2019 FAS Annual Meeting


This Year's Conference

The 71st Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society

This year's meeting was co-hosted by the Florida Public Archaeology Network’s Central Region and the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society Crystal River. The Plantation on Crystal River served as the conference hotel and the location for organizational meetings and conference proceedings. Presentations and posters on a wide range of topics related to Florida archaeology were presented, as well as field trips to nearby sites, including Crystal River Archaeological State Park, and several archaeological sites along the river.

AWIARE and FAM 2019


Family Archaeology Event

Every March, Florida celebrates Florida Archaeology Month (FAM). FAS chapters, archaeologists, heritage professionals, museums, historical societies, and the public come together to promote and celebrate Florida’s archaeological sites and knowledge about the past through events, workshops, lectures, and archaeology days.

On March 2nd, the Weedon Island Preserve was full of archaeological activities to celebrate Florida Archaeology Month. Heather Draskovich and Kendal Jackson, who are University of South Florida graduate students, gave two short presentations focusing on current archaeological project at the Weeden Island site. Heather discussed her research to determine when and where Indigenous people were occupying the site and Kendal presented a summary of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) excavations undertaken since 2007.

Also, Rebecca O’Sullivan and Kassie Kemp from the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) created an inventive pop-up exhibit outlining the USFSP excavations with associated artifacts of shell tools, pottery, stone tools, and plant specimens, which gave attendees a new perspective of what has been uncovered at the site over the last 12 years. While people were enjoying the lectures and the pop-up exhibit, visitors also were able to walk over to the AWIARE Research Station where AWIARE’s Secretary Phyllis Kolianos exhibited artifacts from her recent archaeological excavations at two Weeden Island sites along the Anclote River.

The final act of the day was a short hike out to a portion of the Weeden Island site where USFSP and AWIARE have been excavating and Dr. John Arthur (AWIARE’s President) and Elizabeth Southard Razzouk (AWIARE’s Vice President) gave a lecture of the excavations and what they have been finding at the site. If you missed this year’s celebration of Archaeology Month at the Preserve, we will be doing something similar next year. So come on out and celebrate Archaeology Month next March!

FAM 2019: Shared Collections—Shared Stories

A major highlight during the month-long celebration is always the new FAM poster, developed every year to illustrate a unique theme within Florida Archaeology. For the 2019 poster and theme, the FAM team drew from the vast network of archaeological collections on display throughout the state.


Weedon Island Pottery Featured on WEDU


Weedon Island Pottery

Two experts discuss pottery types and styles of the Weeden Island Culture

Early this year, a student from SPC contacted us about wanting to do a short video segment on the Weeden Island culture and the Weedon Island Preserve that would be produced by WEDU Public Media. The segment aired in July 2019, and features Dr. Robert Austin of Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) and Dr. Thomas Pluckhahn of USF Tampa, Department of Anthropology. Check it out!

AWIARE Lab In the News


Archaeologists and Volunteers at Weedon Island Lab are Piecing Together the Past

A nonprofit group takes old artifacts and makes sense of their stories.

Volunteer Bob Austin holds a red chert (silicified coral) projectile point from Hillsborough County that was used at the end of a spear or knife.

Volunteer Bob Austin holds a red chert (silicified coral) projectile point from Hillsborough County that was used at the end of a spear or knife. He says artifacts help tell how different cultures lived.

After more than four decades of archaeological work, Bob Austin can't handle the Florida summers like he used to.For years, he loved digging into the ground and excavating multi-thousand-year-old artifacts. But now, at age 68, Austin's body limits most of his work to the other aspect of archaeology, the one spent indoors studying the artifacts, compiling data and piecing together history to uncover what life looked like thousands of years ago.

That Austin is able to do this with ancient, mostly broken pieces of pottery or stone tools is what has drawn him to archaeological work for his entire professional life. He doesn't need to be outside digging, even if he'd prefer to be.

"One of the things I've always liked about it was that you have that fieldwork part, but you also could involve your brain and your intellect," Austin said. "What really keeps bringing me back is trying to figure stuff out."

One of 11 board members of the nonprofit Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE), Austin is an expert on lithic technology, or how ancient stone tools were made and used. He received his Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Florida in 1997.

Austin still consults for his former employers, private archaeology companies around Florida, while volunteering for AWIARE. The alliance gets most of its funding from individual donations and the occasional grant.

Many of the rooms at the AWIARE lab on Weedon Island are filled with old artifacts - spearheads, shards of pottery, animal bones. Some are laid out on a large table, a collection of items donated over the years to AWIARE and the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center.

