AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECONNAISSANCE OF
MOUND KEY STATE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE (8LL2),
ESTERO BAY, FLORIDA
Corbett McP. Torrence
Samuel J. Chapman
William H. Marquardt
A Report Submitted to Koreshan Unity Alliance, Inc.
Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECONNAISSANCE OF
MOUND KEY STATE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE (8LL2),
ESTERO BAY, FLORIDA
Corbett McP. Torrence
Samuel J. Chapman
William H. Marquardt
A Report Submitted to Koreshan Unity Alliance, Inc.
Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES iii
LIST OF TABLES iii
PROJECT OBJECTIVES 1
CULTURAL BACKGROUND 1
PREVIOUS INVESTIGATIONS 9
METHODS OF DATA RECOVERY 12
Topographic Mapping 12
Archaeological Reconnaissance 16
Surface Collections 18
Subsurface Excavations 20
Preparation for Analysis 22
Topographic Mapping 23
Surface Collections 26
Subsurface Excavations 27
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Location of Mound Key 2
2. Location of topographic features, Mound Key 14
3. Location of surface collection stations 19
4. SURFER image, looking eastward towards Mound 1 (the "King's Mound")
and Mound 2 ("The Court of the Kings") 24
5. Location of subsurface test excavations .30
LIST OF TABLES
1. Location of Survey Stations 17
2. Summary of Excavation Results 28
3. Generalized Chronology for Caloosahatchee Area and Immediate
Environs, Based on Summaries by Griffin (1988), Widmer
(1988), and Cordell (1992), updated according to results
of recent unpublished work at the Pineland and Mound Key sites 35
This document reports the results of topographic mapping and archaeological
reconnaissance of the Mound Key State Archaeological Site in Lee County, a study
conducted by the Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies, Florida
Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville. Samuel Chapman served
as Assistant Field Director, Corbett Torrence as Field Director, and William Marquardt as
Principal Investigator. Larry Fooks, Koreshan State Historic Site manager, and Koreshan
Unity Alliance, Inc. President Bill Grace and members Gloria Sajgo and Charlie Weeks
were local project coordinators. The field work on Mound Key was conducted from
December 6, 1993 through April 15, 1994. The project was sponsored by the Koreshan
Unity Alliance, Inc. (KUA), the official non-profit Citizen Support Organization of the
Koreshan State Historic Site.
The project was financed in part with historic preservation grant assistance
provided by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Florida Department of State, assisted by
the Historic Preservation Advisory Council. However, the contents and opinions do not
necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Florida Department of State, nor does the
mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or
recommendation by the Florida Department of State.
We owe a debt of gratitude to numerous companies and individuals who
contributed money or materials to continue the project beyond the boundaries of its
original funding. Michael Hansinger, Sue Morrow, Jim Long, William Neuder, Tracy
Cheatham, and two donors who wish to remain anonymous contributed funds to extend the
field work and laboratory analysis. Charlie Weeks and Estero Bay Boat Tours, Mike's
Marina, Marine Lumber, Cellular One, Westinghouse-Pelican Landing, Estero River Bait
and Tackle, Johnson Engineering, and Arden Arrington all provided invaluable services
and materials to the project. We thank the various private land owners of Mound Key
who permitted surveying to take place on their property. The McGee family is
particularly thanked for permission to conduct test excavations on their property.
Personnel of the Koreshan State Historical Site and the Southwest Florida Project of the
Florida Museum of Natural History provided much appreciated assistance. Charlie
Weeks, Carl Johnson, and the other boat captains of Estero Bay Boat Tours are especially
thanked for their more than generous assistance to the project, and endurance of yet
another set of specialists who in a short time were required to become experts on an
aspect of their Estero Bay home. We hope that we do them justice in. the interpretation of
We express special appreciation to Gloria Sajgo, who served as Koreshan Unity 41 (tc~ 4 t
liaison to the project. She facilitated the project in every possible way and made a
number of constructive recommendations that improved this report. Karen Walker also
provided valuable suggestions on the draft report.
Finally, without the aid of over two hundred volunteers, many of them members of
the Southwest Florida Archaeological Society, who donated over 7,000 hours of labor,
primarily in brush clearing, the difficulties encountered during this project would have
been insurmountable. Volunteers for the Mound Key project included Valarie Alker;
Dave and Ginny Andrews; Gloria Andrews; Betty and Jim Anholt; Sarah Angelotti; Mark
Appleby; Debbie and Arne Amason; Joe Arya; Janet Avello; Scott Avery; Jean Bacig;
Linda Ballou; Patti Bartlett; Bob Bartone; Gerald Bearry; Richard Beattie; Toni and Jean
Belknap; Susan Bellinger; Jeff Belton; Chuck and Joan Bennett; Dorothy and Roy
Bennett; Bonnie Bibas; Fran Black; Chuck Blanchard; Lucille and Marvin Bohlman; Bob
and Sue Brault; Marilyn Brown; Jean Bub; Darren and Naomi Burridge; Nan Byrne;
Joshua and Benjamin Canady; Matt Carey; Dick Carline; Betsy Carlson; Carl Caudil;
Doug, Teal, and Russ Chadwick; Tracy Cheatham; Celia Childs-Hampton; Chris
Clement; Paul Corbin; Eleanor Coster; Cheryl Cramer; Frank'Craparo; Ricky Crary;
Marge Crescenzo; Blaine Crouch; Dana Davis; Helene Davis; Kris DeArmond; Bob
DeMao; Barbara Dobbs; James Donovan; Debbie Duncan; Donna Duncan; Barbara and
Bill Dupuis; Alan and Jason Dwane; Bob Easton; Ruth Ann Ebbing; Charles Ebinger; Bob
Edic; Tom Elmer; Frank Englund; Lana Engquist; Kevin Faiano; Mike Farris; Stephanie
Fiedler; Monica Flowers; Ed Frehafer; Tetsya Fujita; Bill Gauger; Ginny Gewin; Anne
Gibson; Tina Giese; Harry Gleitz; Paul Goldstein; Barbara Green; John and Nathaniel
Grey; John Grimm; Rotem Grosman; Don Harayda; Bill and Joann Harding; Val Hardtke;
Fran Hart; Paul Hill; Jack Homer; Bud and Shirley House; Richard and Martha Hulet;
Harvey Ingles; Mary Jakelvic; Charlene Johnson; Arnold and Kathy Keberle; Charlie
Kellenberger; Lee Kelley; George and Mark Kellner; Carole and Don Kelly; Bill Kemper;
Rowena Kitzmiller; Robin Krivanek; Judy Lawlor; Art Lee; Donna Lindahl; Sarah Liotta;
Rich Little; Kevin Lollar; Jim Long; Max and Phyllis Long; Mary Ludington (mother);
Mary Ludington (daughter); Jack McAllister; Dean McGill; Brian and Mark McGinnis;
Kelli McGregor; Rudy Magyari; Greg and Ares Manos; Chuck Marble; Bob Mark;
Kimberly Martin; Don and Patty Martindale; Dana Meador; Karen Meier; Keith Melton;
Ava and John Mina; Sue Morrow; George and Jo Mullins; Lynda Murray; Ruth Murray;
Pete Nash; George and Dina Nelson; Jeannette Nielsen; Charlotte Noel; Dianne
O'Malley; Brenda and Mario Ordonez; Leonard Page; Norma and Norman Panall; Marge
Pedersen; Lynette Pittman; George, Kerri, and Rose Porth; Ann Pratt; Dean Quigley;
Juliette Rallo; Laura Randell; Thomas Randolph; Karen Reeves; Joan Reilly; Pam
Riberdy; Tony Rodriguez; Linda Rogers; Gene Rossman; Leo Ruble; Amanda Sachkar;
Patty Saldivar; Dorothy Savadel; Ray Seguin; Dee Serage; Don and Mary Shontz; Shirley
Siedel; Miles and Kristi Sigal; Glenna Simpson; Alicia Singletary; Jo and Frank Slaton;
Scott Slessman; Jack Smith; Rosemary Squires; Gary Stanford; Jerry Stanford; Ramona
Stephenson; Krista and Shanon St. John; Anna and Ray Stober; Johnny and Joy Stokes;
Dawn Sypniewski; Don Taggart; Priscilla and William Taylor; Max and Nathan Thoman;
Doris Threlkeld; Gene Toncray; Barbara, Reed, and Jim Toomey; Lee Tracy; Fred Tyers;
Peggy Vechiotti; Frank and Joan Von Dauch; Mike Welchman; Alanna and John
Wetherington; Howard Wilson; Wendy Wilson; Ken and Kathy Wishlow; Dick and Elaine
Wismer; Marty Wolt. Without the assistance of these volunteers in the field, the project
could never have been completed. We also thank several people for help in identifying,
cleaning, and cataloging artifacts. Several members of the Southwest Florida
Archaeological Society processed over 2,000 artifacts at the Society's Craighead
Laboratory in Naples. Betty and Jim Anholt and Barbara and Reed Toomey processed the
remainder of the artifacts and catalogued them. Kathleen Deagan, Ann Cordell (Florida
Museum of Natural History), and several members of the Historical Archaeology
Laboratory, Florida Museum of Natural History, helped with identification of the
historical artifacts. Field notes, collections, oral history tapes, and other pertinent data
are curated in the Department of Anthropology, Florida Museum of Natural History,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
The primary objective of the project was to obtain data needed to create a detailed
topographic map of Mound Key and to establish a metric grid system over the island.
