago, would have scanned the shore looking for shells that held potential - shells that might be just right for making a valuable tool or coveted ornament.  Then a lot of skilled work would go into forming a tool or ornament out of the shell.

I let my imagination run a little there because lately I've been seeing finds that cover thousands if not millions of years of history, and I was reminded of the age-old human activity of beach combing that undoubtedly goes as far back as the history of man.

The dynamic little strip of beach around the water's edge is a very high energy zone and is in many ways like nature's museum, periodically displaying items from thousands or even millions of years ago as well as much more modern items.   You never know what might appear or when it might appear.  There is always the possibility of a pleasant surprise.

Point Found on Treasure Coast Recently.
The point shown in the photo was recently found on the Treasure Coast.   I was fortunate to have a good camera handy when a lady came up to me and asked "Is this is what I think it is."  I guess she thought I looked like I might know something about it, even though I always have to contact experts for things like this to get the real story myself.

This point appears to be made of shell, or possibly heat treated fossil agatized coral, according to one of my online experts and friends.  I was told it could be three thousand years old.  That is what made me think back to how it might have been originally found back before it was shaped into a tool.

You might be able to see from the photo that it shows a lot of wear.

Since most detectorists that I talk to detect on the beach, we have to realize that nothing that is found on a beach will have any meaningful context.  You can't tell anything about it from where it was found or what it was found with.  Million year old fossils and other old items are often found on top of aluminum beer cans, and could have well been transported miles by ocean currents.  That is the way it is on the beach.

The person who found this particular point was not a detectorist.  I know of a few artifacts that have been found on our Treasure Coast beaches in recent days, and they were found by people collecting shells rather than detecting.

Since it is quite possible that you will see an artifact or something of interest if you spend much time on the beach, you should be aware of the applicable laws.  I have been trying to make people more aware of the applicable Florida laws lately.  Most often you'll read summaries based upon interpretations rather than actual laws, so be aware of that.  There is a difference. 

I know for sure that detectorists want to know the laws because I receive many questions about the the rules and regulations from both residents of Florida as well as tourists.  Unfortunately the laws are complex, and as FPAN stated, confusing.  Every park and municipality can have their own rules in addition to any state and federal laws.  I therefore am not able to  address every situation or many specific situations myself.

I am doing some research and hope to be able to tell you with some authority what to do and who to contact if you do see something of interest on a beach.  You might get tired of hearing it, but I really like how they handle artifact finds in England.  They publicize the procedures in clear terms, as I've shown in recent posts.  And since it is clearly published in a way that isn't threatening or  intimidating, they seem to get good compliance and reporting. 

The narrow strip of beach on the front of the beach and in the shallow water next to the shore is a very high energy area and items that get caught in that zone will rapidly deteriorate.  Items may remain protected by layers of sand, mud or clay for a long period, but when churned up and exposed to the churning of the front beach, they will deteriorate and be destroyed rapidly.   

Besides being subject to salt water corrosion or continual abrasion, items will eventually be stressed by immense forces under tons of sand, shell or in between rocks.  I think I've shown pictures of modern US coins bent completely in half by being caught between rocks while being buried under tons of sand and other beach material. 

Items that appear on the beach, may appear only for a very short time, often only hours, then are covered again never be seen again, and if they do reappear, they will almost certainly be worse for the wear.

Remember that the beach itself is composed of rocks and shells that were worn down to grains of sand.  Items will simply not last long in that high energy zone.  And if they are lost or destroyed, they will not become part of the data of the past.  We must do a better job of saving those items. 

The objects exposed on the beach have been separated from their original context and possibly transported miles from their original source.   Items that are thousands or even millions of years old are found mixed in with items dropped just yesterday, and just as often as not, are found sitting on top of something like an aluminum beer can or some other modern trash.

It is a shame to not protect those objects when the chance arises.  I hope we can come up with a way of saving items like that before they are lost or destroyed by the forces of nature.  After reading about the British system I'm sure a system could be devised to accomplish that.  People would then learn about archaeology and history and be interested in saving those artifacts.  There is a better way.

On the Treasure Coast today, the wind is from the southeast.  That will be the same for the next few days. 

The surf has increased a touch, and is today 2 - 3 feet.   It will increase a little more, up to 3 - 4 feet this coming weekend.  That will make water hunting a little tougher, but freshen up the front beaches.

Happy hunting,