Indian Mounds may reveal the present
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05/19/10 Andrea Lypka
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday

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With all the high rises, box stores and freeways that dominate much of Florida’s landscape today, it can be hard to imagine that there was life before sprawl. On May 17 in Pass-a-Grille, the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum held an event that celebrated the first Floridians: the Timucua, Tequesta, Jeaga, Ais and the Tocobaga tribes. The guest lecturer was archeologist and pottery artist Loren Blakeley, who said that hands-on educational programs like this one emphasize the future through the past.

“I try to educate about the preservation when I do these presentations to preserve what is life and to preserve what it was,” said Blakeley.

Blakely is a former president of the Central Gulf Coast Archeological Society and a past vice president of the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society. He grew up on St. Pete Beach and was 12 years old when he observed the mound on Cabbage Key being professionally excavated by Dr. Lyman Warren in 1961.

“Fortunately he had excavated that mound before it was destroyed by the bulldozers that were building the [Pinellas] Bayway down to Fort Desoto,” he said.

Archeologist Blakeley took the audience into the past, to a time before Westerners set foot in the Sunshine State. Blakeley told the story of the native peoples through the archeological discoveries of the Indian mounds in Weedon Island, Safety Harbor and in Pinellas Point. Organizers also screened the documentary Shadows and Reflections: Florida’s Lost People, a winner of the Louis Wolfson II Media Center History Award in 1999.

Volunteers at the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum made prehistoric pottery replicas using self-hardening clay under the guidance of Blakeley.

“I relocated here a year ago and was fortunate to immediately find a volunteer position that allowed me to make good use of my time in service to the community while learning about the area's history,” said volunteer Laurie Kirby.

For Blakeley, archaeology has an inherent appeal. His father was a history buff, and his mother, an artist, nurtured Blakeley’s love for archeology. He says archeology and history do not just study the past.

“Again that old adage that you don’t know where you are going unless you know where you come from. After all, our original Florida prehistoric cultures are extinct. And that’s a powerful word. Does that mean it could happen to us? I think that it could,” he said. “If we learn from it perhaps we can make better judgment as to where we are going in the future….”

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