May 10 Speaker: Dr. Bruce McFadden


The sedimentary sequence in Florida began in the Eocene during the Cenozoic period, which is Earth’s current geological era. The Pleistocene era, commonly known as “The Ice Age,” began approximately 2.6 million years ago and lasted until approximately 12,000 years ago, with megafauna, described as those species over 100 lbs., existing across the peninsula. Prior to the Pleistocene, volcanic activity created a series of islands between North and South America, which eventually coalesced to form the Isthmus of Panama, enabling travel between the continents during what has been termed the Great American Biotic Interchange (GABI).

Fossils of South American immigrants, such as giant ground sloth, glyptodonts, and giant armadillos can be found across much of Florida, including within our own local springs and rivers. Native megafauna such as horses, camels, llamas, zebras, saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, and mastodons roamed the plains of Florida at the beginning of the Pleistocene. In the areas where one can find fossils of tapirs and deer, the local environment is interpreted to have been heavily forested. Swampy areas contained alligators, as is the case in the present-day.

However, as the Pleistocene progressed, the types of megafauna began to diversify as new immigrants to North America, such as the Columbian mammoth arrived from Asia and Africa via the Bering land bridge, which allowed access to new territory approximately 1.8 mya. There are three theories of megafaunal extinction: climate cycles and failed adaptation, resource competition and selection, and the overkill hypothesis. Changing climate cycles could have resulted in the loss of vegetation upon which massive herbivores depended. Pressures on herbivores would, in turn, affect the viability of the carnivore population.

Mastodons and mammoths successfully coexisted across Florida, as their teeth were different, allowing the mammoths to graze on more grassy vegetation and the mastodons to browse on more shrubby vegetation. Once bison arrived approximately 500,000 years ago, and spread out across much of North America, stable isotope studies indicate that several types of grazers at that time, mammoths, horses, zebras, and bison, competed for the same resources--grass. A bison skull from the Wacissa River, with a projectile point embedded in its forehead, dated to approximately 13000 years ago, demonstrates direct interaction between megafauna and humans in Florida. A cast of this skull is on display at the Florida Museum. These topics and much more will be discussed and we hope you’ll join us either in person or by Zoom.

Dr. MacFadden is a distinguished professor at the Florida Museum, is director of the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute, and is a leading researcher in the fields of vertebrate paleontology and evolution. He received his Bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University, with a specialization in paleontology.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 7 pm – 8 pm Eastern Time  IN PERSON: North Port Community United Church of Christ 3450 South Biscayne Boulevard. Our guest speaker, Dr. McFadden, cannot attend in person, but we still plan to meet live and have the presentation projected on the screen for a hybrid/Zoom Live meeting.

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Image: Early Florida hunter stalking a bison, courtesy of The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature

April 12 Speaker: Dr. William H. Marquardt


When Spaniards first arrived, the Calusa, a fishing people, were the most powerful native society in Florida. We now have evidence from Mound Key of mound-building, monumental architecture, large-scale food processing, watercourt use and construction, and the sixteenth-century Spanish fort and mission of San Antón de Carlos. These new findings allow us to refine our understanding of Calusa history and describe how their complex society developed. During A.D.500-1500, periods of overall prosperity were dampened by times of uncertainty when short-term climate changes diminished resources in the shallow estuaries and bays on which the Calusa depended. Involvement in long-distance trade, and competition with the Tocobaga, were factors in Calusa political developments. The Spanish invasion in the early 1500s stimulated further adjustments in Calusa political economy, leading them to become a tribute-based state.

Dr. Marquardt holds the Ph.D. degree from Washington University, St. Louis. He has done archaeological research in New Mexico, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Burgundy (France). He is co-founder of the Randell Research Center at Pineland and from 1985, until his retirement in 2018, was director of the Southwest Florida Project, focused on the ancient domain of the Calusa Indians (present-day Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties). He is the author of books and articles about the archaeology and history of southwest Florida, including Culture and Environment in the Domain of the Calusa, The Archaeology of Useppa Island, and The Archaeology of Pineland (with co-author and co-editor Karen Walker). He is co-author (with Darcie MacMahon) of The Calusa and Their Legacy. He was the curator of the 6,000-square-foot Hall of South Florida People and Environments in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s exhibit facility in Gainesville.


