Marion Museum of History and Archaeology – Missing Artifacts Recovery Investigation

Editor(s): Fred White

Year: 2017


Marion Museum of History and Archaeology – Missing Artifacts Recovery Investigation

In December of 2012 the announcement came that the director of the Marion Museum of History and Archaeology in Ocala, Florida was resigning. Shortly after this announcement volumes of information about irregularities at the Marion Museum circulated through the academic community and now years later the impact of those irregularities are coming to light. Two recent complaints filed with law enforcement, a cease and desist, and multiple grievances filed with the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) help reveal a timeline for artifacts missing from the Marion Museum and the current recovery efforts.

Cite the Florida Department of State archive record:

Marion Museum of History and Archaeology – Missing Artifacts Recovery Investigation. Fred A. White. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of State, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Master Site File MR03538.

03-03-2017 Update, 06-11-2015 Original Publication:

In 2010 the team published a series of peer reviewed papers and reports that were submitted to the Florida Department of State, Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee.

One paper titled: The Richardson Site 8AL100 and its association with the discoveries at the De Soto Site MR03538, was an overview of all of the maps from the University of Florida field schools that began in 1940s with Dr. John M. Goggin to Dr. Charles H. Fairbanks and Dr. Jerald T. Milanich in the 1970s and included several volumes of unpublished field notes written by Ripley P. Bullen, Curator Emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida that remain in a private collection. The longitudinal study of the available metadata used computer spatial mapping and revealed architectural evidence of non-aboriginal features at the Richardson site confirming the location of the relocated mission.

The other large research work published with more than a hundred detailed pages of excavation records and artifact analysis was titled: Hernando De Soto Archaeology and Artifacts. Accompanying this scholarly peer reviewed work were also hundreds of image files and video describing the field school work.

As mentioned parts of the papers were temporarily embargoed to protect the fragile archaeological resource, yet somehow someone got access to the surveys. With that inside knowledge that there was no electronic version online because of the Florida Sunshine Law exemption regarding sensitive archaeological sites, they pirated our confidential data and recycled the papers we had written about the computer mapping of the Richardson metadata and excavations at the De Soto sites into some new discovery. By deceptively leaving off the source references the paper got included in a collection of papers presented at a small conference.

Any editor worth their salt would have caught the plagiarism if the original publications were listed in the bibliography, but that did not happen.

It went unnoticed until we learned that the person was now giving a series of lectures on our archaeological sites using photographs of artifacts as if they excavated there. It was beyond surreal.

This is the kind of thing that is so absurd it could only happen in a movie and yet it was actually happening and we had no idea what to do.

If that was not bad enough, completely fake press releases begin to circulate that showed the discoveries made by the real researchers at the site in a false light to elevate the fake researchers that had never been there. Then in 2014 the most bizarre of all happens, university colleagues that have worked at the site tell us they are shocked by a horribly defamatory article about the entire university team and all of their hard work at the site. We are completely baffled and learn the article is full of false and misleading information and even somehow contains a fake interview with me and other university academics working at the site. It had been about two years since the last face to face with a reporter in February of 2013, so it is confirmed now someone pretended to be us in the email interviews. A post reused by permission by the now retired New York Times science editor blasted the defamatory article:

“The poorly written and researched article was degenerating into attempts to disparage the credentials of the original discoverers of the site. It is lunacy that the writer would support the claim of a known miscreant and his clique of sycophants. There was obviously an agenda here and ethics did not get in the way. Shameful.”

In that “poorly written and researched article” someone claims to have made a new discovery which among the literati caused quite the confusion as they knew the discovery had been reported to the State by us years before. It would have only taken a few minutes to read the first sentence of the abstract and see clear evidence that the archaeology of the claim was based on our previous metadata survey, yet no one bothered.

Sadly this swankpot story about a fake controversy and a fantasy discovery duped some amateur academics and their rush to judgment has forever damaged them.

On an interesting note about some of the unsettling things that are ongoing, one in particular is the repeated unethical attempts to link rare early style olive jar artifacts somehow to the Richardson site making it seem older than it actually is.

This is antithetical to fact, as the top scholar on Spanish olive jar typology, Professor John M. Goggin from the University of Florida had previously published a decade long analysis of the 5159 Spanish and Indian potsherds from the Richardson site that completely disprove such claims. It turns out the site only contained middle style olive jar sherds dating in range ca. A.D. 1580 to 1780 (Goggin).

This date range for the Richardson site is very accurate and cannot be scientifically disputed.

The fact of never finding a single European artifact at the Richardson site in the early date range of the Narváez and De Soto entradas (A.D. 1528-1539) supports the conclusion the Richardson site was not occupied by the Spanish at that time and is definitely not a De Soto site.

It also raises serious questions about the timing of the miraculous claim of early ceramics at the Richardson site, because it came only after an entire collection of Goggin’s early 16th century style olive jar artifacts from the confirmed White / De Soto could not be located in museum storage.

It is now the solid consensus opinion of scholars that the artifacts from the White / De Soto site were presented to a group of self-proclaimed archaeologists visiting the Richardson site and they unknowingly agreed that the Richardson site was older than previously proven, unaware of the provenience of the artifacts.

After the amateurs were duped and the true provenience was discovered, the vainglory parties involved went as far as to change the name of the De Soto archaeological site in state records.

Then in a mystifying attempt to cover their deception, they made the wild moronic claim that the De Soto site doesn’t even exist.

It appears this same group has tried repeatedly to sneak through small conference papers based on completely fraudulent data and say the site doesn’t exist. The ridiculous papers contain absolutely no excavation data from the 1539 Hernando De Soto archaeological site.

That bears repeating: the papers contain absolutely no data from the Hernando De Soto archaeological site or analysis of the 1000s of artifacts in museums.

What a plan - erase the site from government records, destroy the artifacts and then claim it never existed.

The De Soto collections of early sixteenth century artifacts are divided among seven museums, of which one is in Spain and one in Italy. There are more than the 9,000 cataloged and photographed artifacts. Maybe the task to wipe out history is a little bigger than they realized?

A sample collection of the early 16th century typology and TL confirmed Goggin’s olive jar artifacts, trade beads, and chain mail fragments from the De Soto site were placed on loan at the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology in November of 2012 and are still missing today. At the time of this writing there is an active criminal investigation.

Research into some of the past events revealed a central individual with a deeply disturbed past that for the better part of three years had been threatening us with hundreds of intimidating phone calls and messages. The language of the threats became more focused and unnerving and then things seriously escaladed when the stalker showed up at our home and delivered a credible death threat. Law enforcement have become involved with the legal efforts to stop his threats and continued trespass on the ranch and to prevent damage to its sensitive archaeological context.

Cite this Record

Marion Museum of History and Archaeology – Missing Artifacts Recovery Investigation. Fred White. 2017 ( tDAR id: 426372)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -82.379; min lat: 29.04 ; max long: -81.93; max lat: 29.328 ;