Secondary objectives included reconnaissance-level archaeological testing and the
integration of previously known archaeological materials and historical documents relating
to the site.
The project also provided educational opportunities to the public regarding the
research being conducted on Mound Key. This included the utilization and training of
volunteers for field work and the presentation of the research results to the interested
public. Over 200 volunteers assisted in the field work, and 10 public talks were given in
the area by Torrence and Chapman. The field research was featured several times in local
television news programs and newspapers. A color brochure incorporating the project
results was written and designed by Claudine Payne. It includes photographs by William
Marquardt and Corbett Torrence and art work by Merald Clark.
Mound Key, a 125-acre (51-hectare) island located in Estero Bay (Figure 1), is one
of Florida's most significant historical sites. Contained within its dramatic ridges and
mounds are archaeological clues that demonstrate that Mound Key has long been a place
of habitation. Native Florida Indians, Spanish fisherfolk, and twentieth-century Euro-
Americans made their homes here, each group altering the landscape in its own way.
: .. .....
^ I ......'
s C AI.
o s Wf lm.
Figure 1. Location of Mound Key.
Estero Bay is rich in estuarine resources, including an abundance of fish and
shellfish. Many of the mangrove islands in the bay are home to a multitude of different
birds and many other types of wildlife ranging from mangrove crabs and small lizards to
gopher tortoises, marsh rabbits, snakes, and raccoons. The diversity of plant species is
even greater than that of animals and one can easily find orchids, bromeliads, cactus,
yucca, and many fine specimens of trees.
Over twelve thousand years ago, American Indian groups called Paleo-Indians
moved into Florida from the north. They lived near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, a
period in the earth's history when the climate was colder and glaciers advanced from the
poles. During this time, large animals such as mastodons and giant ground sloth roamed
Florida's cool grassy steppe. Paleo-Indians hunted big game, but more commonly lived
off plants and smaller animals.
By 7000 B.C. the earth's climate had become warmer, and American Indian
groups adapted to the changing environment. As sea levels rose and the climate became
warmer and wetter, fresh water became more abundant. Rivers and streams increased in
size. The mixing of fresh and salt waters formed rich estuaries along the Florida Gulf
Coastal Indians developed a thriving culture based on the many resources the
estuaries provided. These people were accomplished fishers; many species were eaten.
Some fish were netted, while others were taken by hook and line or bow and arrow.
Shellfish were also gathered and eaten. Certain shells were saved and used to make a
wide variety of tools and ornaments, including net gauges and weights, sinkers, hammers,
celts, dippers, pendants, and beads.
Though these people depended on the estuaries, they did not overlook the many
other resources available to them. Plants and terrestrial animals continued to be important
resources in daily life. Nets were woven from palm fibers, and the leg bones of deer
were used to manufacture tools such as fishing gear and arrow points. Around 1500
B.C., Indians of southwest Florida began to make clay vessels of many sizes and shapes.
These were used for cooking and storage.
American Indians were probably living on Mound Key by A.D. 100, perhaps
earlier. They discarded their food shells, fish bones, broken tools, and pots, forming
large garbage heaps called middens. Some of the middens were deposited in a specific
manner to form mounds, platforms, terraces, and ridges. Some of the mounds attained
remarkable heights, over 30 feet (9 meters) tall.
When Europeans first came to southwest Florida in the 1500s, the Indians were
known as Calusa (Hann 1991; Marquardt 1987, 1988). The Calusa were a powerful
group whose influence reached over the entire southern half of the Florida peninsula.
Other Indian groups paid tribute to them from as far away as Lake Okeechobee, Miami,
and the Florida Keys. Their "cacique," or king, was believed to have influence over the
natural world. Nobles had special privileges denied to commoners, such as access to
Throughout the world, very few groups have achieved this level of organization
without an economic base of farming. The abundant forms of plant and animal life in the
rich estuarine environments allowed the Calusa to harvest their food from the natural
world instead of having to labor to grow it.
The first official contact between the Spanish and the Calusa was in 1513, when
Ponce de Le6n and his crew sailed into the area exploring the region for possible mineral
resources and slaves. They found no gold or silver, but instead encountered the Calusa,
who knew of the Spaniards from previous unofficial visits and did not welcome them. On
June 5, 1513, 80 Calusa war canoes attacked the Spanish flotilla and demolished the
vessel that was closest to shore.
In 1567 the Spaniards established a fort and Jesuit mission, San Antonio de Carlos,
in the capital town of the Calusa (Lewis 1969). The purposes of the fort/mission were to
protect shipwrecked Spaniards from the Indians and convert the Calusa to Christianity.
Calusa resistance to conversion and mounting tensions between the two groups resulted in
In an attempt to bring the Indians under control, the Spanish soldiers stationed at
the mission executed the Calusa king and two high-ranking nobles. This did little to
change the deeply rooted problems and later the Spaniards executed the new Calusa king
and many other leaders. After witnessing the murder of a second king, the remaining
Calusa burned their village and abandoned it. Shortly after this, the Spaniards abandoned
One hundred thirty years later the Calusa king traveled to Cuba and requested that
a new mission be established in his capital. Franciscan friars eventually arrived in 1697.
