Duval County

UNF archaeology students unearth artifacts from almost 500-year-old Native American village

BIG TALBOT ISLAND, Fla. — Deep in the woods of Big Talbot Island, you’ll find a group of UNF archaeology students with shovels in hand.

“I found some pretty cool things out here,” Annie Bitner said.

For the past six weeks, she and her classmates have been uncovering a village buried in time. Once called Sarabay, indigenous people called it home more than 400 years ago.

“It’s pretty cool to think about the last people that were touching these items were probably the indigenous population at the time,” Bitner said. “It’s important to learn about the people that were here before us.”

“You can see these stains in the ground,” UNF assistant professor Dr. Keith Ashley said while pointing to ruins of a building. “These are where posts had been at one time.”

Ashley runs the operation.

“[The structure] is much larger than what we have open,” he said. “We’re not sure what it is, but it would’ve been something of pretty substantial size.”

Each everyday item unearthed teaches the aspiring archaeologists about the daily lives the people of Sarabay once lived.

Crystal Wright showed Action News Jax as she organized dozens of artifacts that the students had dug up. Students recovered pieces of shell, bones, and pottery.

“Some of them were used as hammers, cutting tools,” Wright said. “Some of them were turned into pendants, decorations.”

It’s careful work, done meticulously and with regards.

“They were humans just like us,” Wright added.

Still not much is known about the people of Sarabay, Ashley said. The students are changing that.

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