Austin and the lab's other volunteers are organizing the artifacts so they can compare them to items already stored in the lab. That process will help uncover where the donated items came from and perhaps clarify what  purpose they served.

One of the volunteers at the lab, Penny Seabury, is cataloguing a collection of documents belonging to local archaeologist Lyman Warren. After Warren died, his family donated his massive collection of artifacts and papers to AWIARE. Seabury's goal is to create a digital version of the collection that will allow other archaeologists to access Warren's work.

AWIARE's biggest project, and the one that garnered the most publicity, was the excavation of an 1,100-year-old canoe on a Weedon Island Preserve beach. In 2011, Austin and Phyllis Kolianos, another AWIARE board member, led a trip to remove the 40-foot canoe from the ground in pieces. Austin said he also worked with designers to set up the canoe's display, located in the Cultural and Natural History Center.

"It was our really big project," Austin said. "And that's what got us publicity and got us funding."

An artifact as monumental as the ancient canoe is an anomalous discovery; most of AWIARE's work involves items of lesser significance. But they  each offer a glimpse of Florida's prehistoric era. Austin's job is to figure out what the shards of pottery or worn-down stone tools might reveal.

That process is tricky for even the most experienced archaeologists. Interpreting old artifacts and data such as measurements and locations  requires a large amount of guesswork. But the results can be revealing.

"It helps you understand how different cultures, people who belong to different cultures, lived," Austin said. "That there are differences  between cultures, but there's also a lot of similarities."

Bob Austin measures projectile points used as spears or knives.

Bob Austin measures projectile points used as spears or knives. Austin and other volunteers are organizing artifacts to compare them to items already stored at the lab.

One advantage of archaeological research that is different from other methods of studying history is its capacity to reduce historical bias, Austin said. While those in power often dictate what is remembered, they have little say in what gets discovered thousands of years later underneath the ground.

"History is written by the winners," Austin said. "And history is slanted.  People forget things, or they don't want to talk about certain things, or they want to slant things a certain way."

To express this point, Austin likes to use an adage from the late Florida archaeologist Calvin Jones: "The dirt don't lie."


2018 FAS Conference


Florida Anthropological Society

The 70th Annual Meeting was hosted by AWIARE in St. Petersburg on May 11-13, 2018

With the support of the Anthropology Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP), the 2018 conference was a huge success. The meeting attracted a total of 211 Florida-based and out-of-state attendees.

FAS 2018 kicked off Friday evening with a fun welcoming reception at 3 Daughters Brewery, featuring the Florida Archaeological Council’s Stewards of Heritage Awards ceremony. Saturday morning and afternoon were devoted to paper and poster presentations on the USFSP campus. In all, 65 papers and 10 posters were presented. A panel discussion on rising seas and archaeological site loss also took place during the conference. Over 20 vendors exhibited technological displays and had related books and artwork for sale during the day.

The presentation topics were far-ranging, thought-provoking, and entertaining. An enjoyable banquet and awards ceremony, highlighted by keynote speaker Dr. Michael Francis, capped off an eventful conference on Saturday evening. Over ninety individuals attended the banquet. Two local tours were held Sunday morning: 30 attendees toured the Cultural and Natural History Center at Weedon Island Preserve and hiked to the location of recent archaeological investigations at the Weedon Island site; and 28 individuals visited the four archaeological sites currently located in City of St Petersburg public parks.

AWIARE wishes to thank the FAS Board and its entire membership for all of their help and support with the event. We are honored to have served as hosts of the 2018 (70th annual) Florida Anthropological Society annual meeting.

Hands On Training


Anthropology Students Get Hands-On Training at One of the Most Famous Archaeological Sites in the Southeast

Hidden deep in the heart of Weedon Island Preserve, a nearly 3,200-acre natural area on Tampa Bay, is an archaeological dig site that dates back 1,000 years.

Students working at the Weedon Island archaeological site.

From left: Kristina Wood, Bethany Brittingham, Zorana Knezevic, and Chandler Lazear working at the Weedon Island archaeological site.

Following a nearly invisible trail through groves of pine trees and ferns, the ground rises a bit, right before the dig site appears. This rise is called a midden, or shell mound. Soft chatter from a group of students can be heard, followed by the scraping and brushing of earth and rapid swoosh-swoosh sounds coming from screens where dirt and small debris is sifted out.