March 8, 2022 Speaker: George Colvin


Although rare, fossil shark teeth from outside of Ohio have been recovered from Ohio archaeological sites and as surface finds throughout much of the state. The source of these fossil shark teeth has been the subject of debate since first published by Squier and Davis in 1848. This debate has centered on the Hopewell culture and its acquisition of shark teeth as “exotic” mortuary items. Through a combination of age, species distribution, frequency of occurrence, and preservation characteristics, southwestern Florida is believed to be the source of most of the Ohio Hopewell teeth, including those from the well-known Scioto River valley Hopewell sites. Recent data indicate that fossil shark teeth were utilized in Ohio prior to and after the Hopewell time frame and from sites outside of the large Ohio Hopewell centers. For these sites, multiple sources of fossil shark teeth appear to have been utilized.

George H. Colvin is a geologist and co-founder of the consulting firm, Cox-Colvin & Associates, Inc. He received a Bachelor of Science in geology from Ohio University and a Masters of Science in geology from Vanderbilt University. George has served as Trustee, Executive Secretary, Vice President, President, and Past President of the Archaeological Society of Ohio. He has researched shark teeth from Ohio archaeological sites for nearly 15 years. He is now an empty nester residing in Plain City, Ohio with his wife, Tsui-Ling, and dog, Boone. He is an active scuba diver and enjoys swimming, biking and running.


February 8, 2022 Presentation


Students from the University of the Bahamas involved in the photo documentation project on San Salvador (Lucayan Guanahani) include (from left to right above), Sanchin Lewis, UB Student, Durnique Bostwick, UB Student; Savanna Dean- Architect with Antiquity Museums & Monuments Corp.; Ebyan Munroe, UB Student; Natecia Taylor, UB Student; Ayoka Seymour, UB Student; and Didacus Uba, UB Student.

With funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), a heritage tourism development project originally scheduled for 2020, was put on hold due to the Covid pandemic. However, with the possibility of funding being withdrawn, six students from the University of The Bahamas rushed to San Salvador in early January of 2022 to undertake recording as many buildings as possible on two plantation sites on the island.

These plantations were studied by Kathy Gerace in the 1970’s, but over the last 50 years, most of the buildings have deteriorated further, and a detailed record of what is there presently was desperately needed to plan for future tourism development on this historically significant island. Besides being the landfall site of Columbus’s 1492 voyage, the island is the site of several large cotton-growing plantations developed by British Loyalists from the southern states after the American Revolution. With the IDB funding, the clearing of nearly 50 years of overgrowth was undertaken, allowing access to two of these plantations, and the ability to obtain a photographic record of the buildings as they are today. The Bahamian students, who resided at the Gerace Research Centre during their stay, will present the result of their one-week work, with photographs of all the buildings, some with video, and others with 3D images. The presentation will also include their suggestions on how these sites can become major heritage attractions for visitors to the island in the future.


January 11, 2022 Speaker: Michelle Calhoun


The lightning whelk is a sinistral (left)-coiling mollusk which can be found along the North American continental shelf from Cape Cod to the Yucatan peninsula. Whelk have morphological differences in their shells depending on their region of origin: Yucatan, the western Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Gulf coast, and the Atlantic. These differences and their implications on sourcing methods will be discussed.

Pre-Contact cultures utilized and traded the whelk’s shells throughout the eastern 2/3 of the United States, Mexico, and southern Canada. The whelk’s sinistral coils held a spiritual significance for many of these cultures, as movement to the left is seen as bringing the world into balance.

Michelle is a 2021 graduate of New College of Florida, who presented her undergraduate thesis research on the gastropod and columella tools from Snake Island, Florida, at our September 2020 meeting. She is now an independent researcher and has expanded her interests to studying the extent of whelk shell utilization throughout North America prior to Contact, and the sourcing of whelk artifact types. 

December 14, 2021 Speaker: Jono Miller


Miller's topic will follow the title of his new book, The Palmetto, Histories and Mysteries of the Cabbage Palm. In his discussion, Jono will address some basic questions about our state tree, basically, everything you always wanted to know about our state tree, such as: Are cabbage palm trees? How long do they live? What is their natural range? How did early Europeans use the cabbage palm and how did Florida Indians and other Southeast Native American groups use cabbage palm? A charred cabbage frond fragment was found on the 27 m ledge at Little Salt Spring in 2008, which dated to 12,300 rcybp, which is almost 14,000 years old! And they go back tens, if not hundreds of millennia.

Jono Miller is the retired former Director of the New College of Florida Environmental Studies Program, his undergraduate alma mater. He is a natural historian and activist with 49 years experience in Southwest Florida. Since 1982, he has exhibited a particular interest in our state tree, the cabbage palm, which resulted in his Master’s thesis: A Humble Vulgar Tree: Explorations of the Natural and Cultural History of the Cabbage Palm, Sabal Palmetto.