Though the Calusa claimed to be interested in conversion, when they learned that gifts did
not accompany the conversion to Christianity and that the friars demanded that they
renounce their own sacred beliefs, relations quickly deteriorated. Interactions between the
Franciscans and the Calusa became hostile in less than three months. Finally, the Calusa
stripped the friars of all their possessions and marooned them in the Florida Keys (Hann
Many researchers believe that Mound Key was "Calos," the capital town of the
Calusa. Geographically and archaeologically, the island meets a number of requirements
that other southwest Florida archaeological sites lack. The Spaniards described the capital
town as a village of a thousand people situated on an island in the middle of a bay two
day's sail from Havana. This places the capital somewhere between Key Marco and
Punta Gorda. Key Marco, Mound Key, Galt, Demorey, Josslyn, Pineland, Useppa
Island, and Big Mound Key are the only sites of sufficient size to contain such a village.
Of these sites, only Mound Key and Useppa are located "in the middle of a bay,"
however, Spanish artifacts dating to the sixteenth-century mission period have been found
in significant quantities only on Mound Key.
The Spaniards describe the island as having a circumference of "half a league"
(Lewis 1969:7). This suggests that the island might be more or less circular, which
Mound Key certainly is. Although there are several kinds of leagues used in Spanish
writings of the period, one would need to increase the circumference only by twenty
percent to fit the size estimate based on long-shore leagues (Lewis 1969:7).
The writings of Jesuit father Rogel and geographer I.pez de Velasco reveal that
the first mission was set up "in the court of the kings, ... two arquebus shots from the
north shore" (Lewis 1969:6-7; see also Hann 1991:309). When the 1567 mission was
established, the Spaniards probably moved into 36 Indian houses and built one house of
their own. A "thicket fence" was constructed around the compound delineating the fort of
San Antonio de Carlos in the capital of the Calusa (Lewis 1969:6).
Assuming that the Calusa capital remained in the same location until the Franciscan
mission attempt in 1697, the location of the latter mission may be the same as that of its
Jesuit predecessor. The Franciscans tell of building their church near the house of the
cacique, and other Spanish chroniclers note that the missions were in identical locations.
As in 1567, the 1697 missionaries estimated that approximately 1,000 people inhabited the
What actually happened to the 1,000 Calusa people who lived in the village of the
king remains a mystery. What is known is that after the Calusa left, Cuban fishing
families inhabited Mound Key throughout the 1700s and early 1800s. These people set up
their residences on the western fringe of the island, probably because deeper waters
provided access for their boats there. Some of these fishing people likely lived on
platform houses situated adjacent to the shore.
In the late 1800s, Frank and Mollie Johnson settled on Mound Key. Mollie
Johnson's generosity and healing knowledge established her as a living legend. Locally
known as "Grandma" Johnson, she was born of a white settler's daughter and a Cherokee
Indian named Bill Whitton, who had escaped when his tribe was moved west (Briggs
1976:7). It is said that Grandma Johnson's medicines cured many, including wealthy
aristocrats who drove to the docks on the mainland where she would meet them. She
protected the archaeological deposits on the island -- sometimes with a shotgun, it is said
-- because of her belief that they ought not to be disturbed (Elmer Johnson, personal
On November 9, 1891, Frank and Mollie Johnson were granted the entire island of
Mound Key. Their homestead certificate, number 9353, was signed by President
Benjamin Harrison. Within 25 years there were 17 families living on Mound Key and the
small community had its own school house. Most of the houses were simple single-room
structures. A cook house was constructed separately so that sleeping quarters would not
be overheated. Black mangrove wood was smoked in the sleeping quarters before bed
time. The small houses were then shut tightly for protection against mosquitos and biting
Some of the settlers were members of the Koreshan Unity, a turn-of-the-century
communal society formed in Chicago. In 1894, led by founder Dr. Cyrus Teed, the
Koreshans established a utopian community by the Estero River. Eventually they acquired
portions of Mound Key, which is located at-the mouth of the river. The Koreshans
acquired land along the island's southern rim and constructed a house and a concrete
cistern. Other families lived along the west and northwest edges of the island. Although
the Koreshans were primarily farmers, most others on Mound Key made their living from
both farming and fishing. Despite temporal and cultural separation, the twentieth-century
residents of Mound Key lived remarkably similar lives to those of their Calusa
In her old age, Mollie Johnson moved off of Mound Key and sold her land
holdings for $1,000. Eventually the forces of nature, particularly the hurricanes of the
1920s, convinced people to move off the island. By the late 1940s, only a single man
who raised goats inhabited the island. In 1961, with their numbers dwindling, the last
Koreshans, represented by then Koreshan Unity M" president Hedwig Michel,
donated 139 acres of their original settlement grounds on the banks of the Estero River
and all of their Mound Key property to the State of Florida for preservation into the
future. The settlement grounds are today known as the Koreshan State Historic Site. The
former Koreshan Mound Key property is known as the Mound Key State Archaeological
Site; it is a detached portion of the Koreshan State Historic Site and is managed by the
Historic Site's personnel.
Although state records indicate that only one survey and several impromptu surface-
collections have been made on Mound Key, documentary sources reveal that the island has
been visited for archaeological purposes several times since the late 1800s. Perhaps the
best known and most widely referred-to source on Mound Key is Rolfe Schell's book
1,000 Years on Mound Key (1962, revised 1968). Schell's work contains interesting and
pertinent data, but must be read critically due to numerous unverified speculations.
Mound Key was first reported by Douglass, but Cushing (1897:347-348) was the
first professional archaeologist to visit the island, then known as "Johnson's Key," during
his harbor reconnaissance in May, 1896. Cushing reported several mounds and some
Spanish artifacts. C. B. Moore (1900:366-367) investigated the site in 1900, hoping to
duplicate Cushing's Key Marco finds. Moore excavated in some of the canals and lower
areas of the island, but recovered little of what he considered of value and discontinued
his work there. His findings of pottery and a shell tool are listed in the state records at
the Florida Site File.
The next survey, which included some historical research and archaeological
surface collections, was made by Goggin and Hahns of the University of Florida in 1950.
Their findings include aboriginal, Spanish, and later ceramics, as well as shell, lithic, and
metal artifacts. These are listed in the state records at the Florida Site File, along with a
general synopsis of the research. The results of this survey are more fully discussed in
"The Calusa: A Stratified, Non-Agricultural Society (with Notes on Sibling Marriage)" by
Goggin and Sturtevant (1964).
In this article, Goggin and Sturtevant discuss the possibility of Mound Key's being
the former town of Calos, capital of the Calusa and location of San Antonio de Carlos.
Goggin reports a fragment of Isabella Polychrome majolica and several fragments of
early-style olive jar dating to the sixteenth century. Because artifacts of this type and time
period were unknown from other sites within southwest Florida, Goggin inferred that
Mound Key was the location of the early mission. Since Spanish documentary sources
indicate that the mission was established within the capital town of the Calusa, locating the
mission would also identify this important settlement.
State records list artifacts from surface collections made by Joseph Willcox and
David O. True. The collections were made previous to 1971 (the revision date on the
documents), but nothing further exists in the records as to provenience or discussion of
these artifacts. Moore (1900:368-369) notes that Joseph Willcox had transferred "many
relics" of European manufacture found on Mound Key to the Museum of Science and Art
of the University of Pennsylvania prior to 1900.
The next surveys were made by Clifford M. Lewis of Wheeling College in 1967
and 1968. Lewis did additional historical research and conducted several surface
collections on the island. He also interviewed several of the original white settlers who
had occupied the island from around the turn of the century to the 1940s. Based on
Goggin's work and his own discovery of several early-style olive jar fragments, Lewis
also concluded that Mound Key was the former Calos. A detailed account of his work is
in an unpublished document entitled The Spanish Jesuit Mission of 1567-69 in Southwest
Florida: Search for Location. Additional information pertaining to his work on Mound
Key can be found in the article "The Calusa" in the book Tacachale (Lewis 1978).
A survey was conducted by G. Huggins of Edison Community College in 1972-
1974. Five Fort Myers News-Press articles give general summaries of his work, but
apparently continuation of his work was disallowed by the State due to a failure on his
part to report his findings. According to the articles, Huggins mapped two-thirds of the
island and conducted numerous excavations. However, besides the newspaper articles, no
results of Huggins' work are available, so far as we know.
In 1991, two different mapping surveys were initiated on Mound Key. James
Marshall surveyed a portion of the island using a transit-level, covering about 10% of the
island. John Beriault of the Southwest Florida Archaeological Society produced a
schematic map of the island using a compass and measuring tapes.
METHODS OF DATA RECOVERY
In this section we present the specific sampling strategies employed during
archaeological reconnaissance on Mound Key from December, 1993 to April, 1994.
These include topographic mapping, surface collections, and subsurface test excavations.
Questions at the site level included aspects of site structure, content, use, and temporal
The primary objective was to map the 125-acre island with a high degree of
accuracy and to establish a vertical and horizontal grid system. This was accomplished by
taking elevation readings from known points and leaving reference markers in the field.
Prior to the initiation of topographic data recovery it was necessary to determine the scope
of the project and establish a survey strategy. To this end, aerial photographs were
analyzed and major vegetation zones were mapped.
The island is comprised of three major vegetational zones delineated by elevation.
The first zone, which we call the Normal Tidal Zone (NTZ), is observed between 0.0 and
0.9 m a.m.s.l.; it is dominated by red and black mangrove trees. Daily tidal fluctuations
periodically inundate the entire NTZ. The second zone, situated between 0.9 and 1.3 m
a.m.s.l., is called the Upper Tidal Zone (UTZ). It is generally devoid of vegetation,
though organic matter accumulates along the high tide line. It is inundated only during
extremely high tides. The third zone, called the Back Shore Zone (BSZ), is found above
1.3 m a.m.s.l. This zone is inundated only during extreme storms.
Walkovers of the site were used to gain familiarity with the main features. Aerial
photographs were studied and systematic ground truthing of identified features was
undertaken. This knowledge allowed us to generate a schematic topographic map.
Prominent topographic features were identified and numbered (Figure 2). This enabled
reference to topographic features in the field prior to the completion of the final map.
At a broad scale, the site is comprised of two major shellwork complexes and a
series of ridge clusters, isolated mounds, canals, and courts. Complex I and Complex II
are situated on the southeastern and northwestern sides of the central canal, respectively.
The complexes themselves are comprised of ridges, mounds, and platforms. Platforms, in
turn, contain lesser mounds and ridges. The distinction between a ridge, mound, and
platform is inevitably gradational. However, these references are useful in analysis and
interpretation because they allow distinction of discrete topographical features without
During the topographic survey a Topcon laser transit was employed to determine
the location and elevations of specific points. This instrument provides accurate readings
within one millimeter (1/25 inch). In order to function, the Topcon requires a clear line
of sight to a prism, which reflects the instrument's impulse laser back to the machine to
calculate a variety of readings. Therefore, lines of sight must be established for
topographic mapping. Over 4,000 person hours were spent clearing sight lines through
Figure 2. Location of topographic features, Mound Key.
dense vegetation. Chainsaws, folding saws, machetes, and loppers were used for
Radial clearing patterns were selected instead of the Cartesian grid technique for a
variety of reasons. First, the number of elevations required to define a feature varies
proportionally with its degree of topographic undulation. By using radials, the number of
survey points gathered from a station could easily be increased or decreased by changing
the number of radials to be cleared from the central survey station. Second, radials can
be judgmentally situated to optimize coverage of significant points and features, whereas
the grid system is more restrictive. Third, radials can be cleared along paths of least
resistance. Thus, sight lines can be situated where vegetation is less dense, and where
rare and endangered species can be easily avoided without interfering with the mapping
In the center of each radial, a survey station was established by pounding a two
foot length of rebar flush to the ground surface. A central point was marked on each
piece of rebar. A wooden decoy stake was painted orange, labelled prominently, and
placed near the actual survey station. This gave vandals something.to kick over without
damaging the permanent grid. Each survey station was referenced numerically.
Topographic mapping was initiated from an arbitrarily placed station on the top of
the highest mound, called Station 1. Station 1 is situated 871.514 meters magnetic north
and 648.689 meters magnetic east of Bench Mark 4, located on the island's southeastern
shore. A magnetic north-south base line was established off of Station 1 on December 6,
1993 with a conventional transit. No further magnetic compass readings were taken and
all subsequent angles were made in relationship to the established base line.
Over 5,700 readings were recorded from 72 different survey stations. Raw survey
data were entered into a Hewlett Packard LX100 palmtop computer in LOTUS
spreadsheets. Files were downloaded to a Hewlett Packard personal computer, where
records were manipulated to calculate south and east grid locations and elevations.
Elevations were recorded in meters above mean lower low water, which is zero elevation,
i.e. "mean sea level," on the coastal geodetic survey. Grid points and their elevations
were then loaded into the SURFER program, which generated two- and three-dimensional
maps. A list of survey stations and their locations is presented in Table 1.
Sampling is an inevitable aspect of archaeological research. It has been
demonstrated that a direct correlation exists between the intensity of coverage of any given
area and the number of sites or find spots located (Grossman and Cavallo 1982). Thus the
archaeologist must examine any given area as intensively as the research design permits in
order to evaluate the cultural resources effectively.
Surface collections and subsurface test excavations were employed during the
archaeological field work on Mound Key. The specific techniques employed during
surface collections and subsurface excavations are presented below.
Table 1. Location of Survey Stations.
Surface collections were conducted along the southern margin of the island in the
upper tidal zone (UTZ), along the eastern side of Mound 3 in the UTZ, and in the
backshore zone (BSZ) on the east side of Complex I and the west side of Complex II (see
All artifacts collected from the surface were associated with known grid points by
angle and distance. Three variations of artifact collection were employed. Along the
southern margin of the island in the UTZ, artifacts were identified during intensive
surface examinations. The primary objective was to collect 100 percent of ceramics over
two centimeters in maximum dimension. Artifacts were marked with pin flags and then
associated with collection stations by angle and distance using a Brunton pocket transit and
nylon survey tape. A total of 3,250 proveniences were recorded from 15 collection
On the east side of Mound 3 and the west side of Complex II, the same procedure
was employed except that artifact collection consisted of shell artifacts only. Shell
artifacts were also collected on the east side of Complex I. Artifacts were associated with
the grid in the same fashion, but pre-existing survey stations were used in conjunction
with surface collection stations. On the east side of Complex I, 97 shell artifacts were
collected from 12 survey stations. These include collection stations 16-20 and survey
stations 6, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, and 27.
COLLECTION STATIONS I-1
COLLECTION STATIONS I1 -1 t
COLLECTION STATION 20
SURFACE SURVEY STATIONS' :*.
E200 E 300 E400 E500 E 00
I I I I a I I I
'~.: r.W T
o .. .''*'"
ELEVATMSI iTIi L..S1.L
S i T
Figure 3. Location of surface collection stations.
I I I
A total of 22 artifacts were collected incidental to the topographic survey because
they were either of particular scientific value or they were easily visible in high traffic
areas, making them susceptible to illegal collection by visitors.
During the subsurface testing, the meter square was the basic unit of excavation.
Each meter square was designated with an numerical reference. In this fashion, each unit
was referenced with its operation and unit number. Thus, the first meter square excavated
is referenced A-i, and the next contiguous square A-2. The next non-contiguous meter
square would be B-l, and so forth.
In one situation this system was not followed. Operations A-1 and A-2 are not
contiguous, but because they are situated on a topographic feature that is spatially distinct
it made sense to visualize excavations in this area as a single operation. Although
Operations E through K are also situated on topographically distinct features, sequential
numerical references were employed because we hope that future excavations in this area
will be referenced by the established grid coordinate system rather than the system
employed here. This would be advantageous because the grid coordinate reference
includes locational information and large numbers of alphabetical operational references
will in time become cumbersome and difficult to locate.
All excavations were conducted in arbitrary 10 centimeter (3.94 in) levels within a
horizontal grid. Each level is numbered in relation to a master site level system beginning
at a zero point 10 meters above mean lower low water (a.m.s.l.). In this manner,
artifacts recovered from a level situated between 1.0 and 1.1 m a.m.s.l. in Operation A-1
is referenced A-1-90. The next lower level, between 1.0 and 0.9 m a.m.s.l., is A-1-91,
and so on.
Excavations were by trowel and all sediment was sifted through either eighth- or
quarter-inch-mesh metal hardware cloth. Quarter-inch hardware cloth was utilized for
operations A-i, A-2, B-l, and C-1. Eighth-inch hardware cloth was used for Operations
E-l, F-l, G-l, H-l, I-1, J-1, and K-l, areas predicted by various observers as being
likely places for the discovery of Spanish artifacts.
Special excavation techniques were employed in Operation D in order to excavate
below water. High organic content and saturation of the sediments inhibited artifact
visibility in the screens. Water screening could not be employed due to an insufficient
source of water. For these reasons, screening of sediments was not productive.
Excavations proceeded very slowly and objects were recovered by touch. Other problems
resulted from water seepage into the excavation unit. To combat this, sponges and a bilge
pump were employed in conjunction with terraces.
Sediment color, texture, staining, mottling, and inclusions were documented for
each excavated level. Horizontal floor plans were sketched at the base of each level. Soil
anomalies and/or stratigraphic breaks within a given level were designated as loci. Each
locus was referenced numerically by order of encounter within each level. Sediment
removed from a locus was treated as a distinct excavation unit and all cultural material
recovered was bagged separately. The first locus identified within unit A-1-90 is thus
referenced A-1-90-1, the second locus A-1-90-2, and so on. All soil anomalies identified
in the field were graphed in plan view every 10 cm and profiled in cross section.
During our excavations we collected lithic materials (chert, sandstone, limestone),
carbonized plant materials, quahog (Mercenaria campechiensis) shells possessing the umbo
(hinge) portion, bone, and manufactured materials. Manufactured materials and
radiocarbon samples were mapped in situ to the centimeter on the vertical and horizontal
Each specimen mapped in situ was bagged and referenced separately. In this
manner, the first item mapped in situ in Operation A, Unit 1, Level 90 is referenced A-1-
90/1. Note that the in situ artifact number is preceded by a slash, not a hyphen. This
creates a distinction between loci and plotted specimens. For example, if a tool is
encountered in Locus 1 of Level 90 in Unit 1 of Operation A, then it is called A-1-90-1/1.
Some bulk samples were also recovered for possible zooarchaeological and
archaeobotanical analysis in the future. These samples consisted of a predefined volume
and will be processed by fine screening.
Preparation for Analysis
All materials recovered are currently being processed for analysis. This includes
the washing of artifacts and the placement of catalogue numbers on each of the artifacts.
Lithic, shell, and bone specimens are being washed in regular tap water and dried, while
ceramic and floral materials are being dusted clean with a soft brush. All artifacts will be
curated at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville.
The topographic mapping provides a frame of reference for future archaeological
data collection and elucidates geographical references contained in historical documents.
Surface collections yielded information regarding spatial distributions of archaeological
components and furnished ceramic specimens for preliminary analyses. The subsurface
excavations addressed issues of site structure, content, and integrity.
The objectives of this research were to gain preliminary information that would
establish a point of departure from which future research can be initiated. Funding will
be sought to enable intensive analysis of the materials and information recovered during
the past field season, but such an endeavor is beyond the budgetary scope of this project.
Sampling results are preliminary, but informative. The discussions of sampling results
that follow are reported according to method employed.
One topographical feature, Mound 2, is of particular historical interest, because it
is the only single feature on the island large enough to have contained the fort/mission of
San Antonio de Carlos. Its broad and level summit could have easily contained the "36
Indian structures in the court of the King" (Lewis 1969:6; see also Hann 1991:256).
This "court" area is situated directly across the central canal from Mound 1, the
highest mound on the island, which overlooks the level summit of Mound 2 (see Figure
4). Mound 1 may have been the site of the king's house and Mound 2 may have been
"the court of the King."
Figure 4. SURFER image, looking eastward towards
Mound") and Mound 2 ("The Court of the Kings").
Mound 1 (the "King's
Another topographic feature warrants discussion at this time. Situated immediately
adjacent to the north side of Mound 2 is a large depression that extends northwesterly to
the north landing at the trail's end. This feature was excavated with heavy equipment by
a man named May in the 1920s. The shell removed was shipped by barge to the mainland
and used for road fill. Later a man named Furren excavated more shell fill from this
area. Combined, the two men obliterated about ten percent of the archaeological deposits
on Mound Key. Elmer Johnson (personal communication, 1994) describes the area prior
to impact as being characterized by a low ridge and platform area with no high mounds or
The Johnson home of the early twentieth century was situated on top of Mound 2.
The Johnsons had two structures: a sleeping quarters and cooking house. The cooking
house was situated south of the sleeping quarters. Archaeologically, one of the two
structures, probably the sleeping quarters, is easily visible. The extent of the foundation
is roughly defined by a dense growth of mother-in-law's tongue.
The Koreshans built a large house (in the words of Elmer Johnson) and a concrete
cistern on the southeast side of the island on top of Platform 3. The cistern is plainly
evident today, but there are no obvious surface indications of the house.
Homesteads were also situated along the western shore north of the canal and along
the edge of Canal 2 near the northwestern shore. According to Elmer Johnson, these
structures sat on pilings and thus were somewhat elevated. We identified structural
remains in both areas. On the western side of the island north of the canal is at least one
cistern and possibly the remains of what was another cistern. Artifacts from these
occupations, such as metal, glass, ceramics, and boards are evident.
On the southeast side of Canal 2 are two distinct clusters of structural remains
characterized by piles of partially decayed boards. Lewis states that the U.S.G.S.
quadrangle map of 1927 shows 11 structures on the island. Elmer Johnson (personal
communication, 1994) also recalls 11. These include his family's two houses on Mound
2, the Koreshans' structure to the south, and four in each of the other two aforementioned
Elmer Johnson also made reference to several Cuban families that migrated on and
off the island seasonally. He said that these people lived along the north shore, but
whether or not he is referring to the same people who lived adjacent to Canal 2 is unclear.
As mentioned above, systematic surface collections were conducted in three
discrete areas and other collections of individual specimens were made on a judgmental
basis. Systematic surface collections were conducted in two environmental zones: the
upper tidal zone (UTZ) and the backshore zone (BSZ). In the UTZ artifacts were
collected from the southwest margin of the island and the eastern margin of Mound 3
adjacent to Water Court 1. In the BSZ, shell tools were collected from a portion of
Platforms 1 and 4.
