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Early St. Johns II interaction, exchange, and politics: A view from Northeastern Florida

Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange,
and Politics
A View from Northeastern Florida
 
e presence of raw materials and Mississippian artifacts on sites far from
their place of origin speaks of complex interaction networks that con-
nected many mound centers and smaller communities across the greater
Southeast. Natives living along the St. Johns River were clearly involved
in these interregional exchanges, as indicated by the recovery of exotica
from certain sand burial mounds (Moore a, b, ). But north-
eastern Florida still gures almost exclusively in Mississippian studies as a
peripheral area and mere nal destination for exotic items moved through-
out southeastern North America. Even among Florida archaeologists the
tendency has been to treat nonlocal materials simply as trade goods that
loosely linked St. Johns sites in some unknown way to distant places or
peoples. In fact, few eorts have been made to explore the social or politi-
cal aspects of these connections, and those researchers who have done so
simply perceive the presence of exotica in St. Johns II mounds as evidence
of an elite-driven prestige-goods economy (Milanich : , : –
; Payne and Scarry : ; Phillips and Brown : –).
I believe a major reason for the lack of substantive discussion on the
topic has been the paucity of archaeological data from St. Johns II con-
texts other than burial mounds excavated more than a century ago. e
situation, however, is beginning to change as St. Johns II sites have be-
come the subject of recent research and cultural resource management
projects (Ashley , , b, c, ; Ashley and Hendryx
; Ashley et al. ; Dickinson and Wayne , ; Hendryx and
Smith ; Hendryx et al. ; Johnson , , ; Marrinan
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
; Parsons ; Penders ; Rolland , ; Smith et al. ;
unen ). As a result,  radiometric dates from  sites have been
assayed, securely lashing the St. Johns II culture of northeastern Florida to
ca. A.D. –/, making it the regional variant of the Early Missis-
sippi period of southeastern North America. Northeastern Florida herein is
used in a narrow geographical sense to refer to the extreme corner of the
state that includes Nassau, Duval, and northern St. Johns counties. For
the broader St. Johns River basin, archaeologists currently set the start
of the St. Johns II period to A.D.  and extend it into the early Spanish
colonial period (Milanich : ).
What is becoming clear from recent research is that St. Johns sher-
hunter-gatherers of northeastern Florida were among the earliest partici-
pants in Mississippi-period interactions, successfully acquiring exotic raw
materials, high-prole nished goods, and nonlocal cord-marked pottery.
Involvement in these far-reaching networks of contact and communica-
tion evidently wrought settlement and political changes throughout the
St. Johns River basin, as certain communities emerged as major players
in Early Mississippi–period exchange. Most notable were the Mill Cove
Complex and Mt. Royal. In these St. Johns II communities, the imported
trappings of the Mississippian world appear to have served more as items
of mortuary ritual and cultural reproduction that ended their life histories
in communal burial mounds and less as objects of elite power. Focusing on
the Mill Cove Complex and other early St. Johns II communities near the
river’s mouth, this chapter considers old data in a fresh light and draws
upon new archaeological information to address issues of long-distance
contact and interaction, ritual, and the possible role of exotica within the
St. Johns II political economy.
Social Landscape of the St. Johns River Basin
At the twilight of the Late Woodland period, northeastern Florida was in-
habited by a seemingly small number of people aliated with the local
Colorinda culture. By the early tenth century, however, substantial change
was under way, as evinced by the abrupt appearance of St. Johns II sites
throughout northeastern Florida (Ashley : –; Goggin : ,
; Milanich : ). St. Johns II pottery assemblages consist mostly
of St. Johns Plain and Check Stamped wares, along with minor amounts
of incised and punctated types, including Little Manatee and Papys Bayou,
as well as Ocmulgee Cord Marked.
 · Keith Ashley
Discontinuity between the locations of most Late Woodland Colorinda
and later St. Johns II sites suggests a demographic reconguration of the
river basin in which some St. Johns II people from the south relocated
to the north along the lower St. Johns (Ashley ). e St. Johns is a
north-owing river with its headwaters in central Florida and its mouth in
northeastern Florida. What happened to the makers of Colorinda pottery
is currently unclear, but they were likely absorbed into the burgeoning St.
Johns II culture, which would dominate the northeastern Florida land-
scape between the tenth and late thirteenth centuries. is approximately
-year period represents the only time when St. Johns pottery was the
primary domestic and ceremonial ware manufactured throughout the en-
tire St. Johns River basin and adjacent Atlantic coast.
By the eleventh century, two dominant settlement concentrations ex-
isted along the northern third of the St. Johns River (Miller : –),
and each contained a mound center showing the strongest ties in Florida
to the early Mississippian world. e Mill Cove Complex stood out among
the northern settlements in the vicinity of the river’s mouth, while Mt.
Royal commanded the landscape to the south, immediately north of Lake
George (gure .). While St. Johns II sites are known for the -km
stretch of river between the Mill Cove and Mt. Royal settlement clusters,
no large burial mounds dated to the Early Mississippi period have been re-
corded (Ashley : –; Miller : ; Sassaman et al. : ).
In fact, only ve low earthworks in this intervening area have been loosely
assigned to the St. Johns II period (A.D. –), and whether any were
contemporaneous with the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal is unknown.
Figure .. Mill Cove Complex
and Mt. Royal archaeological site
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
e northern site concentration includes  potential St. Johns II set-
tlements (gure .). is is an increase over the nine and  villages re-
ported in previous studies (Ashley : , : –, c: ).
Six are located on the south side of the St. Johns River (including Mill Cove
Complex), and six are situated north of the river. All  include extensive
midden deposits, and  contain a sand burial mound. e two (Du
and Na) that currently do not have a mound probably did prior to
pre-twentieth-century land-clearing activities. Available seasonality data
for the Mill Cove Complex and the Grand Shell Ring (Du) indicate year-
round settlements that likely served as residential hubs or villages (Ashley
: –; Ashley et al. ; Marrinan ).
Hunting, shing, and gathering forays undoubtedly took households or
special task groups beyond mound settlements for short periods of time,
Figure ..
