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I would be remiss if I let this story of my college mentor’s, John Gifford, Ph.D., prehistoric excavation closing down due to a shrinking budget. Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County, Florida is an important Paleo-Indian site and on the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeological Investigations over the last 21 years have yielded key information to understanding the peoples who lived in this region thousands of years before Columbus.
The 111 acre sink hole in Central Florida drew Floridians as early as 12,000 years ago. They used the site as a fresh water source but also as a trap for larger game, drowning them in the deep water and then removing the carcass to clean and eat. The material found at the site has been important and only just touched the surface.
Sadly, recently budget evaluations have determined the sites closing and, as such, Dr. Gifford will be retiring his archaeological career at the University of Miami’s Rosenthal School of Marine and Atmosphere Science.
“…because of this, I’m retiring after this semester. The reason I was hired in 1983 was to work at Little Salt Spring. My job was to do underwater research in Little Salt Spring.” — John Gifford, Ph.D.
The closing of the site has sent ripples throughout the archaeological community.
“It’s a rare site. It is one of Florida’s most puzzling and enigmatic archaeological sites. It is significant, based on what has been found there; the rich archaeological evidence of the earliest period of human occupation in Florida. It’s a time period of which we know very little.” Brent Wiseman, Ph.D.
To learn more about the Little Salt Springs excavations and its closing, see the article at Tampa Bay Online.
“If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Mr. Scott told the paper. “So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”
The good governor clearly overlooked the reports that demonstrate that liberal arts majors can and do have jobs in a wide myriad of fields or go on to graduate degrees in Law, Education, and even the ‘hard sciences’ like medicine. A broad, liberal arts education prepares individuals for the critical analysis required in many fields, from marketing to ‘hard science.’ Broad studies indicate that it’s not the field of study that ultimately matters, but the exercise of earning the degree.