Led by Dr. John Arthur, Associate Professor of Anthropology at USF St. Petersburg, 16 undergraduate anthropology students are working to uncover remnants  of human history. Arthur couldn’t take all his students to the highlands of southwestern Ethiopia, where he has conducted research for 23 years  on the history and prehistory of the Gamo people with Dr. Kathryn Weedman Arthur, Associate Professor of Anthropology at USFSP. The Weedon Island archaeological site is the next best substitute to provide a  local hands-on experience for students to learn methods of archaeology.

“I wanted to take students out to a site that they could excavate and see if they actually liked archaeology,” said Arthur. “So, this is a  perfect place. It is close to campus and it is accessible.”

Weedon Island is one of the most intact and famous archaeological sites in the southeast U.S. and has provided substantial evidence of early Florida inhabitants. The shell mounds being excavated by USFSP students are human-made piles of shell. Students are primarily uncovering “household” artifacts. Households include pottery, different types of modified shells and shell tools such as scrapers and hammers.

“Excavation allows me to practice the methods we are learning about,” said Shana Boyer, a senior majoring in Anthropology. “I’m a hands-on learner, so being able to actually excavate with my own hands has really enabled me to learn on a deeper level.

This is Boyer’s first time at the Weedon site but not her first time excavating. Previously she did work at the Gamble Plantation in Ellington, a Civil War era site that was a very different experience.

“It was really easy to get through multiple levels of soil in a day, as opposed to here, we may get through two levels a day,” said Boyer. “We were finding a lot of discarded nails and bottles. Here we are finding animal bone and shells.”

Another student at the site is Kristina Wood, a senior at USFSP majoring in Anthropology. This was not the first time Wood was involved in digging at Weedon Island. In 2014, she assisted a graduate student on her thesis project.

“I did all of it! I am pretty sure that I analyzed the entirety of the material that was dug during that year,” Wood said.

Over the course of her studies, Wood has volunteered more than 100 hours in the lab analyzing artifacts.

Archaeologists adjusting a screen at the Weedon Island Archaeological site.

From left: Shana Boyer and Andrew Haines adjusting a screen at the Weedon Island Archaeological site.

This hands-on archaeological experience is all part of an anthropology course called Seminar in Archaeological Methods and Theory. When not excavating, students read theory throughout the week. Then during lunch on the days they work at the site, they talk about the articles they read.

“This course was started at USFSP,” Arthur said. “No other university in the state has it.”

Arthur is also president of the non-profit organization Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE). The Alliance made headlines in 2011 when its members excavated a nearly 40-foot prehistoric canoe from the island’s  shoreline. The canoe is the longest dugout found in Florida.

On this day, Wood stands over one of the three screens at the site.  The one-quarter inch by one-eighth-inch screen, framed and held together by pieces of two-by-four in the shape of a ‘z’, sifts out small shell particles and dirt, leaving the remaining shells and shell pieces intact. The shells are then placed in three-gallon Ziploc bags and  labeled with detailed coordinates and other data, to be taken back to the archaeology lab at USFSP for analysis.

“We are very precise about where it was that we took artifacts out of the ground,” Wood said. “You will find different artifacts depending on the layer of soil they are found in.”

They also record everything with a camera, taking pictures of sediment striations, darkened areas in the soil where postholes once were, and exact locations where artifacts are found.

Both Wood and Boyer have plans to go onto graduate school and continue their work in anthropology. Boyer is planning to study  paleoethnobotany at USF Tampa and Wood has her sights set on a graduate program in Liverpool, England, studying bioarchaeology and genetic research.

“I really enjoy all of it, which is why I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to focus on for grad school,” Boyer said. “I just find it all so interesting. There is a takeaway from everything in anthropology.”


Artifact Spotlight


Evidence of Novice Pottery Making

Unique Tierra Verde Mound artifact sparks interest

As AWIARE catalogs the artifacts and documents it received as part of the Lyman O. Warren Collection several interesting artifacts have been identified. One of the most interesting is a small pot with an incised decoration that appears to be the work of a novice potter, probably a child. The vessel is from the Tierra Verde mound, an early Safety Harbor period site on Tierra Verde (formerly Cabbage Key).

The pot is incomplete, consisting of six sherds that conjoin to make about one-third of a small, shallow bowl. The design consists of concentric loops arrayed along an incised line parallel to the vessel’s lip. One loop has a series of fingernail punctations and two triangular elements radiating outward. These design elements are similar to those of a style of pottery known as Safety Harbor incised, but are not as well executed as typical incised vessels. Estimation of the bowl’s size and shape is based on the partial rim diameter and vessel curvature.

