New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

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

11
Woodland and Mississippian in Northwest Florida
Part of the South but Different

NANCY MARIE WHITE

Like many other famous landforms with peninsulas (such as Italy), Florida has an “appendicular” portion extending into and surrounded by the sea and another connecting it to the edge of the continent; the archaeology of these two land features differs accordingly. My work is at the mainland edge, in the Apalachicola/Lower Chattahoochee Valley of northwest Florida. The prehistoric material record here demonstrates great continuity with mainstream southeastern archaeological traditions but also has far-flung connections and some unique aspects. New data from several sites in this valley and in the St. Joseph Bay region at the southwestern edge of the Apalachicola delta (figure 11.1) show great variability yet some geographic and temporal correspondences among distinctive Woodland and Mississippian manifestations.

There is now evidence for mound construction in Early Woodland (Deptford) times at both the top and bottom of the valley. Middle Woodland combines Swift Creek, early Weeden Island, and even sometimes Marksville-like ceramic traditions with unusual stone and other artifacts at both fancy burial mounds and humble campsites, contradicting the received notion of the “sacred-secular” dichotomy. The Late Woodland (late Weeden Island) adaptation abandons the emphasis upon exotics, perhaps to concentrate inland on developing maize agriculture. Late prehistoric Fort Walton sites include typical Mississippian large villages and platform mounds, but they also include distinctive ceramics and reuse of Woodland ritual/ monumental sites. Interior riverine Fort Walton farming settlements contrast with coastal sites, where the collection of aquatic species persisted. Extra-regional exchange was continual, but there is no evidence for outright migration of societies during prehistoric times.

This chapter describes the record (summarized in table 11.1) of Native American settlement from Paleoindian through contact periods, and it challenges some archaeological orthodoxies for the northwest Florida region. Besides dismissing

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