River diver meeting and workshop

Field work on the 1997 Santa Fe River Survey conducted by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research culminated in an informal meeting and workshop with river divers to share the results of the survey and to discuss implementation of the Bureau’s policy on isolated river finds. Announcements about the workshop were circulated through local dive shops and river concessions, as well as by word of mouth throughout the river diving community. The function took place on Saturday, August 2, at Fanning Springs State Recreational Area, and was attended by approximately 35 persons, including veteran collectors, avocational archaeologists, and local river residents. Also in attendance were staff of the Suwannee River Water Management District, the Florida Division of Forestry, and the Florida Museum of Natural History, as well as officers of the Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, and the Florida Marine Patrol.

The meeting began with a cook-out hosted by the survey team to allow participants to become acquainted with one another, and to thank several volunteers and informants who had provided assistance and input to the survey. Afterwards, the gathering adjourned to a meeting room overlooking the Springs for the informal workshop. The survey team had assembled visual materials, such as aerial photographs, sidescan sonar images, and computer-generated maps and diagrams of the Santa Fe River, as well as handout materials, including Isolated Finds brochures and reporting forms.

Dr. Roger Smith convened the workshop by introducing the Bureau’s program of underwater archaeology, and its mission to identify, inventory, assess, and interpret Florida’s submerged cultural resources. He discussed the program’s partnerships with other state and county agencies, state and local museums, universities and other educational institutions, and stressed the contributions of volunteers, as exemplified by the Santa Fe River survey project. After an overview of the Bureau’s policy regarding isolated river finds, Jim Dunbar explained the procedures and forms for reporting discoveries and encouraged attendees to pass along information about the policy to other river divers. There followed a general discussion about the benefits of reporting river finds, the Bureau’s concern for the accumulation of data rather than additional artifacts, the prospects for conducting inventories of some of the larger private collections from Florida’s rivers, and the desire for continued communication and cooperation. Joe Latvis spoke about the Aucilla River Prehistory Project and the diversity of participants of all ages and backgrounds as an example of a successful endeavor that combines academic research with avocational interests. Dr. Michael Faught discussed the prehistory of Florida as reflected by artifacts found in rivers, and stressed that accurate reporting of past finds can help to provide information about early sites that previously has been unavailable to scholars.

Many workshop participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to meet and to explore ways in which to share knowledge about relics found in Florida’s rivers. The gathering concluded on an optimistic note, with expectations of increased communication and cooperation.

For more information on the Isolated Finds Program see “Discovering Artifacts in Florida Rivers” available from :

Isolated Finds
Division of Historical Research
Bureau of Archaeological Research
R. A. Gray Building, Room 312
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250 P
hone (850) 487-2299

Editor’s note: This article excerpted from An Underwater Archaeological Survey in the Santa Fe River, Florida, July 1997 by Roger C. Smith, James S. Dunbar, and Michael Faught with assistance from Grayal Farr and William O. Gifford, December 1997.