Archaeology vs. Space: 18th c. plantation site may block commercial spaceport construction

Archaeologist Dot Moore, right, and historian Roz Foster, in hat, excavate the Elliott Plantation site. Photo: National Park Service

Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency for the state of Florida, plans to construct a commercial spaceport next to Kennedy Space Center. Local business, government officials, and laid-off Space Coast aerospace workers who lost their jobs when the shuttle program ended love the idea.

But the past sometimes reaches out to trip the future. The property along the Volusia-Brevard county line where Space Florida wants to build its spaceport turns out to be already occupied. It contains the ruins of an 18th century English plantation, complete with slave villages, a sugar factory and a rum distillery. National Park Service officials have declared it "one of the most significant properties in North America."

The Elliott Plantation, built in the late 1760s, spans some 2,500 acres and "contains the remains of a complete sugar works factory … two overseers' homes and two slave villages," according to a March archaeological report filed by the National Park Service. "This is one of the most significant and well-preserved African-American landscapes known, and is unique in its quality of preservation."

The ruins were fully explored and documented by archaeologists five years ago, according to archaeologist Dot Moore. "They should have known," she said.

The existence of the plantation site is noted in this NPS publication from 2008.

More: Archaeological site could sink commercial spaceport location | Tampa Bay Times. [HT: @jeff_foust]