Client for a Cause: Dr. Peter Scholz | University of North Florida Archaeology Lab

For B&C client Dr. Peter Scholz, retirement has afforded him a chance to explore one of his lifelong passions – archaeology. Born to Swiss parents in New Jersey, Peter returned to Switzerland at 8 years old where he lived until he returned to the U.S. to complete his medical training. After 30 years of active clinical practice as an academic cardiac surgeon at Rutgers-Robert Wood Jonson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ, he retired to Ponte Vedra Beach.

As a lifelong learner, Peter saw his retirement as an opportunity to learn more about a field that had always interested him. For the past two years, he has been auditing archaeology and anthropology classes at the University of North Florida Archaeology lab, led by Keith Ashley, Ph.D., Robert L. Thunin, Ph.D., and Vicki L. Rolland, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter Scholz, fourth from the right, onsite at an Archaeology Lab project.

The mission of the lab is to pursue scholarly research, education and public outreach in the field of archaeology, focusing on researching the prehistoric inhabitants of Northeast Florida. Even though many discoveries about local Native Americans’ customs have been made over the last decade, little of this information has reached the public – but the team at the Archaeology Lab at UNF hopes to change that.

Members of the Archaeology Lab are currently working on four projects: the search for Fort Caroline, the Mill Cove Complex, the Mocama site and the Spanish Mission Santa Cruz de Guadalquini on Black Hammock Island. While these projects are certainly interesting, they are also of vital interest in today’s world. Peter adds, “It is important for us to know about the past history of the area we live in, the people, their way of life and their environment. The appreciation of our rich heritage and other past cultures is bound to enrich our own lives.”

For Peter, being able to return to one of his pastimes of his teenage years has been an enjoyable experience. As a college student in Switzerland, he would perform archaeological excavations in medieval castles – now, he has been able to research the St. Johns people, the Native American Indians who lived in Northeast Florida around a thousand years ago. Of particular interest to him is the discovery that the St. Johns people were involved in a long-distance, two-way trade network with the peoples of the Mississippian culture. Items like copper face masks, ear plugs and arrowheads made their way to Florida from modern-day Illinois, the Great Lakes region and the Appalachian Mountains.

The Archaeology Lab at UNF is preparing to host the Florida Anthropological Society’s annual conference, where speakers will present some of the latest scholarly research and will educate the public about the people, places and cultures of the past in Florida. James Dunbar, an authority on Paleoindians of Florida, will be the keynote speaker. His topic will focus on underwater and wetland sites in Florida and the need for their preservation. The conference runs from May 5-7 at UNF. More information about the conference and the society can be found at https://fasweb.org/annual-conference.

To learn more about the Archaeology Lab at UNF or to donate to their cause, visit www.unf.edu/archlab.

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