Technology Aids Angola Dig


Archaeologists are searching for signs of a former Black Seminole settlement along the banks of the Manatee River that was destroyed in 1821. Use of a new technology hasn't revealed much, yet, but researchers are still learning a lot in the process.

Vickie Oldham began her search in 2004 for the lost community known as Angola after learning about the Maroon settlement of free blacks, runaway slaves and Seminoles from a history book.

The former TV reporter wanted to know more about the Tampa Bay settlement that was raided and destroyed in 1821.

The 'Looking for Angola' project has grown from its initial inception as a documentary short. It now includes archaeological excavations to link physical evidence with Angola, public lectures, school programs and underwater archaeology.

New College Associate Professor of Anthropology Uzi Baram is an advisor and scholar to the project. Baram oversaw the most recent excavation for Angola artifacts a block south of the Manatee River on land owned by the preservation group, Reflections of Manatee.

'Archaeologically we're dealing with quite an ephemeral community people escaping from slavery were not concerned with building big things,' Baram said. 'In fact, the term Angola itself came from Cuban fishermen we don't know what the community called itself.'

So, it makes the search for evidence of the maroon community more challenging.

But, finding evidence may get a bit easier thanks to Witten Technologies. The company scanned the grounds for free using with a device that normally locates underground utilities. The radar tomography showed reflections from several three-dimensional objects underground.

The Director of Reflections of Manatee, Trudy Williams, believes the technology will become the new archaeological technique for the future.

The late March dig revealed a postmold, a cylindrical soil stain indicating where a wooden post rotted in place. It's an architectural feature the archaeologists are pleased to have found.

Now, it seems, the search for Angola has become as important as finding it. It's history is being taught in Florida schools. And soon, the school in Red Bays, Bahamas, where it's believed Angola survivors settled, will be given electronic equipment so they may directly communicate with Florida students.

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