SEPTEMBER 2019: Giness J. Mahar, University of Florida

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.