St. Johns II site
locations in
 · Keith Ashley
as evidenced by the presence of small sites located away from settlement
centers (Ashley ). Although a precise understanding of how these var-
ied sites articulated with one another throughout the year currently eludes
us, we do see some distinctive dierences in the structure and composition
of short-term versus more sedentary settlements. e present distribution
of St. Johns II sites suggests a collector strategy of low residential mo-
bility centered on linearly dispersed yet relatively stable settlements (see
Binford : ; Russo a). Clearly, settlement-mound sites were not
vacant centers but loci of domestic habitation, ritual, and interment of the
Subsistence data are abundant and convincingly dene a shing and
shellsh-collecting economy squarely xed on the rich aquatic resources
of the St. Johns estuary and nearby Atlantic coast (Ashley ; Ashley
et al. ; Hardin and Russo ; Marrinan ; O’Steen ; Russo
b: –; Russo et al. : –). In fact, small to medium-sized
estuarine shes and oysters made up the bulk of their diet, along with wild
plants, nuts, and fruits. ough undoubtedly aware of the maize-based
economy of many early Mississippian communities of the interior South-
east, coeval St. Johns II peoples were not agriculturalists or even part-time
maize farmers.
Mill Cove Complex
Of the St. Johns II sites in northeastern Florida, one overshadows all
others because of the presence of the region’s two largest sand mounds.
Separated by only  m, the Shields (Du) and Grant (Du) mounds
highlight what is now referred to as the Mill Cove Complex (Ashley b;
unen ; unen and Ashley ). Each earthwork was grafted onto
a high relict dune along the south side of the St. Johns River, some  km
west of the river’s mouth. e Mill Cove Complex is unrivaled among Early
Mississippi–period sites in Florida in its spatial extent, size of mounds,
number of mound interments, and quantity and quality of exotica. Mt.
Royal (Pu), located  km to the south, however, contained more
nonlocal materials than either Shields Mound or Grant Mound.
Excavation of the Grant and Shields Mounds
e peripatetic and indefatigable mound digger C. B. Moore (b, )
excavated both Shields and Grant mounds in the s. Moore spent more
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
than  days combined at the two mounds and, with the help of local la-
borers, moved considerable amounts of soil. With a height of more than
m and a base diameter of nearly  m, Grant Mound was the taller of
the two Mill Cove earthworks. At the time of Moore’s visit, the northern
side of the mound was eroding into the river, while two low, parallel ridges
extended a short distance south from the mound. In Grant Mound, Moore
(: –) recovered items of steatite, galena, quartz, and mica along
with more than a hundred ground- stone celts and a variety of copper
plates, two long-nosed god maskettes, a copper-sheathed, biconical ear
plug of wood, and other copper-covered artifacts (see Ashley : –
; unen ). Figure . shows the two maskettes as they exist today.
At . m in height, Shields Mound exhibited a more intricate design,
incorporating a platform summit, a short ramp to the north, and a lengthy
causeway and elongated, shhook-shaped approach to the south (see
Moore : ). Moore (: ) unearthed fewer copper artifacts
and stone celts in this mound, but he did recover two spatulate celts along
with quartz crystals, galena cubes, mica, Archaic-looking bannerstones,
and more than one hundred projectile points (see Ashley b: –).
e spatulate celts are depicted in gures . and .. From both Shields
and Grant mounds he reported nding items of local material such as
Figure .. Copper long-nosed maskettes recovered from Grant Mound
by C. B. Moore in . Photograph courtesy of the National Museum
of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution.
 · Keith Ashley
Figure .. Spatulate celt # recovered from Shields Mound by C. B. Moore in .
Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smith-
sonian Institution.
Figure .. Spatulate celt # recovered from Shields Mound by C. B. Moore in .
Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smith-
sonian Institution.
whelk cups, marine shell beads, and other shell artifacts, along with pearls,
shark teeth, and bone pins and implements; some bone, wood, and shell
artifacts were covered with copper foiling.
Within the interior of the two mounds Moore (b, ) observed
colorful layers of clean white, charcoal-laden black, and hematite-impreg-
nated red sands that denoted distinct construction and/or burial episodes.
Hundreds of primary and secondary human burials were encountered in
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
each mound, suggesting that these were continuous-use, mounded com-
munity cemeteries and not mortuary monuments for elites (Ashley :
In terms of chronological placement, the spatulate celts, long-nosed god
maskettes, and biconical ear spool fall rmly in the A.D. – time
frame (Brown et al. : ; Kelly : –; Sampson and Esarey
: –). Moreover, the absence of motifs and Southeastern Cer-
emonial Complex imagery on stone, shell, or sheet copper supports a pre–
mid-thirteenth century date for Grant and Shields mounds (see Brown
and Kelly ; Kelly, chapter , this volume). Finally, seven calibrated
radiometric assays from village contexts at Mill Cove are totally consistent
with a date range of A.D. – (Ashley b: ).
Site Testing and the Distribution of Exotica within
the Mill Cove Complex
For the most part, testing of nonmound areas at Mill Cove has been spotty
and restricted to -cm-square shovel tests and -m-square units exca-
vated during separate, small-scale survey projects (Hendryx and Smith
; Johnson ; NEFAS ; Parks ). e results of these in-
vestigations indicate that St. Johns II refuse deposits and shell middens
cover almost  ha (× m) between Shields Mound on the east and
Grant Mound on the west (gure .). More systematic shovel testing and
limited unit excavations have taken place near each mound (Ashley b;
Hendryx et al. ; unen ). e immediate vicinity of Shields
Mound was marked by a diuse spread of scattered shell and abundant
pottery vessel fragments along with a few localized accumulations of dense
shell midden closer to the mound (Ashley b: –; Ashley c:
). A similar situation might have surrounded Grant Mound, but mod-
ern residential impacts mar a clear understanding of refuse disposal pat-
terns there (Ashley b: –; unen ).
Testing of the village area between the two mounds provided valuable
information on the intrasite distribution of pottery and other craft items.
To date, the only nonlocal items recovered from domestic middens were
small amounts of lithic (chert) debitage, a few chert points (Pinellas type),
and Ocmulgee Cord Marked pottery, all of which appear related to every-
day household activities. ere currently is no evidence of exotic craft pro-
duction at the household level within the extensive spread of domestic
 · Keith Ashley
Figure .. Mill Cove Complex showing location of Grant Mound, Shields Mound, and
Kinzey’s Knoll.
refuse at the Mill Cove Complex. Exotic materials, however, were spatially
restricted to a few conspicuous, mounded shell middens closest to Shields
Most notable was Kinzey’s Knoll, located  m northwest of Shields
Mound, where large amounts of oyster shell, vertebrate fauna, and pot-
tery were piled to a height of  cm during the late-tenth and eleventh
centuries (Ashley b: –). e variety and sheer volume of refuse
suggest activities related to the preparation, consumption, and disposal of
food at Kinzey’s Knoll (Dunbar ; Marrinan ). Fragments of more
than  separate vessels were identied, and the vast majority of sherds
displayed minimal evidence of surface wear and tear, perhaps owing to
limited vessel use prior to discard (Rolland , ). Well represented
are typical St. Johns Plain and Check Stamped bowls along with Ocmulgee
Cord Marked vessels. Sourcing and rering studies indicate that some Oc-
mulgee vessels were imported from southern-central Georgia, while oth-
ers were locally produced (Ashley : –; Rolland : –).
