Skip to Main Content

UNF Archaeology unveils new finds at lost Indigenous town of Sarabay

Students digging on siteThe University of North Florida Archaeology Lab is unveiling a lost Indigenous town at Big Talbot Island State Park. The students, led by Dr. Keith Ashley, UNF Archaeology Lab director, are excavating a location that is now supported by overwhelming evidence to be the native Mocama village of Sarabay.

The UNF team first found artifacts and building posts that confirmed their discovery in 2020. This summer, the team has identified four more building posts to add to the seven uncovered last year, indicating a large Indigenous structure approximately 50-60 feet in diameter, possibly the community council house. Another unique find this summer was a small, shell artifact made by Indigenous people that displays Catholic imagery.

ArtifactThe team has also this year uncovered large amounts of Indigenous pottery dating to ca 1580-1620 CE, a date range corroborated by a series of radiocarbon dates; 10 to 15 pieces of Spanish olive jar, a large type of storage vessel made in Spain, bringing the total found by the team to more than 100; about 10 pieces of Spanish majolica, a painted tableware form of pottery from Spain; parts of Colonoware pottery made by Indigenous women but the vessel forms are European (pitcher handles, mug handles, plate forms); and bone and shell tools.

This dig is part of the UNF Archaeology Lab’s ongoing Mocama Archaeological Project that focuses on the Timucua-speaking Mocama people who lived along the Atlantic coast of northern Florida at the time of European arrival in 1562. The Mocama were among the first indigenous populations encountered by European explorers in the 1560s.