This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Diana Penkiunas: Okay, our next presenter is Julie Bird, who will be speaking on landscape versus discontinuous district Florida dugout canoes. Julie Bird is the senior archeologist at the Florida Bureau of Archeological Research Division of Historical Resources. She earned an MA in Anthropology at Florida State University in 2011 and a BA in Anthropology at Wake Forest University in 2005.
Julie has worked for a cultural research management firms, the Indiana Historical Bureau, Tallahassee Community College, and the National Parks Service. Currently, her research focuses on identifying spatial patterns and Florida’s dugout canoes to better understand how prehistoric groups use rivers and navigable chains of lakes for transportation. Welcome Julie.
Julie Byrd: Thanks for inviting me. I’m honored to be here among you guys. I don’t have to tell you that Florida’s home to the largest concentration of dugout canoes in the world. The national significance of these resources is uncontested. Due to the sheer sample size, the dugouts represent the oldest direct evidence of water craft. In addition to significance, there’s agreement that the fragile organic artifacts are worthy of preservation. The department states conservation lab has created numerous canoes over the years and crafts more telling private citizens repeatedly paid out of pocket for peg or spent their free time delicately unwrapping and wrapping slow drying canoe.
There’s an agreement that Florida’s canoes are significant on a world wide scale and worthy of preservation. Why then are only a fraction of the hundreds of dugouts from Florida listed on the National Register of Historic Places? I argue that restrictive National Register categories mirrored by research questions with limited breadth have reduced the number of canoes nominations from Florida. I combat both problems by reframing research questions and more practically, by first exploring solutions in two NR categories, the dis contiguous district and the landscape.
More of Florida’s canoes are not recognized collectively it seems because Florida’s canoes are physically scattered and not all individual canoes have the potential to answer research questions. Canoes are recorded as archeological sites and therefore people assume the nomination category will be site, even when a district or a landscape might be more appropriate. This hurdle mirrors a problem in canoe research where analysis and documentation focuses on single canoes within constricted areas or specific time periods. Listed in 2001, the Piphlochoko canoe site otherwise known as Newnan’s Lake, was nominated as a site with national registry boundaries much smaller than the archeological site boundaries.
The Piphlochoko canoe site is the world’s densest concentration of canoes in a single lake. The site’s not adequately represent the full distribution of Florida’s dugouts which span 6000 years of maritime navigation in lakes, rivers, creeks, and the ocean. One underlying problems is that most canoe sites are just in fact a single artifact, the canoe. Canoe recording, much like other boat recording, has been highly focused on methodology and data collection from the vessel itself. Methods include detailed sketches, thin sections of wood, radio carbon dates and a concerted effort to stabilize the artifact. Because recording methods often lack peripheral vision, even site level interpretations of canoes focus on the boat.
A single artifact and it’s objects recognized as archeological sites, Florida could individually nominate many of our four hundred and twenty three canoes. An individual canoe may establish the earliest direct evidence of watercraft in the western hemisphere. One unfinished canoe may illuminate canoe manufacturer methods. An archaic period boat with a port or projecting bow, might single handedly overturn the notions some researchers used to hold about the uni-linear nature of canoe typology.
This information is important, and site level research and individual nominations are sometimes appropriate, but to recognize only individual significance of Florida’s canoes, would be to miss an opportunity to use the largest sample size of log boats in the world. I argue that collectively, Florida’s four hundred and twenty three dugout canoes hold exponentially more information potential. To recognize the significance of all of Florida’s canoes, there are two options: The discontiguous district and landscape.
I’ll briefly consider each with respect to with respect to the Florida data setting. Quote, “For scattered archeological properties, discontiguous district is appropriate when the deposits are related to each other through cultural affiliation, perioperative use, or site type”. Covering forty one of Florida’s sixty seven counties, dugout canoes are dispersed and spatially discrete. The space between canoes does not diminish the significance of resources comprising the district. As a discontiguous district, Florida’s canoes are related to each other through site type rather than cultural affiliation or perioperative use.