Vis-à-vis other sampled midden loci at Mill Cove, Kinzey’s Knoll exhibited
the highest frequencies of both small and large bowls and greater amounts
of decorated, burnished, and red-slipped wares (Rolland , ). All
told, the number of broken bowls, their size ranges, and the quality and
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
condition of many vessels from Kinzey’s Knoll suggest a special-event
e shell midden at Kinzey’s Knoll also contained other spectacular ar-
tifacts such as a variety of ornate bone pins, pendants, and beads; shell
beads, pendants, and other ornaments; stone projectile points (including
earlier Archaic forms); pieces of copper (both beads and scraps); and modi-
ed shark teeth (Bland ; Penders ). One small point recently has
been identied as a Cahokia Side-Notched, which has been reworked (John
Kelly, personal communication ). It is made of a nonlocal stone, per-
haps Burlington chert from the midwestern United States. In addition,
numerous nonlocal sandstone abraders, possibly associated with craft
(e.g., lithic, bone, or even late-stage copper) production, were recovered.
Hematite in the form of small nodules, ground powder, and residue adher-
ing to certain artifacts and shell was encountered (Ashley c: –).
A greenstone celt fragment with red staining might have been used to
crush iron oxide nodules into powder. In Shields Mound, Moore (b,
) identied deposits and layers of hematite-laden sands, often associ-
ated with human burials. Interestingly, one large piece of bone within the
Kinzey’s Knoll shell midden was positively identied as human.
eir close spatial proximity combined with a striking similarity in
material content suggests a processual link between Kinzey’s Knoll and
Shields Mound in the treatment of the dead. Elsewhere I have posited
that the mounded shell midden at Kinzey’s Knoll reects the by-product
of ceremony, feasting, corpse preparation, and the manufacture of grave
goods and other ritual paraphernalia (Ashley c: –). At present,
whether Kinzey’s Knoll or the summit of the Shields Mound itself (or both)
was the actual scene of ritual activity and feasting is unclear, but the for-
mer obviously represented an appropriate locus for the disposal of refuse
resulting from such activities. Outside burial mound contexts, Kinzey’s
Knoll is the richest St. Johns II deposit excavated to date in northeastern
Florida (and the broader St. Johns River basin).
Communities beyond Mill Cove
Turning to the  other St. Johns II settlements in northeastern Florida,
we can see that all have (or likely had) an associated sand mound, suggest-
ing that mounded cemeteries were an important feature of St. Johns com-
munity layout. Aside from Grant and Shields, all recorded sand mounds
were less than  m in height and all but one (Du) are known to have
 · Keith Ashley
yielded human skeletal remains. Field procedures, extent of excavation,
and level of reporting associated with past mound investigations vary, but
most are deemed inadequate by today’s standards. Because the majority
of excavated mounds were small in terms of size and burial numbers, they
appear to have had shorter use lives (and smaller settlement populations)
than either Grant or Shields. e most intriguing burial earthwork is the
Goodman Mound (Du), which exhibited a high incidence of child buri-
als compared to those of adults, including a centrally located interment
of  subadults (Bullen ; Jordan ). In all,  subadults and three
adults were identied. Drawing on ethnohistoric accounts of local Timucua
practices, Adelaide Bullen () concluded that the interment represented
dedicatory sacrices of rst-born children. Although this “rst-born” in-
terpretation is open to debate, the burial composition and arrangement
does hint at some form of staged event or ritual reenactment.
Most of the smaller St. Johns II mounds subject to excavation have pro-
duced low quantities of exotica in the form of copper, greenstone, graphite,
hematite, or mica. Dug by Augustus Mitchell in , the low and unas-
suming Mitchell Mound on Amelia Island, north of the St. Johns River,
even yielded a spatulate celt similar to those from Shields Mound and Mt.
Royal (Ashley : –; Goggin : plate b). is mound also may
be the same as the “Mound South of Suarez Blu” excavated  years later
by Moore (). Copper appears to be rare in the smaller mounds, having
been documented only for the Mayport Mound. To date, no exotic materi-
als have been reported from nonmound contexts at any of these St. Johns
II village-mound sites, although some chert artifacts (points and akes)
along with Ocmulgee pottery are reported from most domestic middens.
Several potential village sites (e.g., Du, Du, Du, and Du) are char-
acterized by a diuse and variable spread of refuse, with the thickest shell
middens situated close to, and in some instances partly beneath, a burial
mound. ough it is tempting to interpret these middens as the by-prod-
uct of feasting, ritual, mortuary preparation, or other community-wide
events, none has been adequately tested at this time to support such a
Outside the Mill Cove Complex, the most extensive testing to date has
taken place at the Grand site (Du) on Big Talbot Island, some  km
northeast of Mill Cove (Ashley et al. ). e Grand site is a one-of-a-
kind piece of St. Johns II architecture, consisting of a shell ring and sand
burial-mound complex. e shell ring measures approximately  m east–
west,  m north–south, and  m high. A -m-high sand burial mound
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
surmounts its western arc. e intentional deposition of refuse in a large
ring shape is unusual for this time period, and the presence of a contem-
poraneous sand burial mound atop a section of the shell ring seemingly
bestows a degree of sacredness to the area. e complex is surrounded by
an extensive, yet discontinuous, dispersal of St. Johns II middens (Ashley
and unen ).
A -×--m trench was excavated through the southwestern arc of the
shell ring, revealing a complex internal stratigraphy of more than  dif-
ferent zones, areas, and features (Ashley et al. ). Ring strata suggest
the inclusion of both large, quickly piled accumulations of unconsolidated
shell and well-packed layers of shell midden that might have accumulated
gradually with no major hiatus in refuse deposition. Unlike Kinzey’s Knoll
at Mill Cove, no exotica or ornate artifacts of shell or bone were recovered.
Testing outside the ring thus far suggests a settlement consisting of au-
tonomous households dispersed over a broad area, with the Grand shell
ring and sand mound complex serving as the central rallying point and
public arena for both nonritual and ceremonial activities, including mound
burial. However, if the Grand shell ring was the scene of ritual and feasting,
its contents (or at least those from the sampled section) are qualitatively
dierent from those of Kinzey’s Knoll.
