Hunter Gatherer Research

Shell works

Prehistoric terraformed communities of the Ten Thousand Islands, Florida

Hunter Gatherer Research (2017), 3, (1), 31–63.

Abstract

The Ten Thousand Islands region of southwest Florida contains extensive prehistoric shell midden sites called shell works that comprise some of the largest and most complicated prehistoric shell constructions in the world. These terraformed landscapes reflect a unique prehistoric tradition of shell-built architecture and large-scale landscape construction. Traditionally, shell work sites were considered little more than large midden accumulations formed through the mundane disposal of daily shellfish meals. Over the last decade an ambitious program to survey, map and test multiple shell work complexes challenges this assumption. Comparison of shell work forms throughout the region demonstrates significant spatial, temporal and morphological relationships including several recurring site forms, suggesting settlements were connected communities, sharing similar social, political and ideological characteristics that became manifested within these socially constructed shellscapes over time.

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Schwadron, Margo