The World According to Carr

Cynics say that to explore the depths of South Florida culture, all you have to do is scratch the surface. Dade County archaeologist Bob Carr digs deeper and knows better.

"Hoo boy, this is interesting!" Carr cries. "This is great, these little burnt rocks. This has got to be cultural when it's that intensely charred. We've found a number of those. Look at this! This is a burnt bone that looks like deer. I pay a lot of attention to those because it'll help us with the cultural element." From a crouch, he sweeps the area in front of him with his hands. Last month excavators found this site's first fragment of an early Floridian -- a tooth -- and Carr is hoping he'll get lucky and stumble on something really exciting, like the dig's first projectile point. It's difficult, however, to imagine him any more excited than he is right now, scrambling through the wet soil and exclaiming over each tiny treasure: "Oh my God, look at this! Holy shit! That may be from a bison. Lying right up here on the surface!" Carr's hands are faster than the average person's eyes A by the time you've noticed a bone, he's already digging it out. The man is in his element, picking up the pieces of a lost world.

Heading back up Old Cutler Road from Monkey Jungle, Carr shares the front seat of his county-issue Dodge with a Styrofoam cup full of hundred-century-old bones. His animation in the field has given way to a more subdued demeanor, which prompts a recollection of something he had said earlier that day while driving down the same road. He was attempting to respond to this question: What does it feel like to make a major archaeological discovery, to stand on the brink of the Cutler Fossil Site pit, to peer into dirt and see the Lewis homestead at the Santa Maria, or an ancient hunter's campfire, or an impossibly old human skull? For a moment he had stared out the window at the suburban landscape passing by -- the Atlantic coastal ridge, sloping off into what once was freshwater prairie and marsh, and before that a dry savannah. Then he answered: "You feel like you have just made a connection with some unstated part of yourself, of your culture, of your society. I have to say that that is a great feeling.

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