(February 16, 2011) — New College of Florida students Alexis Santos, Liz Usherwood and Michael Waas are award winners in the Third Annual Student Grant Competition sponsored by Time Sifters Archaeology Society, the Sarasota chapter of the Florida Anthropological Society.

The awards were given for exemplary research work in the field of archaeology and anthropology. A New College student has been among the winners each of the last two years but this year, three New College students prepared papers and presentations that merited the award.

Part of the grant requirement is presenting the work to the public. The students will make short presentations on their topics at the February 16 meeting of Time Sifters, scheduled for 6 pm at the Selby Public Library in downtown Sarasota.  The free meeting is open to the public; no reservations are necessary.

Time Sifters members have been thrilled with the caliber of past presentations. “These student presentations are as interesting as the ones by the professionals,” commented Jack Brown, longtime Time Sifters member, after the 2010 awards.

All three of this year’s presentations are based on term papers that the students wrote for a Historical Archaeology course taught by anthropology professor Uzi Baram in spring 2010.

“These students mastered the methods and theory from the course and then, with my encouragement, continued to polish their arguments on their case studies,” stated Baram.  “The students take their responsibilities to anthropology and to explaining their findings to the public seriously.  I look forward to their continuing research and supporting their studies on Florida’s past.”

Each of the three students is from Florida, studies anthropology and is in his or her third year at New College.

Alexis Santos, from Kissimmee, is interested in technology and journalism.  He plans to study how technology can be used to represent archaeological sites during his remaining time at New College.

Santos’ paper is entitled “Remembering Rye Village,” referring to a community called Rye established on the headwaters of the Manatee River in the late 1800s. Once jubilant over the prospect of a railroad, the town grew at a steady pace, but when hopes of a railroad faded, its position on the Manatee River became less strategic and the Great Depression took its toll.  By 1988, the only structure standing was the home of Rye’s namesake, and it was burned down later that year. Today, all that remains is a cemetery with eight grave markers and glass, metal and bricks where structures once study.

Liz Usherwood, from Tampa, is planning to write her final thesis on African American Diaspora archaeology in Florida, focusing on maroon communities. She is currently a teaching assistant for Human Origins and Evolution under Professor Anthony P. Andrews, as well as the teaching assistant for the Hal C. Ball Anthropology Laboratory. She plans to attend a graduate program in historical archaeology and continue her research on antebellum African American community in the southeast, and ultimately pursue a career as an academic archaeologist.

Usherwood’s paper is entitled “A Reanalysis of the Negro Fort 1814-1816.” Hidden in the backwoods of the Apalachicola National Forest, all that remains of the Negro Fort’s existence is a few divots in the earth and a couple historical references.  Destroyed in 1816, the Negro Fort, also known as Fort Blout and the Prospect Bluffs Fort, was a British-constructed military base during the War of 1812, maintained by a multi-ethnic community composed of African Americans, Native Americans and European Americans.  As an important site in military history, it has garnered attention from War of 1812 and First Seminole War scholars, but very little archaeological research has occurred on the site.

Michael Waas, from Miami, has worked for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office as well as for the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department.  He has participated in archaeological excavations such as the Looking for Angola project and took part in the Galilee Cemetery documentation project. As a result of his work in Israel, Waas has published twice as part of the International Archaeology Association’s student publishing program.  He plans to continue research on the Myakka River with guidance from Dr. George Luer and to pursue archaeology and anthropology on a doctoral level.

Waas wrote his paper on “The Unconquered People – The Case for Seminole Ethno-genesis in the Myakka River Valley.” For over 10,000 years, the Myakka River and its tributaries have been a source of life for the native peoples who have called it their home.  Its fertile flood-fed lands and productive fisheries have sustained habitation in the region almost continuously, including the 18th and 19th century, when the Seminoles inhabited the region.  His paper argues for the possibility that Seminole ethnogenesis occurred in the context of the Myakka River Valley and its tributaries through an exploration of the archaeology of the Seminoles in this region. (Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as a social group.)

Time Sifters Archaeology Society is dedicated to preservation, education and research. The society has assisted trained archaeologists in a number of excavations and sponsors eight lectures each year.  The Sarasota-based organization is currently partnering with the New College Public Archaeology Lab on a series of archaeology lectures entitled “Dialogues with Florida’s Past.”  For more information about Time Sifters, visit www.timesifters.org.

The winners of the Third Annual Student Grant Competition, Alexis Santos, Liz Usherwood and Michael Waas were interviewed on WGCU Public Radio by Valerie Edwards on Gulf Coast Live. Listen to the February 21 interview.

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