Based on these, the bowl was only 16cm (a little over 6’’) in diameter with a depth of about 7.5cm (3”). If, as seems likely, this was made by a child, then its recovery provides insight into participation in burial ritual by adolescents, an often overlooked segment of prehistoric societies.

Research & Excavations


Researchers uncover evidence of Pinellas County's past in Weedon Island Preserve

Tucked away off Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg, Weedon Island is home to evidence of the Tampa Bay area’s past.

“Weedon Island Preserve's rich human history began with prehistoric peoples who thrived on the abundant fish, shellfish, plants, and mammals of the wetlands, islands and estuaries of Tampa Bay. These people evolved into the Weeden (alternate spelling) Island culture that lasted some 800 years,” county officials explain.

People lived along the Pinellas County coastline up until the Spanish came in the 1500s.

In the 1920s researchers from the Smithsonian excavated the area, focusing on a burial mound. They discovered pottery that can be traced throughout the Southeast, from southwestern Georgia and Alabama to the Weedon Island Preserve, said Dr. Robert Austin, a member of the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research (AWIARE) board.

Researchers are still trying to answer questions about who these people were - and what become of them. “We wanted to see more work done here,” Austin said.

AWIARE formed in 2008 to facilitate that effort. Very little research took place in the years after the Smithsonian project. During the 1960s and 70s, before Weedon became a preserve and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, people dug up pits and took artifacts, Austin explained.

AWIARE works to find, save and share historical artifacts. The organization facilitates research, education and discovery. The alliance works the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society, Florida Public Archaeology Network and Pinellas County. They’ve received funding from Duke Energy, the Friends of Weedon Island nonprofit, the Hough Family Foundation and the Florida Humanities Council.

“I think archaeology and anthropology in general gives you a perspective on not just the past but just other cultures and an appreciation for other cultures, an appreciation for people who don’t live the same way we do or did,” Austin said. “Hopefully we can learn stuff from the past that will help us address similar problems today, one of which obviously is changing climate, sea level rise because people in the past had to deal with those problems, as well.”

You get to see how people have lived over a long period of time, how they’ve adapted to not only the natural environment but to each other, other social groups, how the interact, how they deal with problems, and surprisingly a lot of those problems are the same ones we have today so it gives you a historical perspective on all that.”

Researchers want to provide a lens into the everyday lives of the people who lived on Weedon Island. “Archeology provides you with a historical context about how people have lived over a really long period of time,” Austin said.

AWIARE board member and University of South Florida anthropology professor Dr. John Arthur brings students to Weedon to conduct research. “This is the most densely populated county in Florida, and we have Weedon Island that is really a jewel,” he said. “There’s a lot of questions that we still have to address. Archeology takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of labor,” Arthur said.

In 2011 archaeologists excavated an ancient canoe from the Weedon shoreline. The nearly 40-foot canoe is the longest dugout thus far in the State of Florida. “It was a very substantial find, one of the very first or maybe a very rare saltwater marine canoe,” AWIARE board secretary Phyllis Kolianos said. “It really gave us new perspective.”

Most of the canoes previously found had been located in lakes or rivers - not open water like Tampa Bay.

Radiocarbon dating revealed the canoe to be from around AD 890. “The makers of the canoe are considered to belong to the Manasota culture, a prehistoric Native American people who hunted and fished the bay, leaving shell mounds along the coast,” researchers write.

That canoe offered a glimpse into how people who lived thousands of years before us communicated and traveled. “Learning about people that lived here hundreds of years ago, even thousands of years ago, is very interesting. It kind of gives us a different perspective on our lives,” Kolianos said. “We’re in a very heavily populated area but beneath our feet other people lived for hundreds of years.”

With many questions left to be answered, AWIARE hopes to continue moving forward to uncover the past. “We don’t know why people left the Weedon Island site. That’s one of the questions that we’re trying to address,” Kolianos said.

Florida is rich with evidence of human history, in large part because of the water, which aided transportation, and the climate. There are historical sites dating back 13,000 years. People set up their homes along rivers, lakes and Pinellas County’s coastline.

“We want to try to preserve in the young the importance of our cultural heritage in Florida,” Arthur said.

BY WTSP NEWS -- MAY 2017 --

Canoe Exhibit


“Navigating Tampa Bay's Maritime Past"

For over a thousand years, an ancient dugout canoe lay buried under mangrove peat near a shoreline on Old Tampa Bay at Weedon Island Preserve. Since its discovery in 2001, archaeologists have excavated, analyzed, and conserved this ancient treasure.

