Prehistoric Archaeology

The GARI Prehistory program division functions to provide general level to complex investigations of Florida prehistory. Over the past 20 years GARI has conducted research within the St. Johns River and coastal south Florida and within the West Central Gulf Coast of Florida and the Big Bend Region. Research focuses on the rise of complex culture within a variety of ecological contexts and seeks to integrate natural and physical sciences with archaeology. The institute utilizes natural history, sediment and geomorphological studies to inform on the nature and extent of potential surviving cultural landscapes and employ diverse methods to locate, identify, and evaluate such contexts.

Our goal is the elevation of significant sites to the National Register of Historic Places and to National Historic Landmark status. Much of the Institute’s work includes the study of highly disturbed cultural contexts perceived to have little value. To this end the Institute has focused on urban renewed lands and coastal contexts savaged by surge and natural impacts. Our research is highly informative to the study of climate change and sea level changes over time and the need to evaluate future impacted sites and properties. Our yearly re-survey of previously surveyed coastal tracts and analysis of ecological changes allows for reporting on site types and contexts that are truly threatened so that management action may schedule protection according to need. Our Drowning of Prehistory program provides a rapid midden assessment program that will provide optimum management planning for coastal cultural resources. GARI maintains the personnel and equipment necessary to conduct every level of archaeological work from general level survey to complex data recovery in dry or wet contexts through conservation of materials and their interpretation.

Drowning of Prehistory-A Monitoring Plan for the Coastal

Prehistoric Archaeological Resources from the Ozello Archipelago

to the Withlacoochee River Delta, Citrus County, Florida

The Drowning of Prehistory monitoring program is primarily concerned with the problem of survivability of the prehistoric archaeological sediment bodies within the drowning coastal marshes and the resilience of the archaeological interpretability of these anthropogenic resources. It recognizes that the archaeological system is an unstable, nonequilibrium system, with sites facing punctuated decay trajectories, whereby the effects of fast perturbations overwhelms or reinforces the prior and ongoing effects of slower disturbance mechanisms, leading to further degradation of site physiognomy and structure. Approaching the above problem requires a combination of landscape ecology, geomorphic, and archaeological spatial- or process-oriented methods to identify and assess indicators of resource condition (e.g., sea-level change, marsh mosaic landscape patterns, and forest retreat) at the scale of kilometers and seek generalizations concerning how maturing marsh and archaeological resource systems respond to a suite of fast and slow, environmental and anthropogenic stressors. It also requires extensive, small-scale studies of a range of sites in variable states and habitat settings involving geoarchaeological and ecological fieldwork and monitoring aimed at gathering modern process data in order to demonstrate how site physiognomy and structure and its associated habitat are actually being weathered and degraded. The Drowning of Prehistory monitoring program provides a means to begin fulfilling these requirements. Being able to recognize landscape- and patch-level signs of stress in the marsh system and predict what they mean in terms of archaeological resource persistence will greatly improve management and salvage archaeology action strategies.

The project area includes state-owned coastal marsh lands and outer islands in the Gulf from the Ozello archipelago to the mouth of the Withlacoochee River, Citrus County (latitude N28 50 42.0 to N29 00 03.4) (Figure 1). This approximate 18 km section of the coast includes over 180 recorded prehistoric archaeological sites and probably numerous others that haven’t yet been detected. Many of these sites were recorded by GARI fieldworkers during reconnaissance surveys across 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) of state-owned lands in the Ozello archipelago, Salt River inter-islands, the north bank of the Crystal River, the South Withlacoochee tract, and the Withlacoochee delta coastal resource zone between 2004 and 2007 (see Literature Review of major surveys in the project area). The sites range from small, simple food processing stations to multi-family hamlets to large villages and major ceremonial centers. The zero-energy, sedimentstarved coast is currently drowning under a regime of rising sea-levels and the physical conditions of the recorded sites are rapidly deteriorating. The archaeological system – as a system of anthropogenic sediments that hold potential information about past aboriginal lifeways – has reached a critical state because archaeological practice and interpretation is not and cannot keep pace with the loss of information under the current regime. So many of the sites have already been degraded or wholly destroyed by natural and cultural stressors that local- to regional-scale archaeological signatures of past coastal cultural systems are becoming more and more fragmented, if not totally unrecognizable and interpretation is becoming severely constrained.