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Richie Rosencrance: Archaeology in Vero Beach, Florida

I am about to be a little unconventional for what one might expect to read on the blog of a history department. My story takes us into the paperless mess that is ‘prehistory,’ hold onto your seats ladies and gentlemen. My name is Richie Rosencrance, I was a double major in History & Anthropology and threw my graduation cap in the air in May 2015. It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since I left Morgantown but my path since then has been quite exciting. I am not a historian, but an archaeologist. Both are ways to investigate the past but use different theoretical frameworks and methodologies. I am enchanted by the material cultural that people left behind, whether it is five hundred or several thousand years ago. I’ll get more into my specific interests later. First, I want to recount my journey from graduation to my current employment.

I spent last summer hiking the northern half of the Appalachian Trail, all in all, 1163 miles from West Virginia to Maine. I wanted to mention this because it had a profound effect on me as a person and even as a professional. Meeting hundreds of different people in different towns in different states is a great way to learn about human experience and the great variations in regional culture and society. As a social scientist I was constantly aware of social operations within every new town I stopped in to resupply at. I never balked from talking to locals about their town, their past, and their current issues. What I am getting around to say is, my networking skills and awareness of human variation both benefited from my 108 days of travel by foot. Experience and conversation, I have found, are vitally important to success. I encourage anyone to step outside of their comfort zone whether it is a new place or a new person – it will be good for you.

A month after my return from the Trail, I was hired by The Louis Berger Group Inc. as an archaeological field technician. I worked throughout New England conducting Phase I survey searching for culturally sensitive areas that could be affected by local development. I lived in hotels and went between various locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New York. It was a great experience ‘getting my feet wet’ in the CRM field, which I intend on being a part of for the next few years. As you might expect, winter time in New England is not necessarily compatible with digging shovel tests. Yet, we worked two weeks into January 2016. Some days it would be below zero when we began in the morning and would never get above twenty degrees. Then, one fateful evening I received a call from Dr. C. Andy Hemmings who subsequently offered me a position on an excavation crew in Vero Beach, Florida. Talk about a welcomed change!

So, here I am—Vero Beach and in case you are wondering today is a pleasant seventy-five degrees. My official job title is “Field Excavator.” I am a member of Florida Atlantic University’s, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Their primary research focuses are concerned with the sea and the immense biodiversity that exits within it. However, having an important archaeological site in their backyard was research they were happy to be a part of.

The Old Vero Site, as it is called was originally discovered and studied by Florida State Geologist E. H. Sellards in 1914. Since then it has braved the storm of debate and controversy surrounding the earliest inhabitants of North America. The sites true meaning and history has yet to settled one way or another. Sellards identified a great number of extinct Pleistocene flora and fauna that found their demise with the dramatic climate change that marked the end of Last Glacial Maximum around 12,000 years ago. What is not confirmed is the unequivocal proof that humans coexisted here, at this location, at that time. Some of the findings are suggestive of human presence, but nothing has set it in stone. 1914 was quite a primitive time for the field of archaeology, compared to the way we do things today so while Sellards data and writing is imperative to our current investigation we must use modern methods to truly figure out the story of the site.

Our Principal Investigator is Dr. James Adavasio, most widely known for his work at Meadowcroft Rockshelter in the 1970’s and 80’s. Meadowcroft is accepted as one of the earliest evidences for human occupation in North America. Dr. C. Andy Hemmings is the Lead Archaeologist who specializes in underwater archaeology and PaleoIndian Florida. I am immensely excited to be working with these two gentlemen and find myself learning something new every day. Their instruction is one of the best opportunities about my work here. We’ve spent the first month prepping the site for excavation and have recently begun actual movement of sediments. The next two and half months will be exciting, no matter the content of our results. In the least, the site has intact paleosol’s that give an important glimpse into Pleistocene Florida.

My ultimate goals are to attend graduate school and pursue and academic career in archaeology. I dream of being the Lead Archaeologist at my own site, teaching students excavation techniques and sending them on their own paths to becoming archaeologists. My research interests include Paleoindians, the peopling of the Americas, hunter-gather technological organization, lithic technologies, human landscape use, and Pleistocene environments. As you can guess my work here at Vero fits perfectly into my aspirations and I could not be happier. Shortly after my work is done here in May I am heading to Oregon to help at an early site I have previously been a part of. My next few months are bright.

My time at West Virginia University is defining of me as young professional and aspiring researcher. I miss singing country roads with thousands of you people after a basketball game and even miss cramming into the PRT. I’ll be back in Morgantown, being a proud native West Virginian, I always find myself back in the mountain state. Work hard and wear that flying WV with pride! 

Montani Semper Liberi!!!!