December 2019 Speaker

Digital Storytelling and the Past, Present and Future of Egmont Key

Laura Harrison, PhD, Director, Access 3D Lab, University of South Florida

Egmont Key is a diminutive island located at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Because of its strategic location, the island played a significant role in Florida’s history. It was a haven for runaway slaves and Union soldiers during the Civil War, a Seminole prison during the Indian Removal Period, an outpost for rum runners during Prohibition, and a defensive location during multiple 19th and 20th century conflicts. Today, these histories (and others) are largely invisible to the public, due to limited tourism and outreach infrastructure on the island. Coastal erosion also threatens to destroy and submerge several historic buildings.

This presentation details an ongoing interdisciplinary project aimed at making Egmont Key’s invisible stories visible to the public, and digitally preserving endangered heritage with 3D laser scanning. A team from the University of South Florida in collaboration with the Seminole Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the Egmont Key Alliance used archival research, community outreach, and virtualization technologies to create immersive 3D visualizations of heritage sites that tell the many stories of Egmont Key’s past, present and future


Dr. Laura K. Harrison is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and the Director of Access 3D Lab - a research lab that incubates and supports transformative research in the digital realm. She is an advocate of interdisciplinary approaches in archaeology, as well as open access and digitization in the sciences and humanities. Originally trained as a Bronze Age archaeologist, Dr. Harrison became interested in digital heritage during her research at a threatened site in Turkey. She has worked on archaeology and heritage projects in the United States, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy, France and Romania. She holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Anthropology from the University at Buffalo, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Art History from Ithaca College.

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

November 2019 Speaker

The First Floridians and the First Floods: How environmental changes have constrained Florida archaeology and how underwater archaeology promises to help

Dr. Jessi Halligan, Florida State University

The earliest known archaeological site in Florida, Page-Ladson, dates to approximately 14,550 years ago, but it is located on what was the edge of a small pond in the middle of a semi-featureless savannah dozens of miles from the coast or any known rivers. Despite almost a century of searching, archaeologists do not know when the first Floridians arrived and who the first coastal peoples in Florida were, largely due to major geological changes that occurred from approximately 21,000-6,000 years ago, which has greatly impacted Florida’s landscape. The sites we know about from the Paleoindian period can provide important hints about the first Floridians and the world they lived in, but more than half of Florida’s Ice Age landmass was drowned by sea level rise that occurred during the end of the Ice Age, meaning that most of the answers about the first Floridians are likely underwater. Luckily, half a century of underwater archaeology in Florida has provided some important answers.


Dr. Jessi Halligan is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, with specializations in geoarchaeology and underwater archaeology. She is anthropologically-trained archaeologist with a focus upon the initial peopling of the Americas through my active research program in submerged Paleoindian sites in Florida. This focus leads to complementary foci in hunter-gatherer societies, geoarchaeology, sea level rise and submerged landscape studies, including underwater field methods. Dr. Halligan earned a PhD in Anthropology from Texas A&M University (2012) and a BA (2000) from Harvard University in Anthropology with a specialization in Archaeology. She has been a Registered Professional Archaeologist since 2012 and has more than two decades of field and lab experience in North American Archaeology. She has conducted research and/or worked on Cultural Resource Management projects all over the Northeastern United States, the Northern Plains, Texas, and the Southeast. Dr. Halligan is especially interested in the peopling of the Americas, climate change during the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene, coastal site preservation, and human adaptation to major climate change.

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

October 2019 Speaker

Adventures in Downtown Tampa Archaeology – The Lost Fort Brooke Cemetery and 100-Year-Old Love Letters to the Steamer Gopher

Eric Prendergast, M.A. RPA, Senior Staff Archaeologist, Cardno

Almost everywhere you dig in southern downtown Tampa, near the waterfront, there are some remains from the infamous military installation that gave rise to the town of Tampa in the early 1800s. It has long been known that Fort Brooke had two cemeteries, but only one of them was ever found and excavated in the 1980s. Recent excavations across downtown Tampa have focused on the hunt for the second lost cemetery, among many other components of the fort. While testing the model designed to locate the cemetery, a sealed jar was discovered. It was crammed full of letters written in 1916. The letters were mailed to someone aboard C. B. Moore’s steamer Gopher, while the ship completed it’s 1916 expedition on the Mississippi River. What were they doing buried in a parking lot in Tampa?

Eric Prendergast, M.A., RPA. Senior Staff Archaeologist with Cardno. Eric is a transplant from the northeast who has only lived in Tampa since 2012, when he came to graduate school at USF. Since then he has worked in CRM and has recently served as Principal Investigator for major excavations in Downtown Tampa and for the Zion Cemetery Project, Robles Park Village.

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

September 2019 Speaker

Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Fishing Practices: Insights from the Florida Gulf Coast

Giness J. Mahar, Phd, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida

Millions of people venture out into Florida’s coastal waters each year to take part in an ancient practice: fishing. Whether for commercial or recreational purposes fishing has deep roots in the region - thousands of years deep. That Florida's ancient inhabitants have benefited from these bountiful coastal waters for over ten thousand years is not surprising. Coastal archaeological sites throughout the state are loaded with the remains of fish familiar to local fishing enthusiasts: mullet, red drum, seatrout, sheepshead and more. But while archaeologists have been able to identify what fishes ancient fisherfolk were catching, they have not been able to discern how they were catching them. Until recently.

Ethnoarchaeology is the study of living human practices to understand past human actions and archaeological materials. Methods like this are often used when archaeological investigations leave researchers with more questions than answers. This presentation tacks back and forth through time—over two thousand years—on a quest to better understand the knowledge, practices, and technologies of Florida's ancient fisherfolk.

Ginessa Mahar completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research involves the investigation of coastal fishing communities that thrived along the shores of the North Florida Gulf Coast during the Woodland period. Mahar specifically focuses on the fluorescence of civic-ceremonial centers and how fishing technologies and practices developed to facilitate the large gatherings that brought distant communities together at these sacred sites.

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