Weedon’s Prehistoric Past Gives Glimpse to Native American Culture

By Mike Hughes | Tampa Bay History | FOX 13 News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - At approximately 3,700 acres, Weedon Island Preserve is an ecological jewel within an urban landscape on the shores of Old Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg.

Weedon Island is known for its nature, kayak trails and walking trails, but there is a rich human history of the island that began thousands of years ago and organizations like the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research (AWIARE) are uncovering its past. Robert Austin, AWIARE co-founder and archaeologist, says most people really don’t realize that Weedon Island has a deep-rooted Native American history that probably goes back at least 8,000 years.

"One of the reasons, maybe the primary reason I do archaeology and a lot of archaeologists do archaeology, is to bring that information about the past, not just to describe how people lived but also to give them a sense of the deep history that we have here," Austin shared. "That the people that lived here thousands of years ago, we’re sophisticated people that really knew how to live off the environment."

In the 1920s, the Smithsonian Institute came to the island, did an excavation and found decorated potteries in a burial mound. It took archaeologists a little while before they were able to integrate the items found at Weedon Island into a wider pre-history of the Southeast. As it turns out, the Weedon Island site is considered the type site for a prehistoric Native American culture.

"I would say probably much less than 10 percent of the site has been professionally excavated. We anticipate finding much, much more," Austin explained.

 

Austin says some of the most fascinating parts of understanding Weedon Island and its history is the history of everyday life, domestic areas and how people really lived in a prehistoric marine environment.

"We really haven’t scratched the surface even though there has been a lot of archaeological work out here in the past 20 years or so. We anticipate finding much more and we think sites like Weedon Island make us very lucky here in St. Petersburg because we have several major archaeological preserves in city parks people can visit," Austin explained.

He also hopes when people leave this site they have a better understanding of our past and why it’s important to preserve these sites.

(Thank you Fox 13 for this wonderful article and video) 

 

HANDS-ON WEEDON

EVENTS

AWIARE’S FIRST ADULT ARCHAEOLOGY CAMP - A BIG SUCCESS

AWIARE held its first Adult Archaeology Camp February 22 – 26, 2021. Eight participants spent a week of performing archaeological activities that included field and lab experiences at Weedon Island Preserve and informative site visits. The camp enjoyed great weather the entire week. Protocol was in place for Covid-19 restrictions at all times.

On Monday, after the participants were welcomed by Phyllis Kolianos, the group learned about the area’s archaeological past in a slide presentation from Dr. Robert Austin followed by a trip to the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center to view the ancient canoe and exhibit area.  After lunch, the campers hiked to an excavation area of the Weedon Island site for a talk by Dr. John Arthur with Kendal Jackson and George Stovall about the USFSP research and excavations, and to view the trench area where the group would participate in field work for the rest of the week.

Tuesday through Thursday, the participants were divided into two excavation teams led by Austin and Kolianos with morning and afternoon shifts of working in the field excavating and doing artifact and shell analysis in the lab at the research station.  Heather Draskovich assisted the campers in the field and Cindy Martin worked with the lab team. 

On Friday, Austin led a caravan to visit the important south St. Petersburg sites of Pinellas Point Mound and Maximo Park.  The participants were given informational hand-outs, as Austin spoke of the context of these mounds and their archaeological history and importance. With the success of this inaugural camp, future camps are being planned.  The 2020 camp was underwritten in part by a donation from the Margaret and David Perry Foundation.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Forgotten Ecologies: Recent Vegetation Transformations Reveal Past Human Influence

Christopher A. Kiahtipes, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment, University of South Florida

Humans leave lasting environmental legacies on the landscapes they occupy. From the fire-stick to the farm, human interventions in ecological process have important ramifications for future vegetation cover. Yet disentangling human-driven (anthropogenic) vegetation change from natural fluctuations in climate has proven difficult in the sedimentary record. I explore the conceptual and empirical challenges of identifying and assessing human-driven environmental change in archaeological and paleoecological contexts. I do so using my own research in the Mai Ndombe, Equateur, and Tchuapa provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Coring of deposits associated with archaeological sites and offsite peat-land complexes dispersed across the interior forest zone reveals regional patterns in climatic-forcing as well as the timing and extent of human interventions in the rain forest zone. At the conclusion, I make some comparisons with the archaeological/paleoecological records of the southeast US and consider whether there are common patterns in environmental transformations leading up the Colonial era.

