Volunteer Spotlight - Mary Gouchnour Hudson:
"Indiana Jones She Isn't; An Archaeologist She Is."

By Dr. Jerald T. Milanich

For every university-trained archaeolgist engaged in research in Florida there are hundreds of people who make significant contributions to our knowledge of Florida’s precolumbian Indians. Often these avocational archaeologists contribute their time, money, and expertise to work on projects conceived and led by those of us who work in Florida’s museums and universities. The reality is that archaeology in North America depends on the contributions of volunteers, avocational archaeologists like Mary Gouchnour Hudson.

What makes an avocational archaeologist? By day Mary, a native of Florida, is a Radiation Therapist and CPR instructor in Gainesville and a student majoring in anthropology at Santa Fe Community College. But on weekends, vacations, and evenings she does all those things archaeologists do: read professional journals, participate in field investigations, co-manage the field office, work to raise funding for research, and undertake public education initiatives.

Most recently she has written articles for the Aucilla River Times, the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Aucilla River Prehistory Project (ARPP) newsmagazine, on ‘Understanding Radiocarbon Dating’ and ‘Water Moccasins and the ARPP.’ The latter recounts close encounters of the third kind experienced by ARPP personnel and what to do if bitten. About her participation in the ARPP, Mary writes:

T. Barber

Mary Gouchnour Hudson

“Why do I return season after season, spending my vacations freezing in October or fighting off swarms of bugs in May? Many of my friends say this is a sickness—digging through dirt and river sludge looking for some old bones and artifacts, living in `primitive’ camping conditions out in the middle of nowhere, keeping company with a bunch of scuba divers and science cowboys. Hopelessly afflicted with the same sickness, we all...rise before the dawn, shiver and shudder as we step into those cold wet suits, and work hard until dusk, exhausted and starving. At the Aucilla, like the Eagles’ `Hotel California,’ `You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’... As we toil together in search of man and mastodon..., we share more than a common interest in an exciting scientific expedition. We share enthusiasm, dedication, and the intensity for a great quest.... The interaction of various professional scientists, avocational volunteers, students, and financial and political supporters all have their place of importance in the success of this project.... Newcomers as well as veterans are actively involved in teaching and learning.... This initiates motivation and interaction and...promotes much enthusiasm and gratification” (Aucilla River Times, 1996, p. 15).


Editor’s note: This article is excerpted with permission from “The Ancient Floridians” chapter of Florida’s Indians from Ancient Times to the Present by Jerald T. Milanich, published by University Press of Florida in 1998.