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48 Excerpted with permission from Maritime Archaeology of Lemon Bay, Florida, Florida Anthropological Society Publications, No. 14 (Spring 1999) In 1980 I moved to Gasparilla Island. By 1982 I had found an unrecorded aboriginal shell midden on land being cleared for house construction. By 1989 I had discovered six additional aboriginal sites on Gasparilla Island, and two more on adjacent small islands, Hoagen and Sisters keys. Some of these sites date to c. A.D. 800 - 1500 and reveal that indigenous Florida Indians used Gasparilla Island more intensively than previously known. Environment At the end of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, the sea level was lower (approximately 200 feet) and Florida's Gulf coast was about 100 miles west of its present location. By 6,000 years ago, rising sea levels had started to inundate the area that is now Charlotte Harbor. Gasparilla Island is part of a chain of barrier islands at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. The island is of recent origin. Radiocarbon dating of shells from beach-ridge deposits suggests the island is no more than approximately 3,000 years old. An isolated artifact - a chippedstone projectile point or knife (Bolen Plain) made from fossil (silicified) coral -found on the beach by state park ranger Anne Marie Sampley, probably dates to ca. 7,000 B.C., well before the island formed. There is a general trend for erosion and shoreline recession along the western edge of Gasparilla Island, fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Archaeological sites are lacking there, and it is presumed that erosion has removed evidence of early sites that might have existed. In contrast, the eastern shoreline of the island along Gasparilla Sound and Charlotte Harbor is more stable, and a number of sites occur there. No large village sites have been found on Gasparilla Island. Claims by historian Lindsey Williams, that there were Indian mounds at each end of the island in the 1860s are unsupported by my research, which has revealed no shell midden or other aboriginal material in these locations. However, major villages were located on the nearby mainland. Remnants of these can be seen at Coral Creek (8CH15), Catfish Point (8CH9), Big Mound Key (8CH10), Cash Mound (8CH38) and John Quiet Mound (8CH45), all located on the fringe of the Cape Haze Peninsula. Aboriginal Occupation of Gasparilla Island By Robert F. Edic For the Indians, Gasparilla Island offered a variety of natural habitats and resources. The natural habitats can be divided into roughly three zones: the east side of the island with its mangrove bay shores, the west side with its beaches; and the interior with hammocks and savannahs, the latter with fresh water. Some of these habitats probably resembled those of present day Cayo Costa that are described by Herwitz. Modern land alterations have been extensive on Gasparilla Island. In the first two decades of the 1900s a railroad was built down the length of the island, and a deep water port was constructed at the island's south end. The town of Boca Grande began to be constructed at that time. Between 1909 and 1926 a yacht basin and a tidal area known as the "Hole in the Wall" were dredged three times. In the 1930s a golf course was built on tidal mangrove wetlands at mid-island and, in the 1970s and 1980s, remaining lands were platted for development. The above picture was obtained from Florida State Archives. It was described simply as Indian Mound: Boca Grande, Florida and dated 1926. Its location remains a mystery. (bghs 06-0056)


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