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

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.


Ginessa J. Mahar, Phd, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Fishing Practices: Insights from the Florida Gulf Coast

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.


Ben Bilgri, Archaeological Field Technician
History Washing Away: The Archaeological Past and Future of Egmont Key

Egmont Key spent most of its existence as an unremarkable, uninhabited sand island at the mouth of Tampa Bay, visited by the indigenous inhabitants of Florida only occasionally as a temporary fishing stop. But over the course of the last 170 years, this small landmass experienced an intensity of occupation that belied its sleepy early history. Variously utilized as a lighthouse station, a concentration camp for Seminole prisoners of war, a fortified military installation, and a wildlife refuge, Egmont Key represents an archaeological site with the potential to illuminate several different eras of American history. A fortuitous wildfire in 2016 allowed Tribal archaeologists to perform a preliminary survey of the island, and artifacts likely dating to the time of the Seminole internment were recovered. However, Egmont Key has lost more than half of its land area over the last century, and environmental threats to the island itself represent significant challenges for the future.

Ben Bilgri, M.A., RPA, works as an Archaeological Field Technician with the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. He has nearly 15 years of experience working on a wide variety of projects throughout the American Southeast. His personal research interests include the study of depositional patterns at battlefields and other military archaeological sites.


Charles Cobb, Florida Museum of Natural History
The Rocky Road from Tampa to Chicasa: Hernando de Soto’s Tribulations in the Interior Southeast

The beginnings of the journey of the members of the Hernando de Soto expedition were fairly auspicious. They encountered sizable and prosperous chiefdoms ranging from Florida through Georgia and the Carolinas, and by virtue of size and military technology were able to fend off hostilities from Native Americans. Their fortunes turned soured, however, in 1540 and 1541 as major conflicts at Mabila (Alabama) and Chicasa (Mississippi) left scores of Spaniards dead and wounded, as well as major losses of pigs, horses, and equipment. Recent investigations at the Stark Farm site in eastern Mississippi have yielded a large number of likely sixteenth-century Spanish metal artifacts (e.g., adzes, axes, horse shoes) that seem to be related to the Soto encounter at Chicasa. This presentation considers the possibility of whether the Stark Farm is actually Chicasa, as well as alternative hypotheses to account for presence of European material at this location.

Charles Cobb is Curator and Lockwood Professor of Historical Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. He specializes in the archaeology and history of the southeastern United States, and has a particular interest in Native American engagements with European colonialism. He has been involved in sustained research on Indian towns on the Carolina frontier. In a collaborative project with the Chickasaw Nation, Cobb is exploring the complex interactions between the Chickasaw, English and French in colonial era Mississippi. With National Endowment for the Humanities funding, he also is leading a team in the development of an online database on the archaeology of Franciscan missions.