New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

By Neill J. Wallis; Asa R. Randall | Go to book overview

4
New Insights on the Woodland and Mississippi
Periods of West-Peninsular Florida

GEORGE M. LUER

I will discuss four themes that offer new insights in Florida archaeology: 1) monumentality; 2) exchange, migration, and mobility; 3) human-landscape interactions; and 4) symbolism and ritualization. I draw mostly from the Manasota (ca. 500 BC to AD 700), late peninsular Weeden Island (ca. AD 700 to 1000), and Safety Harbor (ca. AD 1000 to 1700) cultures of the Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor area, citing primarily burial mounds, shell middens, shell artifacts, and ceramics. I also bring together data from throughout west-peninsular Florida, the wider region stretching along the Gulf coast from just north of Crystal River to just south of Naples and extending inland to Lake Okeechobee and the central ridges and lakes (figure 4.1).

The typology of the Weeden Island and Safety Harbor cultures was first defined in detail by Willey (1949). Safety Harbor is a Mississippian culture known for large mounds. Weeden Island is a Woodland culture famous for decorated pottery. Manasota is an early and middle Woodland culture (defined typologically by Luer and Almy 1979, 1982) that is best known for plain sand-tempered pottery and flexed burials. Early Manasota is coeval with the Deptford period of north Florida (ca. 500 BC to AD 300), while late Manasota includes early Weeden Island–influenced times (ca. AD 300 to 700). It is followed by late Weeden Island culture, extending to Charlotte Harbor.

During these Woodland and Mississippian times, west-peninsular Florida supported growing populations and increasing sociopolitical organization, leading to the simple and complex chiefdoms the Spanish encountered in the 1500s, such as the Mocozo, Tocobaga, and Calusa (Bullen 1978; Lewis 1978). I include the Caloosahatchee Region as part of west-peninsular Florida, as it shares many similar developments with the Sarasota and Tampa Bay areas, including shell tools, burial rituals, and symbolism.

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