UCF, USF Digs Aim to Give Voice to Ancient Floridians

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CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. — Underneath Patrick Air Force Base lies the stories of the Native Americans who once lived there. Now, UCF and USF students and teachers are hoping to dig up their past.

  • UCF, USF students working sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Teams studying civilization thought to have been there around 1,000 BC
  • Students hope to preserve history of Native Americans who lived there

Since 2015, the 45th Space Wing has partnered with the universities in the Cape Canaveral Archeological Mitigation Project, which they say not only gives the students real-world experience but will help preserve history.

One of those students is UCF forensic science and anthropology student Benjamin Squitieri. 

“This was an inhabitation site for the natives that lived in the area. The Spanish named them, so we don’t know what they called themselves,” the sophomore said.

Squitieri and other students are digging up artifacts such as pottery and shells. A few feet away are Native American burial mounds dating back to 1,000 B.C. According to UCF Office of Research, the Native Americans who inhabited the area at the time were known as Ais

“(We want to) create a 3-D city of the data,” USF research associate professor Dr. Lori Collins said. “It’s not modern stuff. We are looking at historic stuff and pre-historic stuff.”

USF researchers say with the help of a laser scanner and ground-penetrating radar, they can pinpoint the natives’ exact location.

“This is all man-made construction,” Collins said. “In ancient times (it) served as a monument for burials placed here.”

According to the archaeologist for the 45th Space Wing, the site that the students are excavating will be under water in about 20 to 30 years because of rising sea levels due to climate change. 

They hope by having the students excavate sites at the Air Force station, they can help save the history of the ancient people who once lived there.

“These people have no name anymore. We don’t know what language they spoke, (but) we can give their voice back, which I think is beautiful,” Squitieri said.

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