Chris Kiahtipes is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology with the Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and Environment. His research examines the combined influence of human societies and climate change on vegetation cover in Africa’s Congo Basin as well as the Great Basin region of North America. With a specialization in the recovery and analysis of plant microfossils, his research projects bring together archaeological and paleoecological methods to document the long-term influence of human societies on global ecosystems. Chris’ other research interests include fire ecology, quantitative methods, human behavioral ecology, and conservation biology.


This program is sponsored by the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.

AWIARE / Levett Foundation Grants 2021

AWIARE / Levett Foundation Grant

AWIARE, in cooperation with the Levett Foundation, is again making available up to $10,000 in grant funds to provide assistance to college or university students conducting archaeological, historical, and paleoenvironmental research in the greater Tampa Bay region of Florida.

Deadline for Applications: December 15, 2020

The Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education, Inc. (AWIARE), in cooperation with the Levett Foundation, is making available up to $10,000 to be awarded annually to provide assistance to graduate students (MA, MS, Ph.D.) who are conducting archaeological, historical, and paleoenvironmental research in the greater Tampa Bay region of Florida. 

Types of projects that will be considered include field research, laboratory analyses, collections research, and documents research.  Priority will be given to applicants whose proposals include 1) field research at Weedon Island Preserve; 2) research using artifact, faunal, or documents collections at AWIARE; 3) field research at sites in the greater Tampa Bay area (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee counties); 4) research using Tampa Bay area collections held elsewhere (e.g., Florida Museum of Natural History, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Smithsonian Institution, universities, local museums, private collections).  

Research related to the Weeden Island culture and period is encouraged but not required.  Paleoenvironmental research must have applicability to archaeological or historical time periods (i.e., Late Pleistocene through the modern era) and interests (e.g., human-environment interaction; effects of sea level variation on human populations; climatic variability through time).

Individuals interested in applying must be currently enrolled in a university graduate program. 

The deadline for applying for the 2021 grant is December 15, 2020.  Individuals interested in submitting a proposal should contact Dr. Robert Austin, AWIARE, 1500 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702 or by email to awiare1@gmail.com for application guidelines.

AWIARE / Friends of Weedon Island Grant 2021

AWIARE / Friends of Weedon Island Grant

The Friends of Weedon Island (FOWI) have contributed $2000 to AWIARE for undergraduate student grants in 2021.

Deadline for applications: December 15, 2020

The Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education, Inc. (AWIARE), in cooperation with the Friends of Weedon Island (FOWI), is making available up to $1,000 to provide assistance to budding scholars enrolled in an undergraduate (B.A., B.S.) program in a Florida college or university.  Undergraduate students conducting archaeological, historical, and paleoenvironmental research in the greater Tampa Bay region of Florida are eligible for the grant.  

Grant funds may be used to cover the costs associated with fieldwork, special analyses (e.g., radiocarbon dates, faunal or botanical analyses, soils analysis, etc.), collections research, documents research, travel expenses associated with research projects, and travel expenses associated with presenting a paper based on the student's research at a professional meeting. 

Priority will be given to applicants whose proposals include 1) field research at Weedon Island Preserve; 2) research using artifact, faunal, or documents collections at AWIARE; 3) field research at sites in the greater Tampa Bay area (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee counties); 4) research using Tampa Bay area collections held elsewhere (e.g., Florida Museum of Natural History, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Smithsonian Institution, universities, local museums, private collections).  

Research related to the Weeden Island culture and period is encouraged but not required.  Paleoenvironmental research must have applicability to archaeological or historical time periods (i.e., Late Pleistocene through the modern era) and interests (e.g., human-environment interaction; effects of sea level variation on human populations; climatic variability through time).

Students interested in applying for the grant should submit a letter not to exceed two pages that describes the project for which the funds are being requested; what research question(s) or problem(s) are being addressed; how the funds will be applied to these problems; what, if any, additional funds will be used to accomplish the research; and how the research will contribute to Florida archaeology. The applicant should include a budget indicating the amount requested and describing how the money will be spent along with a letter(s) of support from faculty.

Applications for the 2021 award are now being accepted and can be sent to: Dr. Robert Austin, AWIARE/FOWI Student Grant, AWIARE, 1500 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702 or by email to awiare1@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is December 15, 2020.