Possibly Shields and Grant are so much larger and contain more burials
and more exotica than other St. Johns II mounds in the area simply be-
cause they were used as mortuary repositories over a longer span of time.
In fact, save for the size and material contents of individual burial mounds,
St. Johns II settlements consist of domestic middens containing relatively
similar types and ranges of artifacts and zooarchaeological remains, sug-
gesting that each community produced and traded for its own daily needs,
although they may have been linked ceremonially to the Mill Cove Com-
plex. At present, exactly when and how long each settlement was occupied
is unclear, but it is unlikely that all were occupied at precisely the same
time during the entire A.D. – time range.
e Pull of Mississippianization
Although most southeastern archaeologists set the start of the Mississippi
period at A.D. , archaeological evidence clearly shows that the tenth
century was a dynamic time in which interaction spheres were broad-
ened and key Mississippian traits began to circulate along paths of com-
munication and exchange that had been mostly dormant during the Late
 · Keith Ashley
Woodland period (Cobb and Garrow ; Cobb and Nassaney ; Smith
). But responses to these new ideas and developments were mediated
by cultural traditions, which helped shape the variable and uneven rates
and forms of Mississippianization, or what Cobb (: –) calls the
“pluralistic creation of Mississippian identities.”
With this said, I view the emergence of St. Johns II communities in
northeastern Florida (ca. A.D. ) as an unanticipated and historically
contingent outcome promoted in part by the intersection of a macrore-
gional demand for a locally available resource(s). Today, marine shell is
commonly assumed to have been the foremost item leaving Florida for
the Mississippian world, as discussed below (and see Mitchem, chapter ,
this volume). e pull of involvement in emerging Mississippian exchange
networks as suppliers of shell combined with the small resident popula-
tion at the river’s mouth might have precipitated the relocation of some
St. Johns populations to extreme northeastern Florida to gain regular ac-
cess to coastal resources. Perhaps Mt. Royal had already begun to establish
itself as a regional center fostering emulation.
Involvement in these far-ung routes of contact and interaction should
not be perceived merely as resulting from the centripetal pull of macrore-
gional processes. It also entailed the specic decisions and actions of local
individuals and social groups who actively took part in constructing their
social milieu. One thing is for certain: St. Johns II societies at two strategic
points along the river—Mill Cove and Mt. Royal localities—seized upon
an opportunity in the tenth century to become engaged in long-distance
exchange more successfully than any other groups along the Atlantic coast
during the Early Mississippi period.
Patterns of Contact and Exchange
Once avenues of communication and exchange were established in north-
eastern Florida, with whom were St. Johns II communities interacting (di-
rectly and indirectly)? Nonlocal items such as copper, stone, galena, and
mica reveal links to the north, and a connection upriver (south) to Mt.
Royal also is undeniable. In fact, similarities between Mt. Royal and the Mill
Cove Complex are so strong that the two appear to have shared aspects of
culture, technology, and mortuary ritual (Ashley : ; Moore b:
–). Ocmulgee Cord Marked pottery of southern-central Georgia is
found on almost every St. Johns II site in northeastern Florida (typically
accounting for between  percent and  percent of the St. Johns II pottery
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
assemblage). Neutron activation analysis and sherd rering studies dem-
onstrate that cord-marked sherds from northeastern Florida include both
trade wares and local copies, virtually indistinguishable from each other
except at the chemical level (Ashley : –; Rolland : –).
e stunning similarity between trade and local wares has been used to
suggest that Ocmulgee potters may have married into St. Johns II com-
munities to cement social alliances (Ashley : ). Ocmulgee pottery
has been recovered from both sacred and secular contexts in northeastern
Florida, and it also is present in midden deposits at Mt. Royal.
Taking a bird’s-eye view of the Southeast, we can see that Ocmulgee
hunter-gatherers were situated between northeastern Florida and Macon
Plateau, which was the dominant early Mississippian chiefdom in the Deep
South at the time (gure .). Lake Jackson to the west had yet to reach
its regional and interregional prominence (Marrinan, chapter , this vol-
ume; Payne ; Scarry ). It does not seem too large a stretch to
assume that Mill Cove and Mt. Royal had connections to Macon Plateau,
Figure .. Broad view of the greater Southeast.
 · Keith Ashley
particularly given that St. Johns pottery and marine shell have been found
at Macon Plateau (Fairbanks ; Richard Vernon, personal communica-
tion ). Some of the exotic rock, mineral, and metal that found its way
to Mill Cove could possibly have come from, or at least passed through, Ma-
con Plateau. Of particular interest here are the spatulate celts from Shields
Mound and Mt. Royal, which might have a southern Appalachian origin
and very well may have come directly from Macon Plateau (see Pauketat
Beyond Macon Plateau, the recovery of certain Early Mississippi–pe-
riod items such as copper-veneered, wooden biconical ear plugs and long-
nosed god maskettes from Grant Mound points to connections with the
American Bottom and the Cahokia polity (Grin : ; Kelly ;
Kelly and Cole : , ; Sampson and Esarey : –). e
recent identication of a Cahokia Side-Notched point from Kinzey’s Knoll
(Shields Mound) provides additional evidence for involvement in the Ca-
hokia sphere of interaction. Moore (b: ) also recovered what ap-
pears to be a Cahokia Side-Notched point from Mt. Royal. Results of trace
element analysis of more than  copper artifacts from Grant Mound and
Mt. Royal tie the metals to sources in both the Appalachian Mountains and
the Great Lakes region (Goad : –).
