The Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Constructed during the late 17th century, when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire, the fortress is known for its “bastion-system” (star-shaped) layout and a porous limestone building material that absorbed cannon balls, rather than shattering. The Castillo was part of the long, often violent history of colonialism in the Americas, and it served as a prison for rebellious Native Americans while under U.S. control in the 1800s.
Archaeological Fun Fact: St. Augustine is known for its public archaeology. In 2011, city archaeologist Carl Halbirt and volunteers uncovered the remnants of a large wooden structure, likely a fort dating to the 1500s or 1600s. It is probably a predecessor to the Castillo de San Marcos.
Park website: www.nps.gov/casa/
Salt River Bay located on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands includes mangrove forests, coral reefs, and a submarine canyon. An impressive number of archaeological projects have been undertaken there, documenting 2,000 years of occupation. Within the park, the Columbus Landing Site is the only known place in United States territory where members of the Columbus expedition set foot. Today, visitors learn about three native cultures (Igneri, Taino, and Carib), the colonial period, and African enslavement and diaspora.
Archaeological Fun Fact: A ceremonial ball court of the Taino culture was excavated at Salt River Bay in 1923. This ball court and Taino artifacts point to contact with the civilizations of Mesoamerica.
Park website: www.nps.gov/sari/
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