New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida


"Theoretically sophisticated and empirically well-grounded. Sets a course for exciting new directions in archaeology at the edge of the American South and the broader Caribbean world."--Christopher B. Rodning, coeditor of Archaeological Studies of Gender in the Southeastern United States

"Successfully repositions the story of Florida's native peoples from the peripheries of history and anthropology to center stage."--Thomas E. Emerson, author of Cahokia and the Archaeology of Power

Given its pivotal location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, its numerous islands, its abundant flora and fauna, and its subtropical climate, Florida has long been ideal for human habitation. Yet Florida traditionally has been considered peripheral in the study of ancient cultures in North America, despite what it can reveal about social and climate change. The essays in this book resoundingly argue that Florida is in fact a crucial hub of archaeological inquiry.

New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida represents the next wave of southeastern archaeology. Contributors use new data to challenge well-worn models of environmental determinism and localized social contact. Indeed, this volume makes a case for considerable interaction and exchange among Native Floridians and the greater southeastern United States as seen by the variety of objects of distant origin and mound-building traditions that incorporated extraregional concepts. Themes of monumentality, human alterations of landscapes, the natural environment, ritual and mortuary practices, and coastal adaptations demonstrate the diversity, empirical richness, and broader anthropological significance of Florida's aboriginal past.


Neill J. Wallis and Asa R. Randall

Florida inhabits a peculiar spot in our national narrative. As a vacation destination, it is a place to be celebrated, visited, and recorded in photographs. These experiences are materialized in pieces of the state. Painted seashells, postcards, and other kitsch are redistributed globally as mnemonics of this particular paradise. Largely because of its striking beauty, the state is also upheld as one of the last great vestiges of primordial nature to be enjoyed in the United States. the more ecologically conscious can delight in the environment for its own sake or for sport. the prospect of engaging with either of these Floridas has drawn many outsiders into the region (Mohl and Pozzetta 1996), reinforcing these conceptions. These two Floridas are, not surprisingly, often at odds. the tension between environmental preservation and development for recreation helps drive contemporary political agendas (Colburn 1996; Mohl and Mormino 1996). Despite their differences, these Floridas share a common origin. They have been crafted by environmentalists, land speculators, and inhabitants who have objectified the region as either timeless and pristine or full of potential for future economic success (e.g., Grunwald 2006; Noll and Tegeder 2009; Standiford 2002).

There is a third, much more ancient Florida. This is a place that is often forgotten, downplayed, or actively denied in recent grand narratives (Weisman 2003). the archaeology of ancient Florida has revealed vibrant cultures and communities filled with diverse persons who engaged with the world in various and at times competing ways. Human settlement of the region can be traced back to at least 12,000 years ago, and perhaps even earlier. Over successive millennia, inhabitants made histories of their own by modifying the landscape and through social interaction. These processes are materialized in well-preserved Paleoindian sites and wet sites laden with organic matter, represented by early and grandiose traditions of mound building, and evidenced by repeated moments of cultural contact, extralocal connections, and by practicing distinctive traditions.

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