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50 Map of undeveloped Gasparilla Island in 1860, compared to a 1978 map with location of sites visited by the author. (bghs #06-0049) A narrow stretch at mid-Gasparilla Island, now known as The Narrows, could have provided safe access to the Gulf, either by foot or as a canoe haul-over. In addition, the island's southern end offered the shortest crossing of Charlotte Harbor (only .75 miles) to the north shore of Cayo Costa), thereby facilitating north-south canoe travel. The shell tools and pottery sherds found at the Gasparilla Island sites are the same as ones found on nearby sites around the fringe of the Cape Haze Peninsula. The Indians might have obtained some of their pottery at these nearby sites and then brought them to the island. The similar kinds of shell tools found on Gasparilla Island and nearby sites indicate that the people who lived on these sites were part of the wider community. While encamped on Gasparilla Island, the Indians used surrounding waters for fishing and shell-fishing. The middens hint at this. For example, bay scallop shells at BG#1 show that tidal flats in Gasparilla Sound were exploited. In addition, surf clam shells at BG#1 show that the beach was also utilized. Further analysis of midden contents may help show that the Indians exploited inlets at each end of Gasparilla Island, as well as near-shore Gulf waters. For example, they might have fished for sharks, rays, grouper and sea turtles in the Gulf. They probably caught catfish, trout, redfish, flounder and many other fish in passes and the bay. It also has been suggested that the island's beaches and inlets were sources of robust whelk shells that were transported to more landward sites where they were fashioned into shell tools. Furthermore, Indians on Gasparilla Island probably took advantage of natural events such as freezes or winter storms to obtain fish and shellfish. For example, large numbers of pen shells often are washed up on Gasparilla Island beaches after strong winter storms, and both their meat and their "sea silk," or byssus tufts, are usable.


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