Sponsored by: AIA-Jacksonville Society
Lecture by: Dr. Kenneth E. Sassaman University of Florida
The material record of coastal living along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida continues to be overcome by the water of rising sea. Encoded in this record are clues to the ways that people and ecosystems responded to sea-level rise over millennia. Since 2009, the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey of the University of Florida has been working to salvage vulnerable sites while developing information relevant to future challenges with environmental and social change.
Among the results is remarkable evidence for an enduring ritual strategy to sync human movements to celestial cycles in order to lessen the negative impacts of earthly change. This strategy was materialized in terraformed landscapes of mounds, ridges, and rings, as well as cemeteries and ritual objects that were emplaced at locations of ritual gathering. The social networks created and maintained by annual cycles of gathering enabled coastal communities to relocate landward to places of lesser vulnerability when synchronization among earth, water, and sky was disrupted by events, like shoreline retreat, beyond the social memory of generational or century scale experience. Lessons for our own future with rising sea await our attention in the archaeological record of ancient coastal dwelling.