Links to groups to the west are less obvious but still present. Gulf coast
pottery types, identied by their nonlocal paste characteristics, occur in-
frequently on some St. Johns II sites (Rolland : ). Spiculate-tem-
pered Papys Bayou, Little Manatee, and Sarasota Incised wares are found
in mounds and middens in the Florida Gulf coast region, but whether these
are tradewares or local reproductions is unclear (Goggin : ; Willey
a). It is quite possible that inspiration for the various St. Johns Incised
and Punctated wares is rooted in the Weeden Island pottery tradition of
the Florida Gulf coast (Mitchem, chapter , this volume). Interaction with
Early Mississippi–period groups to the west in the panhandle of Florida is
uncertain, although Goggin (: ) mentions that a “few” Fort Wal-
ton–like sherds have been recovered from “larger river and coastal sites.”
e St. Johns River would have provided northeastern Florida natives with
direct access to groups to the south and indirectly to the west and the Gulf
coast. Finally, the recovery of two queen conch (Strombus gigas) shells from
the Grant Mound in the late s shows that St. Johns peoples also were
able to acquire materials from far southern Florida.
e importation of copper and other exotica suggests that local materi-
als left northeastern Florida as part of exchange, alliance, and/or gifting
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
networks. If we widen the geographical scale out from the St. Johns River,
we see no sites in Florida or Georgia during Early Mississippi times with
as much copper as Grant Mound and Mt. Royal. Even Macon Plateau has
yielded little copper to date, and the metal also is sparse at early Mississip-
pian sites along the Apalachicola River drainage (White et al., chapter ,
this volume). Moreover, the metal is conspicuously absent on sites along
or near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, in areas that encompass the natural
range of marine shells such as whelk, olive, and marginella. While shark
teeth, pearls, yaupon leaves, bird feathers, and other nondurable items
very well may have gone out of northeastern Florida, marine shell is likely
to have been the principal export, given its ubiquity along the coast and
popularity among Mississippian peoples (Ashley : ).
Marine shell was greatly desired among Mississippians of the greater
Southeast, as evidenced by the sizeable numbers of artifacts made from
it, particularly beads, found on interior sites situated great distances from
ocean waters. Several archaeologists have implicated Florida communities
such as the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal in tracking marine shells
from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to the interior Southeast (Ashley :
–, a: –; Brown et al. : ; Milanich : –;
Mitchem b: –, chapter , this volume; Payne and Scarry :
–; Phillips and Brown : –). A major artery for the transpor-
tation of shell (as well as traders, questers, and other emissaries) out of
Florida during the Early Mississippi period was through northern penin-
sular Florida, either along the Alachua Trail or the intracoastal waterway,
then through the Ocmulgee territory into Macon Plateau, and then per-
haps onward to Cahokia.
Clearly northeastern Florida natives proted from the popularity of ma-
rine shells among Early Mississippi–period societies. At present, however,
there is no evidence of specialized or centralized production of shell arti-
facts for exchange. Based on their common association with local burials,
shell bead production was likely embedded in the domestic economy, and
shell procurement, along with the collection of other coastal resources such
as pearls and shark teeth, could have been subsumed within the course of
daily subsistence activities (see Brown et al. : ). Whole shells could
have been collected from the beach following intensive storms and tidal
surges, while usable fragments would have been ever-present along the
seashore. Most shell appears to have left Florida in raw form. In sum, an
amalgam of dierent kinds of social relations, engaged at local, regional,
and macroregional levels, seems to have embodied St. Johns II life.
 · Keith Ashley
Politics of Exchange
How might we begin to interpret the above information within the context
of the St. Johns II political economy? According to conventional think-
ing, St. Johns II societies received copper and other exotica in nal form
via down-the-line exchange as part of some local prestige-goods economy.
ere is no doubt that the residents of Mill Cove, as well as Mt. Royal to the
south, were major consumers of exotica during the Early Mississippi pe-
riod. Many pieces of copper along with artifacts of nonlocal rock/mineral
ended their long journeys and life histories in St. Johns II burial mounds
(Ashley : , : –). Obviously, mortuary interment was the
ultimate destination for most exotica in St. Johns II society. But I believe
we should refrain from always interpreting nonlocal grave goods as life
possessions reective of an individual’s wealth and social standing within
society (King ). At this time, we cannot rule out the possibility that
some grave goods were communally owned inalienable objects, gifts for
ancestors, or props within mortuary displays or performances, particularly
in light of what appears to be a staged burial of infants within the Good-
man Mound.
Our rened chronology for northeastern Florida places St. Johns II
communities such as Mill Cove and Mt. Royal at the forefront of incipient
and early Mississippian interaction networks during the late tenth through
twelfth centuries. Possession of nely crafted and potentially hard-to-ob-
tain display goods such as long-nosed god maskettes and spatulate celts
underscores the vital role Mill Cove and Mt. Royal played in Early Missis-
sippi–period exchange. Of the seven known pairs of copper long-nosed god
ear pieces, three have been taken from sites in the American Bottom (Kelly
: –). e others have come from locations on the periphery of the
Mississippian world: Aztalan in Wisconsin, Spiro in Oklahoma, Gahagan in
Louisiana, and Grant in Florida (Williams and Goggin ).
Robert Hall (: –, : –) draws a link between depic-
tions of the long-nosed god and a semidivine Winnebago hero known as
Red Horn or He-who-wears-human-heads-as-earrings (Kelly, chapter ,
this volume). It further has been suggested that the maskettes were part
of an adoption ceremony that forged kinship relationships “between the
powerful leader of a large polity and his political clients in outlying areas”
(Duncan and Diaz-Granados ; Hall : ; Pauketat : ).
us, Mississippian chiefs may have gifted these items directly to St. Johns
representatives as part of an adoption or alliance ritual that bonded them
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
as exchange partners. St. Johns communities perhaps were the primary
brokers of shell and other coastal resources to early Mississippian chief-
doms such as Macon Plateau and Cahokia—an alliance that required direct
diplomacy rather than down-the-line movement of certain exotica.
A pivotal region along the northward route into the Mississippian world
was the Ocmulgee territory, which was positioned squarely between north-
eastern Florida and Macon Plateau. Ocmulgee hunter-gatherers, who oc-
cupied the area encompassing the conuence of the Altamaha, Ocmulgee,
and Oconee rivers of southern-central Georgia, may have served as inter-
mediaries or at least provided unencumbered access through their terri-
tory, in eect easing the ow of St. Johns peoples, goods, and informa-
tion between the interior Southeast and the Atlantic coast (Ashley :
). However, ndings of recent stable-isotope analysis of a small skeletal
collection from two sites in the Ocmulgee-Blackshear region of southern
Georgia suggest that if these riverine foragers were acting as go-betweens
they were not receiving and consuming identiable amounts of corn or
marine resources as a result of their interactions (Tucker ).
