Tuesday, December 12, 2023: Dr. Thomas Pluckhahn

Dr. Thomas Pluckhahn

It is a story repeated so often as to be widely accepted as fact: the city of Tampa—and by extension Tampa Bay—take their names from a word for “sticks of fire” in the language of the Calusa. But this is just one of several purported translations of the toponym—and none of these are supported by historical evidence. This talk examines the legends around the meaning of “Tampa” and our fascination with finding a translation for a word that is likely lost to history—along with the language that once spoke the name.

Thomas J. Pluckhahn is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on the archaeology and history of the Southeastern United States, particularly the Gulf Coast of Florida. He has worked at the Kolomoki Site in southwest Georgia, and at Crystal River Site in Florida.