As defined, a district must quote, “Possess a significant concentration, language, or continuity of sites”, end quote. As the densest concentration of canoes in the world, the canoe district would exist state wide. Recognition as a district comply that all of Florida’s canoes represent a unified entity, even though they are dispersed across a large geographical area. As NPS defines it, a cultural landscape is a geographic area, including both natural and cultural resources that’s been influenced by, or reflects human activity.
This definition is broad enough to encompass areas of canoe use and about anything else, but it stresses physical features and ignores the cognitive aspects of other landscape definitions. More specific to prehistoric boats and navigation routes, a Maritime Cultural Landscape is quote, “The whole network of sailing routes”, which for canoes, would be the river and transportation network of interconnected lakes and waterways. Unlike a dis contiguous district, a Maritime Cultural Landscape includes old as well as new routes. Meaning the now out of use transportation routes can be considered.
Canoes have become isolated on the modern landscape as some water ways are no longer navigable due to national water fluctuations and man-made alterations. Last, the ports and harbors along the coast, from the villages near canoe concentrations, fall within the landscape. Superficially, discontiguous district seems to be a more appropriate fit for Florida’s canoes. The National Register definition for landscape currently focuses on physical elements, not cognitive constructs supplied by physical elements.
Most of Florida’s canoe sites lack the classic associated features of a port. Almost no canoe sites have associative docks or physical evidence of interface between the water and the land. Many canoe sites probably lied adjacent to villages or campsites. The most adjacent uplands are un-surveyed. So no sites have yet been identified.
Whether their a district nomination or a landscape nomination, canoes fall under criteria that have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history and pre-history. What is the information that Florida’s canoes might collectively yield? And should the nature of the information influence the category of recognition? Dominant canoes is a discontiguous district held together by site type and separated in spaces imply that we are analyzing canoes site by site.
What if it is the spacial relationships themselves that yield the important information? Recent research suggests that the information potential for Florida’s dugout canoes lies not in the discreet objects, but rather in the association of canoes with navigable water bodies. Despite the lack of associated villages and ports of this association and context for the important information in pre-history and history, it follows that one might use a Maritime Cultural Landscape to recognize the context rather than a discontiguous district to recognize the site type.
For the past three years, my agency has digitized the dugout canoe files, transforming a physical filing cabinet into Microsoft access database and GIS. Digitization enables you to build a filter by one of over fifty variables such as time period or bow shape or wood type. It was my assumption that by isolating these variables, we may begin to understand them better and perhaps realize the potential of previously collected metrics. Thin sections of wood, radio-carbon dates, and in some cases associated artifacts and sites. But previous syntheses of Florida’s dugouts are already manually isolated variables.
For example, Newsome Queries 1990 morphological typology. Another synthesis and reevaluation ten years later, we learned that Allen overturned the teleological concepts within this typology by focusing on our Capier canoes from a single lake. We learned as colleagues isolated archaic period canoes from the rest of the sample, made differences, not technological changes every time. Somewhat ironically, despite the arduous journey of separating all the canoe data into seventy four fields, our recent research on canoe distribution suggests that looking at the entire data set rather that picking out one or two canoe features, can capitalize on the information of potential dugouts.
Therefore it’s not the database and GIS’s power to isolate variables that’s provided most insight, but it’s ability to compile all the data in one digital location, zoom out, and infer broad patterns by asking big anthropological questions. I found that the most important anthropological information potential for Florida’s dugouts lies not in the measurements and the wood samples from the boats themselves, but in deliberate consideration of overall canoe distribution in space and time. Analyzed together with consideration of the spatial distribution across Florida in the temporal span of six thousand years, canoes have the potential to answer research questions bigger than site specific research.
Big questions I’m ready to ask, are now that we’ve established that canoe morphology does not indicate chronological typology, what do different canoe shapes indicate? Are canoe shapes functionally different, or are shapes indicative of stylistic changes? If stylistic, can we begin to make inferences about canoe use within social groups or geographic culture areas? Geographically, how do Florida’s prehistoric populations map on landscapes of rivers and lakes as demonstrated in dugout canoes and do prehistoric populations and historic period groups use navigable rivers in the same way, or can we learn that from dug outs?
