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Islander donates artifacts to MOTI

By Staff | Sep 15, 2021

Fossilized molars also found at the former island home of Alfred Wilcox. PHOTO PROVIDED

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

When islander Tina Crosby and her husband bought a house from the son of avid collector Alfred Wilcox, they had no idea what they might find in the house and how precious some of the pieces would be.

“The house is built on stilts,” said Crosby, “with the garage underneath. You could not take one step — it was floor to ceiling solid stuff. It was overwhelming, but we figured we would deal with it slowly.”

It took a total of two years to unearth the entire collection, she said. Although there was a significant amount of interesting things, Crosby said their main interest was in the artifacts they found. Having held onto the items for the past three years or so, Crosby said, it occurred to her that they belonged in a museum.

“A lot of the artifacts are from the Peace River,” Crosby said. “He (Wilcox) had all kinds of baskets used for digging and sifting through the river bed.”

Fossilized eggs donated to the Museum of the Islands by the Crobys. PHOTO PROVIDED

According to Crosby, among the artifacts found by Wilcox are mastodon teeth, whale vertebrae and pre-historic tortoise fragments.

Crosby said, in addition to collecting, Wilcox had been a serious diver, accounting for the amount of petrified bones among his collection.

Crosby said she’s happy to donate the items to the island museum so others can enjoy the relics of former animal residents.

“I feel like it would be great if kids and adults have a chance to appreciate what’s around our area,” said Crosby. “It’s just so incredible. The museum is welcome to take as much as they want.”

MOTI volunteer Vickie Duflo, who has now picked up the collection on behalf of the museum, said it is quite a coupe to have a collection like this of local artifacts. Fossilized, petrified, bones, teeth and skeletons from the Peace River make up most of what she’s assumed for the museum so far.

Fossils collected by Alfred Wilcox and donated to the Museum of the Islands on Pine Island by the Crosbys. PHOTO PROVIDED

“It’s a wonderful trove of local artifacts from the ice age,” said Duflo. “We haven’t yet gotten a comprehensive study.”

Duflo reports among the findings are horse bones and teeth, which many people may not realize inhabited this region before being reintroduced in the 1400s.

Part of the collection, she said, includes animal fragments from Cayo Costa.

“Preliminary research clearly indicates outer shell pieces from a Glyptodonts, which went extinct after the ice age,” said Duflo. “This animal stood about five feet high, and is reminiscent of a modern day armadillo. We are very excited to get this collection. There’s a finite resource and we’re lucky to have someone who understands the importance of preserving our past.”

Going forward, Duflo said the experts from the Museum of Natural History will be sought out to help with dating, authentication and cataloguing of these spectacular pieces.

The Museum of the Islands is located at 5728 Sesame Drive, Bokeelia. For additional information, call 239-283-1525 or visit https://www.museumoftheislands.com/