Friday, May 8, 2015

Into the Wild

One of our favorite colleagues, Nate Lawres, is out in the field for the next few weeks and offered to send dispatches back to those of us manning the desks so that we could show you, gentle readers, some of the great research happening in the state. Nate is a PhD student at the University of Florida and his research partner, Matt H. Colvin, is a graduate student from the great Anthropology Department at the University of Georgia. Their research holds a lot of promise to broaden our knowledge of monumental earthwork construction here in the state of Florida. Be sure to drop them a note if you have further questions (emails below).

Nate and Matt will be investigating earthworks in the Central/South area of Florida.

Over the course of the next two weeks researchers from University of Georgia and University of Florida will be beginning the first phase of a long-term research project on monumental earthwork construction practices in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades watershed.  The first phase of the project is aimed at understanding the temporality of monumental construction in the region by focusing on the stratigraphic sequences of construction and the recovery of datable materials through minimally invasive methods (i.e., coring, shovel testing, etc.) at multiple monumental sites in the region, including Fort Center (Figure), Big Mound City, and the Lakeport Earthworks (Figure) to name but a few. 

Figure 1. Left: Fort Center site, circa 1949; Right: Lakeport Earthworks, circa 1949. (Note: Red arrows and lines have been added by blog poster to highlight earthworks)

One of the primary methods being used is core sampling.  The cores are 1.2-inch diameter clear sleeves that are hammered to an initial depth of 1 meter, with additional meter-long sleeves that can be added when needed.  The clear sleeves allow a view of the stratigraphic sequence immediately upon removal from the sediment, and when the sediments seem to hold the promise of containing datable materials (i.e., charred botanicals, etc.) the sleeves are easily opened to remove a sample for analysis. 

Figure 2. Left: M. Colvin deploying core; Center: M. Colvin extracting core; Right: resulting core sleeve.

The cores are being strategically taken from different features of the earthworks in order to provide insight into the temporality of construction (i.e., were all features of an earthwork constructed around the same time? was one portion built first and then added to at a much later time?).  This initial data set will provide the researchers with an idea as to whether some of these earthworks were constructed as events or whether they were continuously altered and added to over time.  Additionally, by recovering data from multiple sites it will provide insight into the chronology of earthworks in the region and whether these constructions were temporally contiguous or not.

Over the next few field seasons this project will be creating a regional chonometric data set that multiple (and future) researchers can both draw form and contribute to in order to gain a broader scale understanding of the archaeological record of South Florida.  In the long run it is hoped that this regional data set will contain in-depth analytical details regarding practices of monumental construction, ceramic production, lithic production, material sourcing, and the patterns of movement (including both people and material objects) throughout the region and beyond.

Stay tuned for updates and pictures from the field!

For more information about the project and upcoming results feel free to contact Matthew H. Colvin ( and/or Nathan R. Lawres (

Text: Nate Lawres, Matt Colvin, and Kevin Gidusko
Pics: Nate Lawres, Google Maps

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