Archeologists aren’t ready to answer all these questions through dugout canoes, but we’re ready to answer one two part question. Is the spacial distribution of Florida’s dugout canoes nonrandom, and if not, does human behavior explain the pattern? First, distribution of canoes and space is nonrandom. The majority of canoes comes from the lakes district in North Florida, never mind for a moment that one fourth of the entire canoe sample comes from a single lake. These observations do not require GIS as University of Florida researchers drew this conclusion twenty five years ago. But does human behavior explain the pattern?
In 1990, Newsome party argued that the excavations from the nonrandom distribution did not lie in pattern team and behavior, but instead in one, environment’s conducive to preservation, and two, researcher bias. Which I might add, just meant proximity to the University of Florida. In their own words, Newsome and party wrote that the distribution was quote, “More of a function of geology and hydrology that a reflection of the greater cultural importance of the dug out in the North Central Highlands.” I disagree and argue that human behavior does explain the nonrandom spacial distribution.
Although, researcher bias and preservation play roles in shaping the canoe data set, look to other factors that may play a part. Mainly geographic distribution, favoring edges of basins, or what I call drop off points, and major transportation interchanges. We call these areas transit points or places where a river base cultural area meets the outer world. In interest of time I want to explain the entire drop spot hypothesis, representing specific analysis of the data, and I won’t even describe the ethnic historic evidence we have for canoe caching.
Instead, I’ve chosen to use four simple examples of canoe concentrations to illustrate my point. These four sites, Piphlochoko, Strickland’s Peat Bog, Lake Hollingsworth, and Lake Trapp, represent the four largest canoe sites in Florida. Notice that the first two examples are in the North Central lakes region, but importantly, the second two are in Central Florida and South Florida. I concur with Newsome and party that the lakes region is of paramount significance, but let me show you why I’ve concluded that the concentrations of canoes in the lakes district reflects the areas cultural importance as a major interchange connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico.
First I should orient you on Florida’s natural landscape. Florida is a central ridge which acts like the continental divide. Rivers West of the ridge drain to the Gulf of Mexico while rivers East of the divide drain to the Atlantic. To oversimplify. Everglades used to have a prehistoric extent that looked somewhat like this. Florida has nine major basins, three drainage directions and three hundred and fourteen plotted prehistoric and historic canoe locations. Each of Florida’s four largest canoe concentrations sits at the edge of two drainage basins near the headwaters of a river.
First example is Piphlochoko. The densest site, with a hundred and one canoes. It’s now called Newnan’s Lake, used to feed into a once wet plains prairie, which is connected to Orange Creek, and eventually fed into the Saint John’s River. Saint John’s, which flows Northward, ultimately flows into the Atlantic Ocean, just ten miles to the North East by overland travel is Lake Santa Fe, which flows into the Santa Fe River, meets the Suwanee River, and ultimately flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Where the concentration of canoes at Piphlochoko lie, are relics on the North Eastern shore with the closest point to the interchange of transportation to the Gulf of Mexico. I’m proposing that people dropped canoes here, cached them, intentionally left them, traveled overland and reached essentially the other coast by intentional travel. Second, Strickland’s Peat Bog, is also near Lake Santa Fe.
Located approximately ten miles to the North East. With nineteen canoes, it’s the second largest canoe concentration from Florida. Strickland’s is situated on the Western edge of Saint John’s river basin connected to the Atlantic through creeks that fed into the Saint John’s.
Less than ten miles by overland travel is Lake Santa Fe, which feeds into the Santa Fe river and reaches the Gulf through the Suwanee River. Again this concentration of canoes is situated in a critical natural environment. At the same Gulf to Atlantic junction, yet Strickland’s represents a different interchange because although Piphlochoko and Strickland’s Peat Bog are only twenty miles by overland travel, over river travel they’re over a hundred and twenty five miles apart. Strickland’s may represent the North Saint John’s junction while Piphlochoko represents the middle Saint John’s station.
This major interchange is even easier to see when all the canoes are mapped. That’s the canoe concentration that Hardy and Newson saw in nineteen ninety before we knew about Newnan’s Lake. Note that the canoe locations are not within the Saint John’s Basin, they’re not within the Suwanee basin, but the concentration lies at the interface between the two.
