NOVEMBER 2019: Dr. Jessi Halligan, Florida State University

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.