Open Context


Baptizing Spring Zooarchaeological Data

Zooarchaeological specimen records from the Baptizing Spring site (08SU65), Florida (Florida Museum, University of Florida, Environmental Archaeology Program accession #0221)

Project Abstract


Baptizing Spring (08SU65) is a Spanish mission village archaeological site located in Suwannee County, Florida. The site is also sometimes known as “Convent-Spanish Baptizing Springs”, and has been identified as the pre-1656 San Juan de Guacara mission that was later moved west to the Suwannee River (Milanich 1999:25). The site was excavated in 1976 by Jerald T. Milanich (Florida Museum) and again 1978 by L. Jill Loucks (Florida Museum). Baptizing Springs was the focus of Loucks’ 1979 dissertation at the University of Florida. While the exact founding date is unknown, the site was occupied by at least 1655 and likely abandoned around 1656 during the Timucuan uprising. The zooarchaeological specimen record data associated with this work are curated in the Environmental Archaeology Program laboratory at the Florida Museum, University of Florida, Gainesville. Research at Baptizing Spring was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (to Dr. Charles Fairbanks, principle investigator).

The Baptizing Spring site revealed information about the Spanish-Indian interactions in Florida. Artifacts recovered included both aboriginal and Spanish types: lithics, projectile points, Spanish ceramics, lead shot, glass beads, metal objects, aboriginal ceramics (e.g., St. Johns Plain, Miller Plain, and Jefferson Ware), and Colono-Indian Ceramics. Two Spanish structures/activity areas were identified at the site (Structures A and B), as were three aboriginal areas (two of which were named Structures C and D).

Located on a rise, Spanish Structure B, roughly 10m by 8m, was composed of the remains of a "packed red clay floor, some charred wood, five charred posts, sections of two wall ‘trenches’ and several features including pits” (Loucks 1979: page 130). The building had three walls and was open on the fourth side (Milanich 1999:133). The structure was interpreted as a possible church. Spanish Structure A is reported by Loucks (1979: pg 135) as approximately 7m by 7.5m, with a dirt floor and probable wattle and daub walls. A large hearth was located inside the structure. Milanich (1999:137) identifies this structure as the “convento” or residence of the religious personnel. Artifact concentrations in Structure A were larger than in Structure B and included most of the Spanish artifacts. Spanish artifacts included ceramics, nails, and spikes. These Spanish structures did not contain an abundance of faunal remains (as compared to the aboriginal structures described below).

Three areas of aboriginal structures/activity areas were located at the site and included “concentrated features, postholes, and smudge pits (small pits packed with charred wood)” (Loucks 1979: page 138). Based on 5 large postholes, Structure D was likely a 6m circular structure, and recovered in this structure were five “game pieces” shaped out of gopher tortoise shell. Structure D had 8 features including a "rectanguloid, deep pit that was probably used for storage and later filled with refuse." A partial, articulated pig skeleton was recovered from within the structure boundaries. Other features included postholes and conical pits containing relatively large amounts of well-preserved faunal remains. The other aboriginal structure/activity area is Structure C, with which were associated pits, postholes, smudge pits, and fire pits. Faunal remains were also recovered from the area, including ample white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The majority of “food bone” was recovered from a large trash pit. Although other aboriginal-associated postholes and pits were located, they were not explored as thoroughly as the site areas with Structures A, B, C, and D due to time constraints. However, one trash pit contained “well-preserved faunal material (including fish vertebrae), sherds, and lithic artifacts (Loucks 1979: page 146).

Zooarchaeological specimen identification took place at the Florida Museum using the zooarchaeological comparative skeletal collection. Cynthia Heath analyzed the 1976 sample. Arlene Fradkin analyzed the 1978 sample. Loucks also analyzed for evidence of butchering and “some re-identification” (Loucks 1979: page 221). Overall, the faunal remains are described as fragmentary and demineralized (Loucks 1979: page 212). The majority of faunal remains are from vertebrate taxa, followed by a few identified invertebrate specimens. Screening of faunal materials was not consistent across site areas or features. “There is little doubt that failure to screen the 1976 trenches and all materials from Structure A introduced some bias into the sample" (Loucks 1979: 121). When possible, bones were identified to the level of genus or species, or the next ascending category. “Miscellaneous bone” was used for fragments not identifiable to finer taxonomic resolution. The bone from the 1978 excavations were not weighed.

About the Project: This project is one of several experimental test-cases to integrate zooarchaeological data published by Open Context with VertNet, via the Darwin Core metadata standard. In relating these zooarchaeological data with a wider bioinformatics community, this experiment provides a basis for developing "ZooArchNet" (, a collaborative data-sharing initiative led by Dr. Kitty Emery and Dr. Rob Guralnick, Associate Curators at the Florida Museum of Natural History. They intend ZooArchNet to become a digital environmental archaeology portal that focuses on mobilizing zooarchaeological specimen-level data using tools pioneered for publishing biological and paleontological data, while also creating persistent links to, and among, open-data archaeological repositories. By doing so, ZooArchNet will facilitate data interoperability across a growing network of information resources spanning multiple disciplines, creating a foundation for integrative big-data research at the interface of archaeology and biology, and opening the door to the development of distributed data networking in archaeology. Kitty Emery provided the zooarchaeological data and archaeological context information provided here. For the time being, the same data are modeled in Darwin Core at:


Loucks, L.J.

Political and Economic Interactions between Spaniards and Indians: Ethnohistorical and Archaeological Perspectives of the Mission System in Florida. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Milanich, Jerald T.

Laboring in the Fields of the Lord: Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.

Annotations (4)

Property or Relation Value(s)
[Standard: Dublin Core Terms]
[Standard: Dublin Core Terms]
[Standard: GeoNames]
Temporal Coverage
[Standard: Dublin Core Terms]
First Spanish Period 1513-1599
[Standard: PeriodO Collection: Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA)]
Editorial Note

Open Context editors work with data contributors to annotate datasets to shared vocabularies, ontologies, and other standards using 'Linked Open Data' (LOD) methods.

The annotations presented above approximate some of the meaning in this contributed data record to concepts defined in shared standards. These annotations are provided to help make datasets easier to understand and use with other datasets.

Suggested Citation

Kitty F Emery, L. Jill Loucks, Jerald Milanich, Charles Fairbanks, Cynthia Heath, Arlene Fradkin, Michelle LeFebvre, Laura Brenskelle. "Baptizing Spring Zooarchaeological Data". (2018) In ZooArchNet. Kitty F Emery, Rob Guralnick, Michelle LeFebvre, Laura Brenskelle, John W Wieczorek (Eds.) . Released: 2018-12-19. Open Context. <> DOI:

Editorial Status

Editorial board reviewed

Part of Project


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