The third largest canoe site is Lake Hollingsworth with fourteen canoes, located at the very Northern extent of the Peace River watershed. Lake Hollingsworth connected to Lake Hancock, which flows into the Peace River, and eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Less than five miles by overland travel is the Owl of Fire River which connects to the Gulf. Also less than five miles from Lake Hollingsworth is Blackwater Creek which flows to the Gulf via the Hillsborough River.
Lastly, in South Florida is Lake Trafford, site for canoes. Lake Trafford is located at the Western most extent of the historic everglades and at the head waters of the Colusahatchie Beach. This historic view within the everglades is from geo reference Army Corps of pre-drainage maps. Everglades reach the Gulf, they reach the Keys, and the Atlantic. Lake Trafford lies at the headwaters of Corkscrew Swamp, which flows through the imperial, to the Gulf of Mexico.
Summarized, the distribution is nonrandom and it can be explained by human behavior. The natural landscape influenced human use in the cultural landscape as a controlling of the natural environment.
Location of Florida’s most dense canoe sights at the beginnings and ends of navigable waterways indicates important landscapes used as transportation interchanges. These interchanges create linkages between river routes and overland routes representing a physical interphase between the water and the land. Relying on cultural geography, identified interchanges is critical transit points and a great cross space in transportation network. From this perspective, the natural landscape, the orientation and location of rivers within what is now Florida, influenced human interaction and use of this landscape.
The cultural landscapes that emerged and persisted overtime, have the potential to help archeologists and historians recreate specific ancient mental maps. Thus the mental imprinting of mapping of functional attributes of the environment, or cognitive landscape, is large in a canoe distribution that shows specific spatial connections. These spaces became places on the mental map existing only because the location was embedded with cultural meaning. Nonrandom distribution in space is repeated and mirrored over time. In an effort to make accurate and specific statements about canoe use, researchers have tended to separate the data set by time period.
Such as Kindar’s nineteen eighty three conclusions about Mississippi canoes 2003 archaic period canoes. Normally archeologists viewed outlined dates as a problem. We probably need to recondition ourselves, at least from the case that canoes are viewed such dates not as problematic, but as evidence for continuity abuse. The largest canoe sites are all multi component. Radio carbon dates from Lake Trafford range from fourteen twenty BP to two hundred and fifty BP. Canoes from Strickland’s Peat Bog dated between a thousand BP and three hundred and twenty BP and Piphlochoko canoes ranged from forty two ten BP to four sixty BP.
Ultimately canoe sites are important because they indicate a tradition of usage and further evidence that middle maps exist and persist. Canoe sites have long time spanned for evidence of quote, “Well used havens and routes”, which implies that a cognitive landscape is so real and so important to central places on the mental map remain relevant generation after generation. Place names like Piphlochoko, meaning place of many long boats, demonstrate the importance and persistence of places over time.
Seventy percent of the boats at Piphlochoko are archaic. If the place name comes from Nikalo language as recorded at contact. A long tradition of use demonstrates that generation after generation learn that Piphlochoko, Trafford’s, Strickland’s, and Hollingsworth were places important enough to incorporate into the cognitive landscape. Summarized, canoes significant and worthy of preservation were typically studies site by site or canoe by canoe. Some of Florida’s canoes hold information on an individual scale, but at a large scale, Florida’s canoes hold collectively answers to bigger research questions such as, does human behavior explain the nonrandom distribution of canoes?
The densest canoe concentrations in the world could be viewed as either discontiguous resources in a district, whereas elements of the landscape, more specifically a Maritime Cultural Landscape incorporating a cognitive aspects. Preservationists are left with a choice between the two categories. I regard the source of canoe significance as influential in making this decision. In other words, that scale of significance relates to the category of nomination. Response to big research questions identify full Maritime Cultural Landscapes and Florida’s canoes. These landscapes recognize the significance of the space as a place on the natural landscape and long traditions of usage in addition to the log boat.
Underlying importance of identifying ancient landscapes in concentrations of canoes, the better understanding of cultural geography of Florida’s ancient groups and the realization that log boats are not just static objects scattered across Florida. They were made, used and deposited by humans. Viewing Florida’s canoes collectively as a maritime cultural landscape is the first step in recognizing that the log boats will value beyond the information stored in the carved wood alone and that the contexts, in addition to the objects, are worthy of preservation.