JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A big archaeological dig on Big Talbot Island could help researchers understand native tribes that lived in the area over 1,000 years ago.

University of North Florida students led by Dr. Keith Ashley have been looking for signs of life in the dirt since early May. Rain delayed some of the study, but a discovery Friday may be the most significant on the site yet.

“I think we’re just trying to build this bigger picture about native American life here in Jacksonville,” Dr. Ashley said.

A whelk shell found just a few feet below the surface was delicately removed while our cameras were rolling. Dr. Ashley estimated the artifact was between 900 and 1,200 years old, but its use was not immediately clear.

“We’ll find different pieces of material out here that basically you are sitting, well, what did they make out of this did they use it to make something else,” student Andrew Jones said moments after uncovering the shell.

Teams have also found pottery pieces and fish bones – a clue into what the natives consumed.

“Yeah this is probably five to seven thousand years old, and we call it an archaic stem-point, but was interesting is where we found it in thousand-year-old garbage, so we think it was incorporated by later groups who lost it,” Ashley said.

Photo Courtesy: Alex Osiadacz, WTLV

Lost to time, and nature, but it has students reflecting between taking down measurements.

“I would’ve had no idea, I would come out here just to climb trees and I didn’t realize I was walking through trails of all this history,” student Tianna Disalvo said.

History that the Friends of Talbot Island State Park set out to share with visitors by funding the dig. Also, the hope to add trails near the site would be part of their plan once they find what lies beneath. Those trails could go into place as early as 2018.

The public can participate in the archaeological dig on Big Talbot Island starting June 19. Contact the department for more information.

Photo Courtesy: Alex Osiadacz, WTLV
Photo Courtesy: Alex Osiadacz, WTLV