Gathering Shells and Time: A Bayesian Approach to Shell Mound Formation in Southwest Florida

Author(s): Anthony Krus; Victor Thompson

Year: 2017


Archaeologists have longed grappled with how to effectively date shell mound deposits in Florida. Interpreting radiocarbon dates from shell samples has been a dominant method; however, these interpretations have not fully assessed the possibility that radiocarbon samples might not truly date their corresponding archaeological context. For example, recent research on Mound Key demonstrates that shell from middens was likely used to construct shell mounds, therefore the redeposition of old shells further complicates interpretation of the radiocarbon data.

In this paper we critically evaluate the existing radiocarbon samples for shell deposits at two sites (Mound House and Big Mound Key) located on Florida’s southwest coast and use a Bayesian approach to create site chronologies informed by stratigraphic contexts and feature formation processes. The selection of radiocarbon samples at these sites was not taken with a Bayesian approach in mind; however, the available data lends itself nicely to Bayesian modeling. The results address previous conclusions about the timing and span of activity and the suitability of certain shellfish species for radiocarbon dating. Together, the models for these sites and Mound Key provide regional insight into the timing and tempo of shell mound activity in southwest Florida.

Cite this Record

Gathering Shells and Time: A Bayesian Approach to Shell Mound Formation in Southwest Florida. Anthony Krus, Victor Thompson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430495)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14347