By Theresa Pinto MS, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On August 16th, the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) hosted the Tidally United Summit at the Museum of Commerce in Pensacola in order to facilitate the protection of 4,000 vulnerable coastal sites.
Many archaeologically important sites in Florida sit slightly above sea level and archaeologists are quickly moving to monitor, prioritize, and secure those sites before incoming seas destroy them.
“Coastal change, erosion, sea level rise have been identified as the single biggest natural threat to our archaeology,” said Ellie Graham, research assistant at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and keynote speaker at the summit.
According to Graham, Scotland’s coastline is similar to Florida’s in that much of it is low-lying, soft sandy beach and extremely vulnerable to massive erosion from increased storm surges; dozens of feet lost in just a single storm event.
Florida’s archaeologists know not all the sites can be preserved. In addition to problems with physical relocation, there are not enough scientists to monitor the sites, let alone preserve them.
Additionally, time is running out. As Dr. William Lees, Executive Director of FPAN emphasized, “We’ve been monitoring some sites […] that we thought we’d have 10-to-15 years to work on and we think they may be gone in a couple years now.”
Archaeologists are asking the community to help monitor, but also help prioritize which sites should be preserved, as volunteers in FPAN’s Heritage Monitoring Scouts Program.
Sarah Miller, Northeast and East Central regional director of FPAN said, “At the end of the day, I don’t want to save the site that is most significant to me. I want to find the heart of the community and hear what they’re interested in.”
Sign up to become a Heritage Monitoring Scout at the Florida Public Archaeology Network website.