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Ancient canoe exhibit opens this October

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For more than a thousand years, an ancient dugout canoe lay buried under mangrove peat near a shoreline on Old Tampa Bay at Weedon Island Preserve. Since its discovery in 2001, archaeologists have investigated, excavated, analyzed and conserved the ancient treasure.

The public is invited to view the 1,100-year-old canoe during the grand opening of a new exhibit, Navigating Tampa Bay's Maritime Past. The event featuring Florida’s longest (40 feet) and only saltwater dugout canoe is Saturday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center located at 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. followed by presentations and activities designed for the entire family.

Archaeologists from the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) who excavated and preserved the canoe will be on hand to discuss the discovery and its relevance to the Tampa Bay region’s history. AWIARE, a non-profit consortium of scientific and academic entities, in partnership with Pinellas County, has assumed oversight of archaeology operations at Weedon Island and is dedicated to promoting and facilitating archaeological research, scientific exploration and public education focusing on the Weedon Island Preserve and the adjacent Gulf Coast.

The Florida Public Archaeology Network West Central Region will provide archaeological activities and unique hands on experiences.

The excavation and preservation of the canoe took nearly four years and was funded by a $30,000 donation from the Friends of Weedon Island. Funding for the exhibit included a $15,000 grant from the Florida Humanities Council, a $17,000 donation from the Hough Family Foundation and several individual and corporate donations.

A lecture series has been developed to complement the exhibit and highlight the region’s maritime history. The free lecture series will be held on Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. Topics include:

• Oct. 15, “The Weedon Island Canoe – A Success Story,” by Barbara A. Purdy, Ph.D., University of Florida
• Nov. 19, “How Oceanographic Effects Influenced the Prehistoric Colonization of Islands: A Caribbean-Pacific Comparison,” with Scott M. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., University of Oregon
• Dec. 17, “Water World: Canoes, Canals and the Meaning of Water in Ancient Florida,” by Ryan J. Wheeler, Ph.D., Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology