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Archeologists explore Pine Island Calusa mound

By Staff | Sep 28, 2009

The area known as Randell Research Center in Pineland is well known for being the long-time settlement of a Calusa tribe who lived on Pine Island centuries ago and continues to intrigue archeologists. Discovering a total of six mounds in the area known at Brown’s Mound Complex, novice and professional archeologists have spent countless hours digging up information left by the island’s original residents. Most recently, digs were conducted on what is known as Mound 5 located on private property adjacent to the Randell Research Center.
“After some initial complications, we proceeded with our investigation by opening a 2 X 2 meter excavation of the northeast side of the mound,” said Michael Wylde, project researcher from Randell Research Center. “The upper layers held a good deal of historic material in the form of glass spice bottles, majolica pottery, fine china, bottle glass, pearl buttons, animal bones, car parts, nails and other metal objects.”
Remnants such as these are typical in many areas like Pine Island as in the early twentieth century, trash pick-up was not available so unwanted materials were deposited in the manner. While these materials had no connection to the ancient Calusa, digging a little deeper proved to uncover remnants of the island’s early inhabitants.
“After excavating to 40 centimeters from the surface, what looked to be intact Calusa hidden material began to be exposed. Dense shell deposits left from food and tool production, charcoal and fish bones in abundance and a variety of indigenous pottery types have been found,” Wylde said. “Initial examination of the pottery shows a diverse collection of types of pottery from Lake Okeechobee, Tampa Bay and St. Johns River basin as well as locally produced wares.”
According to Wylde, it was not unusual for the Calusa to seek out pottery from other areas well as those produced on the island. Sand-tempered Plain and Pineland Plain, were not the best because of the poor quality of the clays available here.
Wylde also said that they have discovered that by the sixteenth century, the Calusa had established wide-ranging contacts for trade and evidence of that was found on Mound 5.
Wylde said that researchers will resume digs on Mound 5 in November. At that time, the staff at Randell Research will be seeking volunteers to aide them in this important work.
“We will be calling on volunteers to help with this dig, however because of the size and location of the site, space is very limited. But we also will be resuming a salvage job which will require additional assistance in November as well. The salvation work is good for those who are less experienced because it requires a lot less paperwork,” said Wylde. “We also have several events planned at the Heritage Trail this season and will also will be needing volunteers to help with those as well.”
The events to take place at the Randell Research Center Heritage Trail this season include The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival on Oct. 31, the annual 5K Bad to the Bone Run Through History on Jan. 9, Music on the Mounds on Jan. 30 and Calusa Heritage Day scheduled for March 13.
For more information or to become a volunteer, call Randell Research Center at 283-2157.