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Sunday Favorites: Digging Up the Past

SARASOTA – Phillippi Estate Park, a 60-acre parcel located in south Sarasota, is best known for the 100-year-old farmhouse and mansion on the premise along with the ancient moss-covered oak trees and various gardens that decorate the landscape. However, the property located on Phillippi creek was first utilized by natives nearly 3,000 years ago.

Edson Keith bought the plot of land along Phillippi Creek when he retired from the millinery business in Chicago. Keith first built a clapboard farmhouse and lived there while he oversaw the construction of his Italian Renaissance Mansion. When production was complete, Keith moved into the mansion, and his farm workers and household staff inhabited the farmhouse.

While the farmhouse was officially declared a historic structure by the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, 2016 marks the anniversary of its centennial.

Local archaeologists utilized the significant date to explore an older antiquity. Back in the 1980s, scientists unearthed a Native-American midden, commonly known as an Indian mound, that held significant links to their ancient society.

On Jan. 4-5, 2016, archaeologists uncovered some of those artifacts from three different time periods–the Archaic, 3,000 years ago; a period dating to 2,500 to 1,300 years ago; and the 20th-century–beneath the soil at the park.

On the first day of the excavation, the team discovered pieces of pottery and remnants of possible tools and shells revealing the lives of natives that inhabited the region during the Manasota Period. The findings will help give modern-day scientists a better understanding of their civilization.

Right now, scientists are focusing on the largest site on the property, known as the Manasota midden, which dates to 2,500 years ago to 1,300 years ago.
With no stones available, archaeologists say the Manasota people improvised, using hard shells instead as tools. Holes were drilled into conch shells and a piece of wood inserted, creating a crude hammer.
Research will also be conducted at the Archaic Lithic Scatter Site, which contains evidence of visitation that occurred sometime between 5,000 to 3,000 years ago. The archaeologists will also investigate the historic refuse site associated with the early 20th century Edson Keith Mansion located on the park grounds.

Some of the artifacts will be displayed at the Edison Keith Estate Mansion at Phillippi Estate Park this November in time for its centennial celebration.


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