Regardless of the specic roles held by the participants, direct interac-
tions between St. Johns II communities and Ocmulgee foragers are evi-
denced by the presence of Ocmulgee Cord Marked pottery in St. Johns II
contexts. Strong similarities between local copies and actual tradewares
suggest the relocation of some Ocmulgee potters (women) to St. Johns
II communities, perhaps a result of marriage alliances (Ashley : ,
: –). Ocmulgee pottery served everyday uses in St. Johns com-
munities, as demonstrated by its presence in domestic middens, but the
ware also played a role in display and serving in public ceremonies, such as
at Kinzey’s Knoll near Shields Mound. Households may have contributed
Ocmulgee pots to feasts or other presentations to convey publicly their
family’s link to a distant place or to Ocmulgee allies. Hinterland visitors
also might have brought nonlocal pots directly to the site. In any case, it
is clear that Ocmulgee pottery was pervasive within St. Johns villages and
integrated into sacred and secular realms of life.
e nature of participation in long-distance trade systems is fundamen-
tally tied to how labor is appropriated at the local level (Cobb ; Saitta
, ). e recovery of copper plates and other exotic artifacts from
large St. Johns II mounds has led some researchers to infer social inequali-
ties based on some form of prestige-goods economy (Milanich : ,
: –; Payne and Scarry : ; Phillips and Brown : –).
Within a prestige-goods model, elite power stems from their control over
 · Keith Ashley
access to exotic goods/raw materials, items awarded high value through
elite manipulation and gained only through external trade (Frankenstein
and Rowlands : ; Peregrine ). Exotica within such economies
serve as sumptuary goods and sources of power that bring to life and jus-
tify the superior social standing of those who possess them. Such display
goods are then circulated among elites to establish and preserve social al-
liances at various geographical scales. Elites possessing prestige goods are
able to appropriate surplus labor and goods to fund their own political
agendas. As such, prestige goods are instruments of power (or symbolic
capital) that allow the exploitation and control of others (Bourdieu ;
Saitta ).
I disagree with past interpretations that consider exotica in local
mounds evidence of a St. Johns II prestige-goods economy. Mere posses-
sion or even control of the distribution of exotica by elites does not auto-
matically translate into power over surplus labor and goods, as stipulated
in prestige-goods models. In addition, a tendency of prestige-goods models
is to conate all exotica under a single category and treat them in an un-
dierentiated manner that suggests they were equally valued and served
the same roles (Lessure ). However, ethnographic research indicates
that dierent kinds of social valuables are used in myriad ways and carry
dierent meanings (Cobb ; Peregrine ; Saitta ).
ere is little doubt that exotic materials such as copper, mica, and
greenstone were highly valued mortuary goods among St. Johns II so-
cieties, because nonlocal materials occur in the largest and smallest of
mounds. eir distribution across northeastern Florida suggests they were
almost exclusively consumed in burial mounds and to a lesser extent in
special “middens” (e.g., Kinzey’s Knoll) adjacent to burial mounds; the lat-
ter have been interpreted as the by-product of public ritual rather than the
domestic refuse of elites (Ashley c; Marrinan ; Rolland ).
e virtual absence of copper, mica, ground stone artifacts, and nearly all
nonlocal items (save for lithic points and Ocmulgee pots) in any village
area throughout the region is remarkable. e same situation has been
observed at Mt. Royal (Ashley a). us, the treatment and exhibition
of copper and other exotica appear to have been conned to communally
sanctioned arenas of group interaction and performance such as public
feasting, ritual staging, and mound burial (Ashley c: ).
Our understanding of St. Johns mortuary practices is derived largely
on the basis of evidence from Grant and Shields mounds, both excavated
more than one hundred years ago by Moore (b, ). Because of
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
his methodological and reporting deciencies, we cannot say much about
mound population demographics, the role of exotic materials or grave
goods during each specic burial episode, or how individual interments re-
lated to one another in time and space. We do know that St. Johns mortu-
ary customs included both primary and secondary burials; the latter often
contained multiple individuals. Despite the inadequacies of Moore’s work,
some general statements about St. Johns mortuary practices are possible.
At Grant Mound, Moore (: , ) reported that primary burials
“largely predominated.” Furthermore, he stated that “most burials were
without accompanying relics when found [and] that shell beads, usually
unassociated with other objects, were the most frequent tribute to the de-
parted.” Stone celts, of which he recovered , “occasionallyoccurred
with bones. At Shields, most burials showed “an unnatural juxtaposition”
indicating that secondary burials predominated (Moore : ). It is un-
clear whether Moore’s frequent references to nding “few human remains”
mean intentional partial representation of bodies or the by-product of dif-
ferential skeletal preservation. ough this is open to alternative inter-
pretations, the impression I get is that nonlocal grave goods in these two
accretionary mounds at times occurred in association with primary burials
but more frequently were placed near secondary interments or in contexts
unassociated with human remains (Ashley : , n).
Some items such as shell beads may have been personal possessions,
whereas others may have been associated with social or clan position. It is
worth noting that not all potentially wearable items were worn at death,
because such items appear to have been placed apart from the body. is is
especially true of the rectangular and square copper “plates,” often found
covered or wrapped in either bark or vegetal ber (Moore b: ,
: , ). Perhaps these objects were not regalia but pieces of far-o
lands destined for the spirit world. e history of these objects and the
journey they made bestowed them with power, and sending them to the
spirit realm may have helped restore or maintain cosmic order.
Considering available St. Johns II settlement, craft production, and
mortuary data, I am more inclined to see a t with some form of communal
political economy rather than support for institutionalized distinctions
between elites and commoners (Ashley : –, : –). e
latter comes more into focus in the sixteenth century, as corn becomes a
dietary component and warfare becomes a facet of Timucuan life in north-
eastern Florida (Hann ; Milanich ; Worth a). But we must
keep in mind that inequalities exist within a communal political economy,
 · Keith Ashley
as certain individuals may have beneted in their role as exchange broker,
ritual specialist, or other communal functionary. In fact, Saitta (: )
argues that a communal political economy does not necessarily deny in-
stances of exploitation but only requires that “most of its surplus labor is
collectively produced and distributed.” us, my endorsement of a com-
munal political economy for Early Mississippi–period St. Johns II societies
in no way means I am labeling them egalitarian.
In attempting to interpret the St. Johns II political economy, we also
need to consider their domestic economy. Midden data paint the St. Johns
natives as generalized foragers in tune with the daily rhythm of life in an
estuary and salt marsh environment. Fishing was the dominant subsis-
tence activity, followed by shellsh collecting, hunting, and gathering. e
ubiquity and richness of coastal habitats appears to have hindered the abil-
ity of local leaders to assume direct control over food supplies and means
of production, meaning each community was economically autonomous
(Ashley : , : –). From a material culture standpoint,
their tool kits were not ashy and are mostly recognized by informal bone
and shell tools. In fact, their shell tool assemblages pale in comparison to
those of the Calusa of southwest Florida (Marquardt c; Walker ).
