Terraforming a Middle Ground in Ancient Florida

Author(s): Asa Randall; Kenneth Sassaman

Year: 2016


All societies face contradictions between the perception of how the world was in the past or should be in the future, and the material realities of the present. Changing social and ecological contexts are catalysts for intervention by communities hoping to restore or assert structure during turbulent times. Terraforming is one mode of intervention in which large-scale modifications to land reference ancient times, events, and persons to create new opportunities for the future. At the landscape scale, terraforming as historical process reproduces or redirects the relations between communities, ecologies, and cosmologies. Ancient Floridians, for example, engaged in a wide range of landscape modifications to navigate the diverse relations between underworlds, upperworlds, and the day-to-day. Over 6,000 years ago on the St. Johns River, communities deposited shell, earth, and objects in ridges over assemblages of massive pits dug by their predecessors, arguably restructuring the relationships among wetlands, the living, and the dead. Later communities of the Florida Gulf coast constructed mounds and ridges at a time of rapid sea-level rise to redirect their social capital towards landward communities of lesser vulnerability. The “middle ground” of terraforming in Florida was the reconciliation of futures past with the uncertainty of futures to come.

Cite this Record

Terraforming a Middle Ground in Ancient Florida. Asa Randall, Kenneth Sassaman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403613)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;