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.