PAL Research Abstract 1998

Caleb Curren, Steve Newby, Steve Smith 

gasque2.jpg (34509 bytes)The Hickory Ridge Site (8Es 1280) is an important prehistoric aboriginal burial mound or cemetery in northwest Florida which is currently the focus of a cooperative preservation effort of Gulf Beach Highway Properties (GBHP), the State Archeologist of Florida, and the Pensacola Archeology Lab (PAL). The 10-30 meter diameter site, discovered by the University of West Florida (UWF) in 1988, dates from the late Bottle Creek or early Bear Point Phase of the Mississippian Period based on ceramics.

A radiocarbon date from the site indicates a range of AD 1390-1510 (500+-60 years BP). Aboriginal ceramics and two radiocarbon dates from a nearby associated 2-acre village, Magnolia Ridge Site (8Esl052)(hyperlink), supports the date range. One date range is AD 1300-1440 (560+-50 BP) and another is AD 1260-1400 (690+-50 BP). A lack of European artifacts at both sites also supports the date range of AD 1260-1500.

Originally, it was recommended by UWF and PAL that the site be archeologically excavated and any human remains encountered be respectfully treated in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 872.05 of the Florida Statutes. After due consideration and discussion, the State Archeologist determined that a course of preservation would be better followed.

A preservation plan for the Hickory Ridge Site was developed in 1997 which would protect the site from destruction by looting or commercial development. The plan was developed through numerous communications between the developer of the surrounding property, GBHP, the State Archeologist, and PAL. The preservation plan consists of several points which were proposed in a formal letter from GBHP to the State Archeologist in September 1997. The letter stated:

"As to the burial site, we will remove the small vegetation of the actual site of approximately 3,000 square feet, place a wire gauge mesh over the site and then cover it with six inches of topsoil and plantings of palmetto or other such vegetation to make it unattractive to walk on by persons and animals. As you have required, an area of the site plus a buffer of 75 feet will be preserved and is a part of the conservation easement we are granting to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). We will also place an appropriate sign on the property denoting the burial site. The site is within the community beginning development consisting of private roads, and the owners association will be charged by the documents with proper preservation of the burial site, which should be virtually maintenance-free."

The State Archeologist accepted the proposed - plan in a formal letter in October 1997. "We completely agree with your proposal... You are to be commended for the measures that you have taken to plan for the continued preservation of this aboriginal burial ground."

The Declaration of Covenants of the residential development state in Section 3 of Article VII Environmental and Archeological Preservation that: "As noted in part (h) of the attached 'Conservation Easement', an approximately 3,000 sq. ft. area of one of the 'Green Spaces' has been determined by the Florida Secretary of State's office to be of archeological significance. By reason thereof, Declarant has, and will be, undertaking certain preservation measures and other improvements in that area which will be completed prior to conveyance by Declarant to the Association of the Common Areas. From and after the time of such conveyance the Association shall assume and discharge Declarants minimal preservation maintenance obligations with respect to this archeologically significant area, the details of which shall be provided by Declarant to the Association, and which may be inquired of by contacting the Declarant . . . "

The Pensacola Archeology Lab, in addition to aiding in the preservation plan negotiations, is monitoring the ground preparation and site protection during the construction phase of the residential development. Currently, temporary fencing surrounds the site and metal wire is covered by dirt fill. Small vegetation is being placed beneath existing trees and a sign will soon be in place.

While archeological excavation and reburial may be the only way to completely preserve the information contained in the Hickory Ridge Site, the site preservation route described in this abstract is a noble experiment at an alternative. Thousands of important archeological sites throughout the state and nation have been severely impacted or destroyed by looters. Hopefully, cooperative measures such as these from the public and private sector will prove an effective method of deterrence.

Click on the links below for site photos of the preservation process at Hickory Ridge.

Photo 1: Undergrowth Cleared

Photo 2: Protective Wire Mesh

Photo 3: Covering The Wire Mesh

Photo 4: The Burial Site

For more detailed information on this site, see these publications:

1997: Caleb Curren, Gregory Mikell, Steve Newby, Steve Smith and Scott Clark Archeology at Magnolia Ridge: Phase III Investigations at 8Es1052, Escambia County, Florida. Pensacola Archeology Lab.

1989: John C. Phillips

Phase I Cultural Resource Survey of Warrington Effluent Diversion Project Disposal Facility for Escambia County Utilities Authority. Report of Investigations #23. University of West Florida.

1989: John C. Phillips

Archaeological Testing Of The Hickory Ridge Site (8Es1280): A Mississippian Stage Cemetery In Escambia County, Florida. Report of Investigations #26. Institute of West Florida Archaeology, The University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida.


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