Skip to Main Content
College of Arts and Sciences
twoColumn twoLeft

Archaeology Laboratory

The Archaeology Laboratory at the University of North Florida (UNF) is committed to scholarly research, education, and public outreach. Our focus is designed to enrich our knowledge of the archaeology of northeastern Florida and surrounding areas. As part of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the laboratory offers challenging learning and faculty-directed research opportunities for UNF students. The laboratory provides students with hands-on experience in both archaeological fieldwork and laboratory analysis. Field and laboratory settings blend academic teaching with research-oriented objectives that benefits both faculty and students. The lab is currently involved in four somewhat interrelated research projects that together cover the period A.D. 1000-1700.

Just as important as scholarly research is our commitment to public education. The general public deserves to know the colorful and vibrant story of the natives and early colonists who thrived in communities that now lay beneath their feet. Archaeological research over the past decade has challenged conventional thinking on Native American culture in northeastern Florida and altered the way we interpret many aspects of their way of life. Unfortunately, little of this new archaeological information has reached the public and a part of the Archaeology Laboratory's mission is to educate and broaden this knowledge.

Public Archaeology

student and professor at archaeological dig

The UNF Arch Lab is devoted to public outreach.  As part of our engagement with the public, we have initiated an annual public field school, which provides high-quality educational information to students as well as the broader Jacksonville community. We believe public support of archaeology is vital if we are to have success in saving the past for everyone. An informed and interested public is more likely to appreciate the importance of preserving archaeological sites and other cultural resources for all to enjoy.

Shovel Testing as an Archaeological Survey Method

Shovel testing is a standard technique in archaeological surveys. Each shovel test is 50 cm x 50 cm wide and typically a meter deep. The location of the shovel test depends on the context and situation of the survey; for example, when we work on private property, particularly with small plots of land, the number and location of shovel tests are agreed upon by the property owner and the survey crew. No shovel tests will be dug in any area without the property owner written consent.

Shovel testing involves a digger and at least one screener. A plastic tarp is placed adjacent to area selected for the shovel test. This is done to protect the grass and facilitate backfilling. The screener places the portable screen directly on the tarp and the digger deposits shovel loads of soil into the screen. The screener shakes the screen so that the soil falls through the quarter inch screen mesh and onto the tarp. Once the shovel test is completed, the screened soil is returned to the shovel test hole and the soil is packed down. If a shovel test is dug into a grass lawn, the grass will be carefully cut, removed to the side, and returned to its original location once the shovel test is finished.

During the screening process, all materials captured by the screen are pulled out and saved. All shell fragments (if any) are measured in terms of the volume and the species present is noted (most common is oyster shell). All artifacts are placed in plastic bags that are properly labeled. Once the shovel test is finished the soil, shell, and other natural materials are put back into the hole. Before backfilling we record the depth and color of the different layers of soil on field forms. The bag of artifacts will be taken to the UNF Archaeology lab to be washed and analyzed.

Interested in Shovel Testing?

Are you are interested in participating or would you like more information concerning shovel testing on your property? If so please contact the Archaeology Laboratory at (904) 620-3869, Dr. Keith Ashley at or Dr. Robert Thunen at