Florida road team discovers unusual 1800s item in roadway

Relic from the 1800s discovered underneath Florida highway (Not pictured) – View of Florida Highway — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Viktoriya A

Earlier this month, during normal construction, road crews discovered an entire, centuries-old shipwreck embedded in a Florida highway.

Crews discovered a left leather boot inside the 20-foot-long relic, which they think to have been buried under eight to ten feet of sediment close to the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.

“We believe the vessel may have sank unexpectedly and, over time, was silted in,” Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 2 Secretary Greg Evans said.

“That is why it was preserved so well. It was encapsulated in soil and mud, so there was no air contact for it to decay. It’s truly an incredible find.”

SEARCH’s Dr. James Delgado, who led the excavation and recovery, said in a statement that they believe the vessel “was a small single-masted, shallow-draft sailing craft of the 19th century.”

“It was likely used to extract fish and shellfish from coastal waterways and directly offshore,” Delgado said.

“With a dedicated team, including support from the local community and the on-site construction team, we were able to extract the vessel in order to allow the important work on the community’s infrastructure to continue.”

A Florida Department of Transportation archeologist named Ian Pawn described some of the excellently preserved relics in an interview with Newsweek. 

They discovered coconut halves “that were likely used as cups” on top of the ship, along with leather shoes, coins, one dating back to 1869, and a piece of an oil-fired lamp, according to Pawn.

Prior to the ship’s disintegration and the discovery of its hidden valuables, SEARCH archaeologists must work quickly to preserve it. 

“The boat was disassembled, plank by plank, and removed, with great care to keep each portion wet,” Pawn said, according to Newsweek. 

“The pieces will be observed in wet storage to stabilize as we determine future preservation efforts. We will be working closely with archeologists and the City of St. Augustine to find a permanent home for this unique find.”

FDOT’s Evans thanked SEARCH’s “careful efforts to preserve this vessel.”

“With every project we undertake, the Florida Department of Transportation is sensitive to the unique needs of the communities we serve, including the potential presence of historical sites and artifacts within construction sites,” Evans said in a statement.

“We look forward to learning more about its significance to the region.”

Stories that matter are our priority. At Florida Insider, we make sure that the information we provide our readers is accurate, easy-to-read, and informative. Whether you are interested in business, education, government, history, sports, real estate, nature or travel: we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.