Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/19/17 Report - Theories About the Cobs of Bonsteel Park Beach. The Democratization of Archaeology and Our Cultural Heritage.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

I recently mentioned Bonsteel Park.  The beach in that area produces cobs, including a lot of half reales, when the water hits the dunes.   No wreck has been found near that beach to account for the cobs.

There are different ideas about how the cobs ended up there.  Frogfoot Weller, for example, suggested that the old Chuck's Steakhouse was the site of the wreck of Ubilla's frigate.  Yet, I don't know of any ballast pile in that area.

Others believed that  a smaller vessel associated with the early Spanish salvage efforts wrecked there.

And still other's believe that individual's that left the salvage camp on their way to St. Augustine buried treasure there or met some unfortunate event.

One of the most interesting things to me is the predominance of half reales, which is not unlike some other beaches which are adjacent to known wreck sites.  As I've said before, I have some ideas about why more half reales are found on some beaches while more larger denomination cobs are found in the water on the associated wreck sites.  


Where do you look when you want to learn about Florida's history?  If you want to learn more about an artifact, where do you look or who do you ask?

I know that most people these days do a good bit of online research.  That has increased dramatically over the past several years.  When I began this blog there were not nearly as many blogs and web sites about metal detecting, archaeology and local history as there are today.  In making more information more easily available to more people, the internet has been democratizing knowledge.

Wikipedia says, "The democratization of knowledge is the acquisition and spread of knowledge amongst the common people, not just privileged elites such as clergy and academics. Libraries—public libraries in particular—and modern digital technology such as the internet—play a key role in the democratization of knowledge, as they provide open access of information to the masses."

Back in  2013 I conducted a blog poll to find out how people learn more about the Treasures of the Treasure Coast.  117 people responded to the poll.  They were people who visit my blog and therefore can be assumed to be more interested than the general population in metal detecting and treasure hunting.

Only 5% of the respondents said they had ever seen any of the coins in the Florida Collection. I don't know what percent of the population in general have seen the coins in the Florida collection, but I would assume that it would be a much smaller percent of the total population.  Among the people that read this blog are some who have found coins that went into the collection.  Anyone who reads this blog has seen pictures of coins that went into the Florida Collection before those coins became a part of the collection.   Not only did they see pictures but they also read something about the coins, how the coins were found and the people that found them.

One of my points today might be an obvious point, but I think it needs to be stressed.  Technology has provided increased access to more and better information about history, archaeology and our cultural heritage.  Every year more people read and discuss and get information about our cultural heritage over the internet.

If you want to study coins from the 1715 Fleet, for example, or any other shipwreck for that matter, where do you go?  The internet more likely than not.  You will find pictures and information in online auction catalogs, on web sites, blogs, ebooks,  and online documents such as dissertations, academic papers and archaeological reports.  The web provides a lot of information that is free and easily available to the public.

The people who contribute to those online resources include many amateurs as well as professionals.  In a simple blog like this one you often see pictures and information contributed by those who actually salvage the items that make up our museum collections.  You see the contents of famous collections as they change hands in online auctions.  You get information from people who make finds in the field and write books, and post their information on the internet.

There are amateurs outside of the state agencies and universities that contribute very significant discoveries, and there are researchers such as Laura Strolia who have contributed top notch research through blogs like this one.  Salvage companies like the Mel Fisher group and Odyssey Marine, not only find shipwrecks and artifacts, but also operate museums and display collections and publish quality research papers.

Archaeology, like other fields, is without a doubt being democratized, yet those of the elite have much to protect.  They feel their jobs, careers, status and reason for being are threatened by democratization of our cultural heritage.  Instead of keeping up, they drag their feet and in the process widen the gap between themselves and the public that funds them.  Their existence is threatened, but the threat is not what they think it is.  Their biggest threat is their own efforts to protect their domain while progress moves on.


The surf is still small.  We'll have a one or two foot surf Monday, and after that a little increase.

Happy hunting,