Unearthing the Truth: FBI Jacksonville’s Evidence Response Team Digs Up the Past
Unearthing the Truth
FBI Jacksonville’s Evidence Response Team Digs Up the Past
Just over an hour on the scene and FBI Special Agent Larry Meyer unearthed the mangled remains of a dagger hilt. In short order, other members of the FBI’s Jacksonville Evidence Response Team (ERT) began finding other tell-tale items of a life once lived—ribs, vertebrae, and lots and lots of oyster shells. It wasn't exactly a crime scene, but the Jacksonville ERT did uncover some evidence recently that helped recreate a picture of the past for the nation’s oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement.
|FBI Special Agent Larry Meyer (right) joins a volunteer in hoisting a coquina stone blocking the opening to an abandoned 18th century well on a plot of land in historic downtown St. Augustine, Florida. | High resolution image|
With City of St. Augustine archaeologist Carl Halbirt, 18 members of the Jacksonville ERT helped sift through the soil on a plot that once contained an 18th century dwelling. Slated for new construction, the site was being dug as part of a city ordinance that calls for archaeological consideration before a new foundation is laid. The team used the opportunity to meet their quarterly training requirement.
"We can do the training and help the city with the dig," Special Agent Meyer said.
|Spraying down items recovered from the archaeological excavation, Jacksonville ERT members sort artifacts by material. | High resolution image|
Over the course of two days, the team worked alongside volunteers with the city on the site along a historic downtown St. Augustine street. Wearing a uniform of blue shirts with "FBI Evidence Response Team" in bright yellow letters, the team quickly drew curious stares and speculation from passing tourists.
"I gotta ask," one man finally questioned in a low tone over perimeter of orange construction fencing, "Did you guys find a body?"
Items recovered by the FBI's Jacksonville ERT included the hilt of a Spanish dagger (clockwise from
top), a religious medallion, and many colorful shards of plates and pottery from the 18th and 19th
centuries. | Select photos for high resolution images
No human remains were found, but the team did uncover animal bones, oyster and clam shells, and hundreds of colored shards of pottery from the daily discards of 18th and 19th century dinner tables. The caches of artifacts were mainly confined to several buried trash pits, but the team also helped uncover an abandoned well that was backfilled with other items of historical interest.
|Jacksonville ERT members work alongside volunteers on the site of a former 18th century dwelling. | High resolution image|
Through the hours of shoveling and sifting, sorting and saving, it was clear that the tools and procedures of archaeologists are very similar to those used by FBI investigators searching for buried evidence, especially the mounds of paperwork that follows the findings.
"We're two divergent agencies but we share the same goals—unearthing the buried truth," Halbirt said.