A total of 3,250 artifact proveniences were recorded from the southwestern shore
in the UTZ from Collection Stations 1-15. Preliminary field observation and
identifications indicate that this portion of the site was intensively utilized by both Native
American and Euro-American peoples. Temporally diagnostic artifacts of American
Indian origin include Sand-tempered Plain, Belle Glade Plain, St; Johns Check Stamped,
Glades Tooled, Weeden Island, Safety Harbor, and Jefferson Plain (after Willey
1949:492-493) ceramics. Other unidentified aboriginal sherds were also recovered,
including a solid conical pod.
Spanish artifacts recovered from Collection Stations 1-13 included olive jar
fragments and six majolica sherds. One of the majolicas has been identified as Santo
Domingo Blue on White, dating to the late sixteenth century (Deagan 1987:59-61). The
remaining sherds are attributable to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
In the other three surface collection areas, only shell artifacts were collected; 97
were recovered. Analysis has not been initiated, but field observations identified both
cutting-edged tools and hammers, with Type C hammers being the most common (see
During surface walkovers, human remains were identified on Mounds 6 and 7,
indicating that these features were used as places of burial.
The locations of surface collection stations are presented in Figure 3.
A total of 13.6 cubic meters of sediment was excavated from 12 1-x-l-meter
square units (see Table 2). Operations A through D were situated judgmentally and
represent reconnaissance-level survey tests. Operations E through K were oriented on the
Table 2. Summary of Excavation Results.
Cubic Elevation Max. Minimum Post- Elevation, Structural
Meters of bottom Depth Elevation, Contact Post- Structural Remains
Exca- Elevation of Below Aboriginal Artifacts Contact Remains First
Unit vated of surface excavation Surface Artifacts Present? Artifacts Present? Encountered
A-1 1.37 1.89 0.52 1.37 0.52 N Yes 0.71
A-2 0.99 1.51 0.52 0.99 0.52 Y 1.30 Yes 1.14
B-1 2.06 2.66 0.60 2.06 0.80 N Yes 0.89
C-1 3.26 3.76 0.50 3.26 0.60 N -Probable 1.30
D-1 0.80 0.90 0.10 0.80 0.10 N No --
E-1 0.60 6.20 5.60 0.60 5.60 Y 6.00 Yes 5.80
F-1 1.04 6.44 5.40 1.04 5.40 Y 6.10 Yes 6.08
G-1 0.48 6.18 5.70 0.48 5.70 N No -
H-1 0.76 6.26 5.50 0.76 5.50 Y 6.10 Yes 5.70
I-1 0.84 5.94 5.10 0.84 5.10 Y 5.80 No -
J-1 0.59 6.29 5.70 0.59 5.70 Y 5.90 Yes 6.00
K-1 0.96 6.36 5.40 0.96 5.40 Y 6.10 Yes 6.00
horizontal grid system and were situated to evaluate a portion of Mound 2 (Figure 5).
The following summary of the excavations is divided by operation in alphabetical
sequence. In instances where more than one excavation unit was used to evaluate a
topographical feature, the discussions of the survey results are combined.
Operations A-1 and A-2 were situated on Mound 4, which is located in the central
canal just east of Mounds 1 and 2. Operation A-1 was excavated to a depth of 1.36
meters below surface and A-2 to 0.99 meters below surface. Both units were terminated
slightly below the water table, although the archaeological deposits continued below it.
Operations A-1 and A-2 revealed that Mound 4 is comprised of
at least three major stratigraphic zones. All three strata are characterized by fine sand and
shell matrix containing varying quantities of faunal, floral, and other cultural materials.
The dominant cultural materials included Strombus alatus Type G shell hammers (see
Marquardt 1992) and Sand-tempered Plain pottery. Other noteworthy artifacts included a
ceramic platform pipe fragment from A-1-92/1, a carved petrified bone from A-2-91/2,
and numerous proximal ends of deer tibia fractured just below the elements' point of
constriction below the articular surface.
Two probable post molds were identified, one each in the lower two strata. One
was encountered in the south profile of A-i at a depth of 1.18 meters below surface and
the other was identified in the east profile of A-2 at 0.37 meters below surface.
Operation B-1, situated just south of Mound 4 on top of Ridge 12, was excavated
to a depth of 2.07 meters below ground surface and was terminated just below the water
table in Level 94. A total of five stratigraphic zones were identified. The basal zone is
0 8 00
maOUR WITV*L LUe
1 1 1 I
Figure 5. Location of subsurface test excavations.
characterized by a thick accumulation of predominantly oyster shells that began just above
the water table and extended well below it. No cultural material was identified in the
oyster deposit. The overlying stratigraphic zones are characterized by a fine sand and
shell matrix that contained varying quantities of cultural material. Temporally diagnostic
materials are limited to Sand-tempered Plain ceramics. Structural remains identified
included two post molds associated with Level 91.
Operation C-1 was situated west of B-1 on a platform feature on Complex I, just
east of Mound 1. Operation C was excavated to a depth of 3.16 meters below surface and
terminated 0.10 meters below the water table in Level 95. Excavations revealed nine
stratigraphic zones comprised of a fine sand and shell matrix containing varying quantities
of cultural material. The deepest zone is characterized by a predominantly oyster deposit
capped by a thin layer of surf clams in Level 93. Both of these deposits were devoid of
cultural material. Between Levels 93 and 88, five distinct stratigraphic zones were
encountered and three more zones were encountered between Level 88 and ground surface
at Level 63. A possible fire pit was encountered in Levels 89 and 90.
Belle Glade and Sand-tempered Plain pottery was recovered from Levels 63-88,
representing the upper three stratigraphic zones. Below this depth Belle Glade Plain
pottery was not found, but Sand-tempered Plain sherds were recovered from Levels 88
through 93. Other notable artifacts include a shell dipper with an associated stone bead in
Throughout the excavations of C-l, high quantities of bone were recovered
compared to the excavations of A-i, A-2, and B-1. Of further interest is the fact that the
deer bone represented elements above the tibia, including teeth, mandibles, scapulae, and
vertebrae, a noticeable contrast compared to the deer elements recovered from the
Operation A units on Mound 4.
Operation D was situated at the west end of Water Court 1 at the base of Mound
3. The surface of this unit was situated only a few centimeters above the high tide line
and thus the unit was located in the UTZ. This unit was initiated in the hope of
evaluating the potential for the preservation of highly perishable remains such as plant
fibers and carved wood.
Operation D was excavated to a depth of 0.74 meters below ground surface, but no
distinctive stratigraphic variability was evident in the unit profile. In general, the matrix
was comprised of a rich organic muck with cultural inclusions. Temporally diagnostic
materials included Sand-tempered Plain and Glades Tooled ceramics.
Operations E-l, F-1, G-l, H-l, I-1, J-1, and K-1 were excavated on the summit of
Mound 2 on a rise situated centrally along the southern flank of the mound above the
central canal. These units were excavated to an average depth of 0.78 meters below
surface with a minimum depth of 0.59 meters below ground surface in Operation 0-1 and
a maximum depth of 1.04 meters below ground surface in Operation F-1.
