SARASOTA -- For local students, an appreciation for Florida's rich history has paid off. Two New College of Florida students, Matt Andersen and Jodi Johnson, won Cornelia D. Futor Archaeology Student Grants, sponsored by the Time Sifters Archaeology Society of Sarasota.
The grants are to be used at the students' discretion to continue with their studies.
Andersen, the first-place winner, received $200. Johnson received $100 for second place.
The grant competition is open to undergraduate and pre-doctoral graduate students enrolled at a college in the Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa area and is based on excellence in archaeology research papers.
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This is the fifth consecutive year that New College students have won the top prizes from Time Sifters. The students presented their projects to the Time Sifters society Wednesday at Selby Library in Sarasota.
Andersen, from Lake Wales, is a third-year student of anthropology and religion. His primary areas of study include Pre-Columbian Native American cultures and Ju
daic Studies. He has studied the Emerson Point mounds on Snead Island.
According to Anderson's research, the architecture at Emerson Point shows the influence from two different tribes, the Tocobaga and the Calusa.
Andersen has interesting theories about the coexistence of these tribes, historically known as enemies, at Emerson Point.
"I want people to be interested in seeing the tribes as more complex, political structures," Andersen said. "I also want to kindle interest in Snead Island and get more people thinking about it."
One theory that Andersen has is that Emerson Point was a location of spiritual and political neutrality for both tribes.
"It could have been a ceremonial site where both groups did ritual ceremonies. This is significant because it would not have belonged to either tribe," Anderson said.
Snead Island could be an example of enemies sharing the same land that they both viewed as sacred.
Another theory is that there was a third group that incorporated the living styles from both tribes. Snead Island could have belonged to this third group.
"This would be important for regional archaeology; there may be more intersections between these two tribes than we thought," Andersen said.
Andersen described the site as "untouched" in terms of thinking about it historically. "I want people to realize how much potential it has," Andersen said.
Andersen's project did not involve any digging at the site, but he did study the elevations of Emerson Point, survey the land, take photographs and conduct research to write his thesis.
He is working on a larger paper to expand his ideas and will continuing studying the site.
He believes it is a gem for studying religious and political context in the everyday lives of the tribes.
Meanwhile, Johnson, from Ohio, a fourth-year anthropology student, researched the Warm Mineral Springs in North Port. Johnson explored the archaeological significance of the springs. She described the springs as a geographically intriguing place with several invested groups, including community members, environmentalists and government officials.
"It's not just a swimming hole," Johnson said.
She also recognized the springs as the reputed location of Ponce de Leon's Legendary Fountain of Youth.
She argued that the two themes of archeology and imagined heritage can coexist, something she says is common sense.
The springs is a Paleo-Indian burial site, which is an example of tangible heritage. There are archaeological remains that can be proven and understood, Johnson explained. The second part that makes up the culture of this area is imaginary heritage, particularly the myth of Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth.
"There is no proof that Ponce de Leon even came to North Port, but people like myth and legend, Johnson said. "There is romance and excitement to the exploration of a legend."
She added that there is a strong Central and Eastern European presence near the spring, adding another layer of cultural significance. Johnson said the springs are a good model for environmental stewardship because of broad range of interest surrounding them, adding that we have to keep the future of the springs in mind.
The Time Sifters is a Sarasota-based chapter of the Florida Archaeological Society dedicated to preservation, education and research. The society has assisted trained archaeologists in Calusa Indian digs and participated in creating the Window to the Past exhibit at Historic Spanish Point.
Cornelia Futor, the namesake of the grant and founding member of the Time Sifters, died last year.