November 9, 2021 Speaker: John Whittaker


Florida excavations in 1895 by a pioneering archaeologist produced famous finds of prehistoric art, and an early recognition of a forgotten weapon, the atlatl or spear thrower. We know a lot more about atlatls today, and re-examining Cushing's finds shows some of the problems and promises of reconstruction and experimental archaeology. John Whittaker teaches anthropology and archaeology at Grinnell College in Iowa.  Much of his work has been in the American Southwest, but experiments with prehistoric technology are a favorite source of archaeological information, contact with the public, and fun. He is the author of two books on making and understanding stone tools and modern flintknappers, and coaches the Grinnell College Raging Cows, the world's first collegiate atlatl team. 

John Whittaker teaches anthropology archaeology Grinnell College in Iowa. Much his work has been American Southwest, but experiments with prehistoric technology favorite source archaeological information, contact public, fun. He is author two books on making understanding stone tools modern flintknappers, coaches Raging Cows, world's first collegiate atlatl team.

October 12, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Jeb Card


Archaeologists are depicted as searching for lost cities and mystical artifacts in news reports, television, video games, and in movies like Indiana Jones or The Mummy.  This fantastical image has little to do with day-to-day science, yet it is deeply connected to why people are fascinated by the ancient past. Exploring the development of archaeology helps us understand what archaeology is and why it matters. The trail of clues leading us into spooky territory includes famous archaeologists, self- proclaimed explorers, haunted museums, mysterious hieroglyphic inscriptions, of a lost continent that never existed, the origin of ideas about ancient extraterrestrials, and even a Scotland Yard investigation into magic, murder, and witchcraft.

These ideas don’t come from Hollywood; they come from how humans have tried to understand the past from the earliest ancient Egyptian delvers into ruins to the modern profession of archaeology. If archaeologists want to explain why the past is important to our present, they need to understand why archaeology continues to mystify, and why there is an ongoing fascination with exotic artifacts and eerie practices. 

Dr. Jeb Card is an Assistant Teaching Professor for the Department of Anthropology, Miami University. He holds his degrees from Tulane University (Ph.D. and M.A.) and the University of Pittsburgh. His areas of specialization include Mesoamerican archaeology and archaeology of the colonial Americas, particularly European colonization and its impact on indigenous Americans and their societies, as seen from early sixteenth-century Ciudad Vieja, El Salvador. Dr. Card is also interested in current public and media perceptions of archaeology as being a science of fantastical claims of ancient aliens or lost continents. This is the subject of his most recent publication, Spooky Archaeology: Myth and the Science of the Past (University of New Mexico Press, 2018).

September 14, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Victor Thompson


We welcome Dr. Thompson, to our September 14 Zoom meeting. His topic is of local and familiar interest, the Calusa of Mound Key, Charlotte Harbor, and the bays and estuaries of southwest Florida.

In 1566, Pedro de Menéndez de Aviles arrived at the capital of the Calusa kingdom. During that same year Menéndez issued the order to construct Fort San Antón de Carlos, which was occupied until 1569. We now can confirm what archaeologists and historians suspected, that the location of the Fort, and the capital of the Calusa, was the site of Mound Key, (8LL2), located in Estero Bay in southwestern Florida.

In this talk, Dr. Thompson will present the detailed work their team conducted to find evidence of structures and fortifications associated with the sixteenth century Spanish fort and mission of San Antón de Carlos. In addition, he will discuss the insights that their excavations revealed regarding the broader histories of the Calusa people at Mound Key.

I am an archaeologist who specializes in the application of archaeological science to the study of collective social formations and the historical ecology of wetland and coastal environments. In this work I strive more and more to connect to issues related to community archaeology and the descendent communities whose ancestral lands that I study. I engage globally with scholars who share research interests in archaeological science, as well as island and coastal archaeology. Broadly, my research utilizes approaches derived from collective action, cooperation, political ecology, and historical ecology. Specifically, I seek to understand Native American histories and how these histories experienced ruptures and continuities at the moment of European contact and colonialism. I employ a number of methods in my research including the analysis of monumental architecture, radiocarbon analysis, shell midden archaeology, stable oxygen isotopes, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems. As Director of the Laboratory of Archaeology at the University of Georgia, I am engaged with NAGPRA to make sure that ancestors cared for by UGA are treated respectfully and repatriated to the their descendent communities.