Scientists Sink Teeth into Fossils at MOSH's 'Road Show'; Experts Give Details on Age, Value of Items for Museum Visitors

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Byline: Charlie Patton

Jacksonville resident Laurie Cauthon says she and her husband love to go on "what we call safaris," where they collect interesting rocks and other objects.

Saturday, she brought a bag full of them to the Museum of Science &

History, where a panel of experts was holding an "archaeology road show."

After others panelists had identified some of her objects as a whale vertebra, a piece of petrified wood and a fossilized bone, she showed a shell to Harry Lee, a retired physician who is author of "Marine Shells of Florida."

He told her it was recent. When she asked what recent meant, he said "less than 10,000 years old."

"If less than 10,000 years old is recent, I feel much better about myself," joked Cauthon.

Christy Turner, MOSH's director of education, said by rough count about 150 people came to talk to the panel, which included an anthropologist, an archaeologist, a professor of earth science, a marine geologist and Lee, the shell expert. This was MOSH's second "archaeology road show." Given the turnout, Turner said there could be another.

Ed Fite and his granddaughter, Abbie, came with a variety of objects he has been pulling out of rivers while diving for the past 40 years, including a mastadon tooth, a sloth toe, a camel jaw and two cloth shoes, one for an adult, one for a child, that he suspects are from the Civil War era.

"I love all his stuff," Abbie said. "In his house he has tables covered with all his stuff."

Does his wife, who didn't come to the road show, also love all his stuff?

He laughed. "I have to let her answer that."

'FASCINATING' SWORD

Sybil Taylor brought an old sword that Sarah Miller, director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network's Northeast Region, said appeared to be from the 1830s or 1840s.

Her father found it 55 years ago in Perry while digging his wife a flower garden, Taylor said.

"Thank you for bringing it in," Miller said. "It's fascinating."

Joe and Vanessa Warren showed a collection of pottery, possibly pre-Columbian, they had bought in Central America to Brad Bigelow, who teaches anthropology at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

"A lot of it is tourist rubbish, which we thought was tourist rubbish," Vanessa Warren said.

But Bigelow was impressed with several pieces.

"We're very pleased," Vanessa Warren said. …