From Pots to Pits: Ritual Use of Waterbirds on the Northern Gulf Coast of Florida

Author(s): Joshua Goodwin

Year: 2016


The archaeological record of Hopewell cultures of the Eastern Woodlands demonstrates the ritual importance of birds in the form of effigy pipes, copper and mica cutouts, and mortuary vessels. Bird motifs continue to be prevalent beyond the Hopewell period in peninsular Florida, during Weeden Island times (A.D. 200-900), when representations of waterbirds, among other avian taxa, appear on pottery, often in the form of effigy vessels. Because of their ability to traverse worlds—air, land, and sea—waterbirds may have been accorded special significance in Weeden Island cosmology. In this paper I consider the extent to which cosmology goes beyond material representations of birds to involve ritual protocols for the handling and deposition of the skeletal remains of waterbirds. Recent excavations at Shell Mound (8LV42), on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida, yielded hundreds of skeletal elements identified to several species of waterbirds from a single silo-shaped pit feature. Given the spatial and temporal relationship of Shell Mound with a Weeden Island mortuary facility (Palmetto Mound) and the relationship of the faunal contents with recurring iconographic characters of this time period, this paper proposes that the presence of waterbird elements in the context of such pit features represents ritualized deposition.

Cite this Record

From Pots to Pits: Ritual Use of Waterbirds on the Northern Gulf Coast of Florida. Joshua Goodwin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404233)

Spatial Coverage

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