Weedon Island Cultural Center exhibit of ancient dugout canoe

In 2011, AWIARE coordinated the recovery of one of the most remarkable archaeological finds yet known in Pinellas County.  This was the excavation of the 40-foot long prehistoric dugout canoe from the shallow waters of the Weedon Island Preserve.  Not only is this the longest documented prehistoric canoe in Eastern North America, it is one of only several in Florida from an open saltwater environment.  Assisted by a large team of eager volunteers and with the generous support of the Friends of Weedon Island (FOWI) and the Hough Family Foundation, AWIARE successfully removed the canoe and transferred it to a custom built conservation tank on the Preserve.  We were committed to keeping this significant cultural resource in Pinellas County where it belongs, and committed to putting it on public display in the Weedon Island Cultural and Natural History Center.

After three years soaking in a tank filled with a preservative solution, and after further conservation and preservation efforts, the 1,100-year-old canoe is now on display in an exciting new exhibit, "Navigating Tampa Bay's Maritime Past”. This is Florida's longest (40 feet) and only saltwater dugout canoe. The Weedon Island canoe exhibit will attract well-deserved attention and will form a lasting contribution to public education and awareness about Pinellas County’s rich archaeological heritage. Come learn about this amazing discovery and how it expands our knowledge of the prehistory of the Tampa Bay region at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1500 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. 




The Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education  (AWIARE) is a non-profit organization (501C3) that has as its goal to promote and facilitate long-term archaeological research, scientific exploration and public education at the Weedon Island Preserve and the gulf coast region.

Our Officers and Advisory Board include professional archaeologists and lay persons who all share an interest in our mission.

We have a reputation for sponsoring and facilitating significant archaeological research on the Weedon Island Preserve (WIP) by providing opportunities for scholars and students to pursue sustained scientific investigations of past human occupation.

AWIARE takes the lead role in producing and disseminating public educational programming based on the research results and will become an influential and recognized partner in local governmental and private corporate historical preservation initiatives.

AWIARE embraces the values of responsible scientific archaeological research and the public benefits of archaeology.

RESEARCH: We develop, promote, and publicize research opportunities at the AWIARE Research Station on the WIP. We write and implement archaeological research designs to guide future projects, and we compile and publish results from previous studies and reports.

EDUCATION: One of our goals is to develop active public programs for children and adults in which they engage in archaeological research on the WIP. Further public awareness is promoted through archaeo-ecotours, instructional workshops, web-based resources and materials, and traveling exhibits.

OPERATIONS: AWIARE broadens its base of financial support through increased membership and corporate involvement.

Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education
c/o Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
1500 Weedon Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33702

Email: awiare1@gmail.com

If you are interested making a contribution to AWIARE, please use the button below, or mail a check to the address above.


PRESIDENT, John Arthur, Ph.D.
VICE PRESIDENT, Elizabeth Southard
TREASURER, Robert J. Austin, Ph.D.
SECRETARY, Phyllis E. Kolianos, M.A.


David Burns, M.S.
Kim Dudley
J. Michael Francis, Ph.D
Cindy Martin
Jeff Moates, M.A.
Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Ph.D.
Sheila Stewart, M.A.
George Stovall


Raymond Arsenault, Ph.D.
Uzi Baram, Ph.D.
Albert C. Goodyear, Ph.D.
Helen Levine, Ph.D.
Jerald T. Milanich, Ph.D.
Jeffrey M. Mitchem, Ph.D.
Harry M. Piper, M.A.
Brent Weisman, Ph.D.


We sponsor and facilitate archaeological research on the Weedon Island Preserve (WIP) in St. Petersburg, Florida, by providing opportunities for scholars and students to pursue sustained scientific investigations. AWIARE appreciates the support of our many donors, who are listed below.




Lisa & Perry Everett
Irene & Duncan McClellan/Duncan McClellan Glass
Harvey’s Fourth Street Grill
Jane & George Stovall


Sharon & Victor Gardner
Cindy & Craig Martin
Ron May/Wells Fargo Advisors – Trinity
Janet & Iqbal Paroo


Carla & Kent Garbin
Eloise & Jay Paul Hardman
Teresa & Bob Kropp


Susan Anderson
Suzanne & Jonathan Anderson
Richard Barbel
Margaret & David Burns
Patricia & William Dotterer
Alice Huneycutt
Abby King
Dr. Cathy King & Mr. William King
Phyllis & Pete Kolianos
Candy & John Lenderman
Dion Lim & Evan Panesis
Emma Mason
Scott McIntyre/SEM, Inc.
Stephanie Mischke & Aaron Freedman/Total Air
Debbie & Dan Riggs
Beth & Michael Vivio