Stratigraphically these units were varied and complex. A plow zone impacting the
upper 0.10 to 0.15 meters of each unit was the only zone that could be definitively
identified in each of the seven units. Stratigraphic zones were characterized by a fine
sand and/or shell matrix with varying quantities of other cultural inclusions. Structural
remains comprised of living floors and/or post molds were encountered in five of the
seven units (see Table 2). Of particular note was a square post mold encountered in
In some of the living floors, characterized by organically rich fine sands with small
amounts of crushed shell and other artifactual remains, the quantity of bone was so great
that their collection from the eighth-inch screens would have compromised time allowed
for excavation. In these cases, in particular Operation F-1-38, bulk faunal samples were
recovered for future analysis.
Artifacts of Native American origin came from all units on Mound 2. The ceramic
inventory includes Sand-tempered Plain, St. Johns Check Stamped, Belle Glade Plain, and
grog-tempered sherds. In Operation H, several notched sherds were associated with a
concentration of perforated ark shell (Noetia ponderosa) net weights, suggesting that the
notched sherds may also represent fishing gear, perhaps sinkers.
Other noteworthy aboriginal artifacts include a copper bead, bulbous stone
plummets or weights, retouched chert fragments, worked columellas, Type C gastropod
hammers, shell spoon/scoops, a small circular shell disk (similar to objects identified as
"mask eyes" by Gilliland [1976:184]), shell and bone beads, bone points, carved bone
fragments (probably pins or points), a barbed bone point, and two specimens of carved
petrified wood and/or bone.
Artifacts attributable to Spanish origin, at least in part, include late seventeenth-
and eighteenth-century majolica pottery fragments, late seventeenth- to eighteenth-century
olive jar fragments, wrought iron nails, glass seed beads, and a lead sinker fashioned like
an aboriginal shell sinker. Depths for Spanish-period artifacts are included in Table 2.
Mound Key is an extremely significant and well preserved site. Cultural materials
from all major pre-contact and post-contact periods known in southwest Florida from 500
B.C. to the present were identified at Mound Key. These periods are presented in Table
The exact extent of the pre-contact components on Mound Key is as yet unknown
due to limited archaeological testing. Radiometric dating was not included in this initial
phase of work. However, based on previous excavations in the Calusa area (e.g.,
Marquardt, ed. 1992) and the preliminary results of this survey, we can infer that portions
of the site likely date as early as the Caloosahatchee I period (500 B.C. to A.D. 500).
This interpretation is based on the observation that inundated archaeological components
were unexplored in Units A-1 and A-2, whose excavated portions could be assigned to the
Caloosahatchee IIA period (A.D. 500-800) based on the artifacts found.
Further evidence of Caloosahatchee I components can be hypothesized for the
deposits in Ridge 12 and the basal portions of Operation C-1 east of Mound 1. In both of
these contexts, Belle Glade pottery, a marker of Caloosahatchee II period deposits, was
Caloosahatchee II period components were encountered in Mound 4 based on the
artifact assemblages from Operations A-1 and A-2. Here the association of Strombus
alatus Type G hammers with Sand-tempered Plain ceramics hints at an occupation dating
to this period.
Table 3. Generalized Chronology for Caloosahatchee Area and Immediate Environs, Based on Summaries by
Cordell (1992), Griffin (1988), and Widmer (1988), updated according to results of recent unpublished work
at the Pineland and Mound Key sites.
Date Period Present at Some Diagnostic Artifacts
Mound Key, Big Mound Key, European artifacts (e.g., metal, beads,
A.D. 1500-1750 Caloosahatchee V Gait Island and Pineland Burial olive jar sherds)
Mounds, Useppa Island
Mound Key, Pineland, John Safety Harbor, Glades Tooled, and
A.D. 1350-1500 Caloosahatchee IV Quiet, Buck Key Pinellas Plain pottery present; Belle
__ Glade Plain diminishes
Mound Key, Buck Key, Gait St. Johns Check Stamped, Englewood
A.D. 1200-1350 Caloosahatchee ID Island, Josslyn Island, Pineland ceramics; Belle Glade Plain prominent
Mound Key, Big Mound Key, Belle Glade Red present; Belle Glade
A.D. 800-1200 Caloosahatchee IIB Gait Island, Josslyn Island, Plain prominent
Pineland, Useppa Island
Mound Key, Cash Mound, Gallt Beginning of Belle Glade Plain and
A.D. 500-800 Caloosahatchee IA Island, Josslyn Island, SPCB ceramics; Glades Red; thinner
Pineland, Useppa Island ceramics
Mound Key, Cash Mound, thick sand-tempered plain pottery, with
500 B.C.-A.D. 500 Caloosahatchee I Josslyn Island, Useppa Island round and chamfered lips
Based on the identification of Caloosahatchee II artifacts, including Belle Glade
pottery, as well as St. Johns Check Stamped pottery, it can be stated that Caloosahatchee
II (A.D. 500-1200) and III (A.D. 1200-1350) deposits are present on the island.
Ceramic markers for the Caloosahatchee IV period (A.D. 1350-1500) include
Safety Harbor and Glades Tooled types. Glades Tooled ceramics were identified over
large portions of the site, including the controlled surface collections at Collection Station
10, Operation D-l, and Operation F-1. There can be little doubt that this period is well
represented at Mound Key.
Caloosahatchee V (A.D. 1500-1750) components are also represented on Mound
Key based on the recovery of diagnostic Native American and Euro-American materials.
Specifically, Jefferson Ware ceramics and the Spanish majolica and olive jar fragments
recovered from the surface collections and on Mound 2 are in sufficient numbers to imply
occupations dating to both the early seventeenth and the early to middle eighteenth
centuries, and a Santo Domingo Blue on White sherd dates to the late sixteenth century.
Previous archaeological information, the historical research of Hann (1991) and
Lewis (1969, 1978), and the research conducted during this investigation all support the
hypothesis that Mound Key was indeed Calos, the capital of the Calusa. If so, it is also
the site of the fort/mission of San Antonio de Carlos, the first Jesuit mission built in this
hemisphere to serve and convert the Indians.
A number of other observations can also be gleaned from our preliminary research.
First, there are at least two burial mounds on the island based on the identification of
human remains. These are Mounds 6 and 7.
The matrix of Mound 7 is characterized by fine sand, with numerous scallop and
small crown conch shells. Belle Glade ceramics were also identified, indicating a
temporal affiliation somewhere between A.D. 500 and 1500. Numerous dippers, all
punctured, were evident over the surface. The mound has been badly disturbed by illegal
Mound 6, previously known as 8LL3, also has been badly disturbed by illegal
digging. Here only Sand-tempered Plain sherds were observed during walkovers. In
contrast to Mound 7, Mound 6 is comprised primarily of fine sand and oyster shells.
Mound 5 is also likely a burial mound based on form, content, and location.
Elmer Johnson, who was born on Mound Key in 1908, indicates that the ridges and
possibly the muck areas of the site were also used as places of burial. More specifically,
he states that hundreds of human bones were unearthed in one of the northerly ridges off
of Complex II and that one burial was encountered during the excavations by May in the
early twentieth century (Elmer Johnson, personal communication, 1994).
Second, contrasting faunal assemblages were recognized in our limited testing.
These may be attributable to the utilization of areas by Native Americans of different
social status. Fontaneda (1944) makes clear reference to high-ranking members of Calusa
society having differential rights to particular food resources. The distinction in deer bone
elements between the excavations in Mound 4 (Operations A-1 and A-2) and Operation C-
1 could also be explained as differential usage of deer bones for tool manufacture.
Similarly, the matrix distinction (oyster versus scallop and crown conch) between Mounds
6 and 7 may have to do with the social status of individuals who-lived on or were buried
in these features, or may be due simply to deposition at different time periods.