Pottery consists of a limited range of bowl forms of various sizes (Rolland
, ). Stone tools are typically infrequent in midden context but,
when recovered, include small Pinellas arrow points and/or chert debitage.
e rather basic quotidian material assemblage (at least in terms of
nonperishable items) contrasts dramatically with the kinds of artifacts
found in mortuary-related contexts. Exotica, stone points (including nu-
merous scavenged Archaic types), smoking pipes, shell and pearl adorn-
ments, ornate bone pins, iron oxide (nodules and powder), and unique
ceramic vessel forms (or freak wares, as C. B. Moore termed them) occur
in sand burial mounds. Interestingly, bottle forms are completely lacking
in St. Johns mounds. Again, because many of these same materials along
with large amounts of food remains and at least one human bone frag-
ment were recovered from Kinzey’s Knoll, it seems reasonable to conclude
that graveside feasting, mortuary preparation, and ritual acts involving
the handling of more elaborate items were part of the burial interment
process at Shields Mound. In other words, the use and display of exotica
and uniquely crafted items was compartmentalized within St. Johns soci-
ety and restricted to ritual and mortuary contexts.
At present there is no evidence for nonmound burials dating to local St.
Johns II times (A.D. –), suggesting that all deceased were aorded
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
burial in a sand mound. e monumentality of Grant and Shields mounds
made them important features of the St. Johns cultural landscape. It has
been speculated that burial mounds served as shrines dedicated to ances-
tors, those who had died recently as well as those dead for decades or even
centuries (Buikstra and Charles ). As such, these visual edices were
daily reminders of community and common history, not monuments for
rulers or elite families. In this light, sand mounds paid homage to dead
kin, and the periodic nature of mortuary ritual provided recurrent op-
portunities to venerate and rearm ties to their ancestors and claims to
the land (Buikstra and Charles : –). Death and ritual were public
events as the deceased were laid to rest in a corporate repository. It is true
that the dead were treated in dierent ways in St. Johns mounds, since
some individuals were buried in the esh shortly after death, while others
went through a lengthy process involving deeshing and disarticulation.
However, what such mortuary dierentiation meant socially to St. Johns
people is still unclear.
I propose that by the early years of the Mississippi period, St. Johns
II communities had become enmeshed in exchange networks, thereby
broadening the geographical extent of social relationships necessary for
cultural reproduction. Essential to the process of social reproduction at
this time was the maintenance of long-distance social relations and the ac-
quisition of objects from far-o and potentially dangerous places. Exotica
might have been conveyed directly to St. Johns representatives to create
or maintain social alliances. In such a context, exchange, or more appro-
priately gifting, serves to bind individuals or communities in relationships
of reciprocity and shared indebtedness (Mauss ; Sahlins ). While
immediate payback of a gift is not expected, a bond between the parties
is maintained as long as each fullls the alternating role of giver and re-
ceiver. e nature of early Mississippian life in the interior Southeast and
in northeastern Florida brought these distant communities together in
relationships of social importance to each.
Once accepted into St. Johns life, exotic materials assumed a commu-
nity-wide role in mortuary activities and rituals geared more toward the
promotion of group identity and solidarity than the manifestation of the
coercive power of elites (Ashley : , : ). e objects, in this
view, became physical markers of community success within networks of
social relations that covered great distances. In the end, however, these cul-
turally valued objects invariably came to be deposited in communal mortu-
ary mounds, perhaps because no living person was worthy of possessing
 · Keith Ashley
them. Exotica might have been oered or gifted to the ancestors to secure
their favor. Perhaps in some instances individuals who played important
roles in St. Johns society served as emissaries responsible for taking ex-
otica (now imbued with culturally specic meaning and signicance) to
the land of their ancestors. ough the objects were leaving the world of
the living, they were cementing a connection between the living, their an-
cestors, and the land. By placing exotic materials in burial mounds, the
natives were intentionally taking them out of active use and circulation,
thereby creating a continuous need to secure replacements through ex-
change, diplomacy, or perhaps pilgrimage (questing). e reproduction of
society required constant work and negotiation of social relations beyond
the salt marshes and estuarine waters of northeastern Florida.
At the Mill Cove Complex, the presence of two large, contemporaneous
sand mounds, each replete with human burials, implies organization with
two social groups (Ashley c: ). In moieties each division often as-
sumes certain social, ritual, or political responsibilities that must be car-
ried out for the benet of the broader community. While Moore’s (b,
) excavations at Shields and Grant mounds yielded the same catego-
ries of artifacts, dierences in the quantity and quality of certain materials
stands out. For instance, copper was far more prevalent in Grant Mound,
and nished pieces such as biconical ear spools, long-nosed god maskettes,
and repoussé plates were either lacking or absent in Shields Mound. While
more than  ground stone celts were taken from Grant, Shields pro-
duced far fewer, but included the only two spatulate forms. Shields also
yielded more than one hundred projectile points, many of which were large
Archaic forms, whereas Grant contained only . An interesting aspect of
the Archaic points from both Grant and Shields is that the majority ex-
hibit far less evidence of retouch than is displayed on similar point types
found on Archaic sites, suggesting that St. Johns II populations were pref-
erentially selecting symmetrical and idealized forms of older lithic points
for ritual and mound burial (Wilcox : –). Finally, primary burials
were more common at Grant, while secondary burials were more frequent
at Shields. ough these dierences might represent nothing more than
sampling bias, the possibility exists that distinct ceremonial obligations
were maintained by two social groups and that specialized rituals neces-
sitated distinct materials, highlighting the fact that not all display goods
are the same.
A common practice in corporate societies is the mobilization of labor
and goods for public ceremonies and construction projects that draw
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
members together in community-avowing endeavors (Blanton et al. :
). In the St. Johns case, mortuary ritual and interment in a communal
cemetery would have operated to establish and reinforce social ties be-
tween the living and dead and to promote a shared community identity
through nonexploitative means. It further provided an important context
for the mobilization of labor beyond kinship ties in St. Johns II societies.
But we must keep two things in mind. First, even in communal societies
not everyone participates or shares equally (Saitta , ). Second, a
communal political economy is a dynamic sociohistorical manifestation
consisting of kinship denitions, social positions, and religious ideology
constantly reproduced and contested through negotiation. In other words,
we should not assume that the communal structure of St. Johns II society
was static and free of internal challenge to the communal ethic during the
period A.D. –.
