By ChrisAnn Allen
Florida is teeming with prehistoric archaeological sites, one of which is situated underneath what is now a residential area of Siesta Key.
As part of a Sept. 12 meeting consent agenda, Sarasota County commissioners approved a conservation easement to protect the Lucke Midden, an archaeological feature – including a prehistoric human burial – sharing space with a modern home.
During a 2022 permitted construction and excavation project on the property at 8533 Midnight Pass Rd. the activity disturbed a portion of the Lucke Midden site, listed on the Sarasota County Register of Historic Places as a “significant historical resource.” A midden is a zone where prehistoric humans disposed of trash, such as shells from consumed mollusks, broken tools and other refuse, which is excavated to determine the lifestyle of those who lived there.
The site was named after a property owner where the original portion of the site was recorded in 1989.
The disturbance of the Lucke Midden site triggered mitigation which included monitoring of ongoing work on the property by county archaeologist Steven Koski, salvage and analysis of the artifacts and data displaced during the construction project, and establishment of a conservation easement to give protection in perpetuity to the site.
During mitigation, human remains were identified in the midden. Pursuant to state statute, the Sarasota County Division of Historical Resources consulted with the state archaeologist and developed further mitigation including reinterment of remains on the property, to be protected by the conservation easement.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers required the conservation easement as a precondition for approving permitting for property owners John and Sharon Lacy to construct a seawall, dock, boat lift, and jet ski lift, according to Sarasota County.
The property owners declined a request for comment.
The approved easement stipulates, except for routine maintenance such as mowing, the owners will not disturb the site and will not allow digging for utilities or otherwise without approval from the Division of Historical Resources, which will inspect the property annually with 30 days’ notice given.
Additionally, if any other human remains or associated artifacts are discovered on the site, law enforcement and historical division authorities must be notified within two days and work must cease.
Said Koski in an email, “The disturbance of an archaeological site, be it intentional or accidental, is a loss to history, and a greater loss when human remains are involved. It is more a solemn event than a sensational one. Because of that, there is a sensitivity that should be respected.
“Sarasota County Division of Historical Resources does what they can to protect significant archeological sites and historical resources under Chapter 66, Article III, as well as to mitigate for loss when it occurs, in this case through archaeological examination and a conservation easement, ending with the reinterment of any remains found within the conservation easement.”
A similar instance in August of 2014 led to county approval of the creation of a protective covenant to preserve a portion of the Lucke Midden located nearby at 8541 Midnight Pass Rd.