Third, evidence of structural remains was identified in eight of the twelve
excavation units. Based on historical records and local informants who lived on Mound
Key, the Euro-Americans who inhabited the island after the contact period did not
construct fences. This information, combined with the stratigraphic associations, suggests
that structural remains such as post molds are attributable to the pre-contact and early
post-contact periods. Furthermore, several of the structural remains are clearly
attributable to Native American origin, indicating that information on aboriginal structures
is potentially available at least for Caloosahatchee periods III through V.
Finally, at the base of Operations B-1 and C-l, below the apparent extent of
cultural deposits, dense oyster shell deposits were encountered. These deposits may
represent a natural accumulation of oyster bars on which the initial occupations of Mound
Key began to accumulate. In concert with the research of Karen Walker (1992), these
deposits and other proxy environmental data available on Mound Key could contribute
significantly to our understanding of environmental dynamics related to sea-level change
and human cultural adaptation in the region (see Walker, Stapor, and Marquardt 1994).
In contrast with the spatially extensive Native American deposits, the Euro-
American components are restricted to the western side of the island. This is not
surprising when combined with the topographical data for two major reasons. First, the
waters on the east side of the island are too shallow to enable boat access in any vessel
other than a canoe, whereas the west side is accessible in most tidal situations to a wide
variety of water craft. Second, the east side of the island is dominated by mangrove
swamps, while 1he western side is higher, facilitating Euro-American land use practices.
During the post-contact period, Spanish access to the eastern side of the island may have
been restricted by the Calusa for spiritual reasons.
The earliest Euro-American components probably date to the first mission of San
Antonio de Carlos established in 1567. A single sherd of Santo Domingo Blue on White
majolica was recovered from the southwestern shore. Numerous other artifacts can be
attributed to this time period, though not exclusively. The evidence in support of the
mission being situated on Mound 2 of the Mound Key site is compelling, though
Surface collections along the southwestern shore suggest that at least this region of
the site was occupied by Euro-Americans in the mid-eighteenth century, shortly after the
demise of the Calusa, if not during this transitional period.
Historical documents indicate that itinerant Cuban fisher folk inhabited the island
throughout the early and late nineteenth centuries and into the Homestead period which
began sometime in the late 1800s. Numerous accounts and documents elucidate the
lifeways and land-use practices of the Mound Key homesteaders, and archaeological
remains of their habitation are extensive.
It is evident from documents, newspaper articles, local informants, and our own
surface evaluations undertaken during this project that extensive amounts of archaeological
material have been removed from Mound Key. Southwest Florida historical materials
collected during the 1890s are curated at the Smithsonian Institution and at the University
of Pennsylvania Museum, catalogued simply as "Punta Rassa." It is likely that these
artifacts came from Mound Key (George Luer, personal communication, 1990), and were
mailed from the Punta Rassa post office, accounting for the catalogue assignment to that
Years of public and scientific surface collection have removed a vast quantity of
"obvious" artifacts from the island. By obvious we mean decorated pottery sherds and
artifacts of precious metals. (One informant, Robert Porter, donated to the Florida
Museum of Natural History a gold bead he had found on the island as a teenager in 1927.
His desire was that it be properly curated and analyzed. And James Kenefick wrote from
Connecticut to inform us of his surface collections and digs on the island in the 1940s.
We are attempting to obtain photographs of Mr. Kenefick's Mound Key collections.)
Even more distressing are the extensive looters' pits that pock the surface
everywhere. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mounds 6 and 7. In Mound 7 there is
a single pit more than three meters square and a meter deep. In all, the open pits on
Mound 7 represent more earth removal than was accomplished during this entire project.
Furthermore, illegal excavations were initiated during our presence on the island and on
three occasions our excavations and decoy reference markers were vandalized.
Nonetheless, the present extent of damage has not destroyed the overall
significance of the site. Mound Key is still one of the best preserved archaeological sites
in the Calusa domain.
The extent of the different components on Mound Key is not known at this time.
The way the site is interconnected by canals, courts, and ridges suggests that it functioned
as a contiguous whole during its zenith. Under these conditions, it makes sense to refer
to the site as a single multicomponent deposit rather than arbitrarily carve it up into a
myriad of spatially limited sites, each with its own state number. How would one
determine where one site ended and the next began?
When the site was first assigned a number in the state files, two small features on
the island were referenced under two separate site numbers, 8LL2 and 8LL3. Today
there is confusion as to which features these numbers refer to. To clarify matters, 8LL3
is definitely the same as Mound 6.
Site number 8LL2 appears once to have referred to a small rise located south of
Mound 1, however the current 8LL2 site file has been enlarged to encompass the entire
island with the exception of Mound 6 (8LL3). As per conversations with personnel with
the State Site File, all future research will utilize the 8LL2 number, including any work
conducted on Mound 6. This will alleviate many headaches in the future, but researchers
should be aware that previous collections from Mound 6 are likely to be listed as site
Recommendation 1. Further research on Mound Key is definitely warranted.
The excellent preservation of this site sets it apart from most sites in the region.
Our data suggest that aboriginal structural remains are well preserved along with
numerous activity areas. Wet site potential is likewise extremely high, and our research
further indicates that data applicable to sea-level fluctuation studies and dynamic models of
paleoenvironmental reconstruction are present at the site. Finally, there are significant
deposits dating to the post-contact period, including Mission, Cuban, Pioneer, and
Mound Key is the high point of Lee County in many ways. Most obviously,
Mound 1 is the highest elevation in the county at 9.79 meters.(32.12 feet) a.m.s.l.
Second, it is widely believed to have been the capital of the Calusa domain. Some
recognize that this also means it was the site where the Spaniards established the first
Jesuit mission to serve the Indians in this hemisphere. Third, it is a symbol of the more
recent past. The homesteaders who worked a living out of the estuary continued a fishing
tradition already many centuries old. The early agricultural and fishing industries
represented on Mound Key are important reminders of Lee County's heritage.
Recommendation. 2. The archaeological site should be better protected and interpreted
than it is today.
The public visits Mound Key frequently. During our five months of research, not
a single day passed without a person stopping to investigate the island. On some days,
over 50 different people would stroll across the path that traverses the island. Because of
this extensive public interest, the State of Florida should take responsible action to protect
and interpret the island.
Primarily because of the unsubstantiated (and in fact refuted) legends of Gaspar the
Pirate, which have been published in such works as Rolfe Schell's book 1000 Years on
Mound Key, extensive illegal excavations have taken place over the site. This
misinformation continues to threaten the irreplaceable archaeological record of Mound
Key. Monitoring of the island by law enforcement personnel is desperately needed.
Considering the vandalism to our equipment and excavations during the project,
and given the high traffic on the island, we recommend that the rebar permanent survey
stations not be marked with brightly colored plastic caps, although this is technically
required by our contract with Koreshan Unity Alliance. This would draw attention to the
markers, and invite their removal. The rebar markers can be easily found using a metal
detector, so it does not make sense to mark them conspicuously.
Recommendation 3. Trails should be stabilized to prevent further erosion and
The heavy foot traffic over the island is exacerbating erosion of the mounds, in
particular Mounds 1 and 2. If Mound Key is to remain open to the public, then the trails
should be secured to avoid continued degradation of the site. If any excavation (e.g., for
installation of steps) is necessitated by such trail improvement, a professional archaeologist
should be on hand to monitor the work and systematically collect and interpret any
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