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Frequently Asked Questions

Prentice Thomas and Associates, Inc. (PTA), has over 30 years of experience in all stages of the archaeological process. As archaeologists, PTA staff receives numerous questions about what goes on in the daily work of an archaeologist. Below are answers to some of these great questions!

What types of things do you find?
People have lived in these areas for many years and we find anything that might have been left here by them. Although PTA has worked around the world, most of our recent work has been focused in the Florida panhandle. The most common things found during our excavations in Florida include prehistoric tools and pottery, as well as historic homesteads and structures, cookware, dishes, toys, and tools, to name a few. Some of these items may not look like much, especially after being subjected to the elements for perhaps thousands of years, but to an archaeologist they tell the story of the people who made our world what it is today.

What Native American groups were in Northwest Florida?
Florida was home to numerous Native Americans, but perhaps the most common in the panhandle region were the Euchee, Chickasaw, Chacato, Chisca, Pansacola, Chine, Savacola, Tawasa, Muskogee Creek, probably Choctaw, the Alabamo, Coosada (Koasati), Chatas and Sawoki. These are only some of the groups from the region; many others also passed through the area possibly traveling to new locations or following trade routes.
Why do you dig so slowly?
Because archaeological fieldwork is by its nature destructive, you can only collect the available information once. So the job is really quite tedious and careful. Information can include artifacts, residues left on artifacts or in the soil, features left in the soil due to disturbance and/or decay, animal and vegetable remains, materials that have been imported into the area but aren’t modified yet, charcoal and other sources of carbon.
What do I do if I see someone looting a site?
It is illegal to loot archaeological sites, especially ones with human remains. Contact local law enforcement, the landowner, and the Bureau of Archaeological Research (850) 245-6444 as soon as possible.
How many dinosaurs have you found?
None! Archaeology focuses on people and their cultures through the analysis of artifacts, historic records, and other remains rather than on other forms of life that are represented by fossils.
Where can I find artifacts?
Artifacts can be anywhere, but to dig for them you must first have the landowner’s permission (private land) or the appropriate permits (state and federal land). Digging on State, Federal, or private land without a permit is considered a felony.
Why is it important to preserve archaeological sites?
We can always learn from our past, and archaeology focuses on preserving our past for future generations. New discoveries are frequently made, helping us piece together our exciting past and learn more about where we come from. Many of the artifacts from archaeological sites are used in museum displays and school to enhance education and give people a more hands-on perspective of our history.
How do I become an archaeologist?
Archaeologists generally have at least a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, but some may also have degrees in history. To truly be successful as an archaeologist, it would be wise to obtain a Masters degree, and field school is almost always required. Any experience with mapping or geospatial technology is also an asset. Most importantly, you have to be passionate about our history and have a love of learning!
What do I do if I find human remains?
Cease work and contact local law enforcement then the Florida State Historic Preservation Officer (850)-245-6333. It is a felony to knowingly disturb human remains.
Is being an archaeologist like being Indiana Jones?
While Indiana Jones is a great movie series, archaeology is more about preserving our history through research and discoveries great and small. To most people, true archaeology is slightly less exciting than Indiana Jones as it involves hard, dirty, work in all types of conditions and terrain and a lot of paperwork. Most archaeologists do not own a whip. Archaeologists here at PTA are always eager for the next ground-breaking discoveries; however, most of our enthusiam is the result of the smaller details. Every find, whether it is a historic structure or a prehistoric projectile point, leads us closer to discovering more details from our past and allows us to better preserve it for future generations to enjoy.