New Radiocarbon Dates

New Radiocarbon Dates for Tampa Bay Sites

Being able to date archaeological sites and components are critical to documenting cultural and environmental changes through time and, more importantly, how people responded to these changes.  Research supported by the AWIARE/Levett Foundation student grant has contributed new dates for the Tampa Bay region.  University of Florida Ph.D. candidate Trevor Duke, obtained radiocarbon dates from two previously undated sites in Pinellas County, Tierra Verde (8PI51) and Maximo Point (8PI19).  Trevor is analyzing pottery from both sites as part of his dissertation project on the role of mortuary pottery specialization in creating, maintaining, and transforming social connections in the region during Safety Harbor and Weeden Island periods.

A date of AD 1024-1155 was obtained from soot on a Tucker Ridge Pinched vessel sherd from the Tierra Verde burial mound.  The sherd is one of several from AWIARE’s Lyman Warren Collection, which are being studied by Trevor.  The date obtained for this vessel is squarely within the Safety Harbor period (AD 1000-1750), however Tucker Ridge Pinched is typically considered a Weeden Island ceramic type, and Weeden Island pottery from the mound has been interpreted as representing cultural continuity between the two periods.  This sherd may represent the use of an heirloomed vessel during burial ceremonies.

A second date of AD 1045-1250 is from a sherd of Pinellas Plain pottery excavated from the domestic midden at Maximo Point by William Sears in 1958 and curated at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.  This date also falls within the Safety Harbor time period consistent with Sears’ and others interpretation of this large mound-midden complex that once existed at the southern end of the Pinellas peninsula.

Trevor is currently thin-sectioning sherds from both of these sites for petrographic analysis in order to determine if different pastes were used in the manufacture of mortuary and domestic vessels.

AWIARE/Friends of Weedon Island Grant

AWIARE/Friends of Weedon Island Undergraduate Student Grant

The AWIARE Student Grants Committee selected Morgan Grieg, USFSP undergraduate student in history, to receive the 2020 AWIARE/FOWI Student Grant.  Morgan will receive $1250.00 to help support an eight-week research trip to Spain to conduct original archival research in Badajoz, Zafra, and Seville on the Hernando de Soto expedition.  Morgan is working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Francis.  The central goal is to locate information related to the expedition's participants, and to assemble a detailed inventory of the supplies and provisions brought on the expedition. The new material will be integrated into the open-access digital database titled La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas.

Excavations Uncover Daily Life at Weeden Island Site

USF St. Petersburg Excavations Uncover Daily Life at Weeden Island Site

This winter for five Fridays you could hear the chatter and laughter as USF students strolled down the Weedon Island trails to the famous site of Weeden Island*. Fifteen students and three volunteer graduate students, including Elizabeth Southard, AWIARE’s Vice-President, worked with Dr. Arthur from USF St. Petersburg to continue their excavation of households dating from AD 900 to 1450. Dr. John Arthur, who is President of AWIARE, began this project in 2007, to give undergraduate students the opportunity to actually experience archaeology outside of the classroom and to learn archaeological techniques.

In some field schools, students dig for days and do not find much, but at the Weeden Island site there is ample evidence of people living and prospering along the banks of Tampa Bay. The area contains an abundant evidence of daily life where people were eating their meals and making and using their tools over a 550-year period. The site is rich with a variety of food remains from shellfish, fish, and terrestrial animals. There is also a great diversity of artifacts made from shell such as bead blanks, beads, hammers, awls, adzes, as well as pottery vessels, grinding stones, and hand stones.

Over the last two field seasons, excavations have uncovered a house floor. All the artifacts are found within a 7 cm or less horizontal stratum located beneath the shell midden. What caught our curiosity was that many of the artifacts are laying in a horizontal position and the diversity of artifacts is greater than what we have found in previous excavated units.

Two remarkable finds we uncovered this field season is a hearth and a possible bone hairpin that may have had feathers attached to the end. The hearth area is void of artifacts and contains large pieces of charcoal.  We hope to be able to identify the types of wood people were using to fuel their house fires as well as how people were spending their time around the hearth. The bone pin was found next to the hearth and while more research needs to be conducted on this beautiful carved pin, it represents a very intimate object that belonged to one person who left it there about 1,000 years ago.

The excavations now lead us to the lab located on the USFSP campus where the artifacts are stored and curated. Over the next year, students will begin to clean, sort, and analyze all the artifacts they have uncovered this field season. It is in the lab where we begin to tell the story about how some of the earliest inhabitants who lived along Tampa Bay lived. This story is ongoing as we answer questions that lead to new questions that open a window into the past.

* We can thank Jesse Fewkes from the Smithsonian Institution for misspelling the Weeden Island site with an “e” and causing us to spell the Preserve as “Weedon” and use “Weeden” for the culture area and the site.