Over its span of occupation, certain individuals or families at Mill Cove
(and Mt. Royal as well) certainly may have attempted to use their strategic
positions as communal elites to widen the social gap and assert more ex-
ploitative social relations (Ashley : ). In the absence of direct au-
thority over the means of production, the potential for “power over” often
lies in the control of exotic exchange and ritual knowledge and ideology,
although such control is inherently tenuous because of the vicissitudes of
long-distance relations (Cobb ; Pauketat ). Such actions would
have required elites to manipulate communal symbolism and meaning
embodied in exotic goods in order to uphold exploitative relations. In all
likelihood any attempts to usurp societal constraints certainly would have
been countered to some degree by the general populace, who would have
resisted any eorts at exploitation (Ashley : ).
Communal ritual, while drawing members of society together, can also
contain the seeds of alienation and provide a stage where certain individu-
als or groups attempt to use these events for personal power construction
(Emerson : ). Quite possibly, those ritual specialists invested with
the storage and handling of ceremonial paraphernalia and esoteric knowl-
edge, supported voluntarily and needed by the general populace, were the
ones most likely to promote change in social order and redene the cul-
tural meaning of display goods. Under certain historical conditions, some
communal elites in St. Johns communities may have attempted just that.
e ability of Mill Cove Complex residents to host pan-community
events on a regular basis would have enabled them to secure an advan-
tage in social and political relations. us, the most potentially opportune
 · Keith Ashley
context in which to challenge community ethos in St. Johns II societies
would have been ritual settings at the Mill Cove Complex, the same public
arena used to integrate society. St. Johns II social groups (e.g., clans, moi-
eties) may have been ranked higher with respect to roles assumed during
high-prole rituals, which drew a measure of distinction to them. Even
if this ranking was ceremonial and not equivalent to “power over” in ev-
eryday life, such a hierarchical structure provides a fracture that, through
manipulation, could potentially develop into relations of obligation and
institutionalized social inequality (Knight : ).
Such dierential participation in St. Johns life undoubtedly brought
friction and constant negotiations between aspirant elites and the general
populace over extent of control. Although temporary episodes of success
on the part of particular elites (lineages or clans) may have occurred at
Mill Cove (and Mt. Royal), attempts to transform communal politics and
ideologies into exploitative tributary relations appear to have been unable
to take hold in the face of a stronger communal political economy. Present
evidence points to a decentralized regional economy, meaning that each
village controlled its own internal and external operations, which would
have worked against attempts by individuals or kin groups at the Mill
Cove Complex to gain regional hegemony (Ashley : ). us, the
Mill Cove Complex served as a regional ceremonial and ritual center, host-
ing a variety of events of a social and political nature (Ashley c: ).
As such, it likely assumed a dominant and inuential status among the St.
Johns II villages of northeastern Florida, but it was not the capital of a
complex chiefdom.
In the end, St. Johns II societies in northeastern Florida were unable to
sustain themselves as historical circumstance changed the macroregional
landscape. eir involvement in Early Mississippi–period interactions ap-
pears to have waned with the decline of Cahokia and the fall and abandon-
ment of Macon Plateau, which brought about the proliferation of smaller
rival chiefdoms across the Southeast. Such events may have set into mo-
tion shock waves that disrupted existing interaction networks and social
alliances, creating conditions that St. Johns II societies in northeastern
Florida could not overcome, leading them to abandon (or at least depop-
ulate) the far corner of the state and move upriver by A.D. –.
By this time, the major artery for the ow of shell and copper and other
Early St. Johns II Interaction, Exchange, and Politics: Northeastern Florida · 
materials into and out of Florida appears to have shifted to the Florida
panhandle. Within two centuries or so, however, the introduction of corn
farming and the shift from long-distance trading to territorial raiding cre-
ated a volatile landscape that appears to have fostered stronger social di-
vides and institutionalized inequalities, characteristics of the contact-era
Timucua encountered by the earliest Spanish and French interlopers.
I would like to thank Nancy White, Vicki Rolland, and Je Mitchem for
their valuable comments on this chapter. I also appreciate John Kelly’s
insights on Cahokia. Nichole Bishop helped draft several of the gures,
and I thank her. Finally, gures .–. are used with the permission of
the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.
... The three Hontoon carvings seem to be part of the same artistic tradition, and it has been suggested that they are contemporary, perhaps even carved by the same individual or workshop (Purdy, 2007:61). Given the wide range of the abovementioned radiocarbon date for the Owl, this would place them within St Johns II, an archaeological period seeing Mississippian influences in northeastern Florida, and raises the possibility that the carvings were part of the elaboration of mortuary rites found at this time (Ashley, 2012;Ashley and Rolland, 2014;Milanich, 1994:269-272). But it is also possible that they have a far greater time depth, and are instead related to the Late Woodland tradition of moundbuilding and the erection of wooden effigies seen at Fort Center in southern Florida (Sears, 1982). ...
... Together with the stylistic differences between the Hontoon and Fort Center carvings, this suggests that these were completely independent traditions, though future findings may extend their chronologies. On present evidence, the origins of the monumental wood sculptures at Hontoon/Thursby, beginning with the Owl, may be related, even if indirectly, to the impact of Mississippian influences, well documented not far to the north (Ashley, 2012;Ashley and Rolland, 2014;Milanich, 1994;Moore, 1999). ...
Highlights •14C results for four east-central Florida carvings (Hontoon Island; Tomoka State Park) range ca. AD 1300-1600, spanning the proto-historic/historic periods •87Sr/86Sr results for two of the three Hontoon carvings are consistent with the immediate locale, while the third suggests a different provenance •Pinus sp. was used at Hontoon, while Peltophorum sp., currently not native to Florida, was used at Tomoka
... Residents of Mill Cove and Mt. Royal were consumers of foreign goods and raw materials that concluded their long travels and use lives in St. Johns mortuary or ritual contexts (Ashley 2002(Ashley , 2012Ashley and Rolland 2014). In the past, researchers typically assumed that these exotic items made their way to northeastern Florida through either down-the-line or direct trade between mound (nodal) centers, although these two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive (Brown et al. 1990;Milanich 1994:269;Payne and Scarry 1998:42-48). ...
Full-text available
No area along the far edges of the Mississippian world is as remote from Cahokia as northeastern Florida. But objects of possible Cahokian derivation, though limited in number, made their way to this distant locale The most compelling material evidence in Florida for any kind of connection to Cahokia comes from the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal along the St. Johns River of the northern peninsula. Situated about 100 km from one another, these two fisher-hunter-gatherer communities were recipients of copper and stone artifacts that likely originated in the American Bottom, some 1200 km away. The overall geographical distribution of Cahokian styles and artifacts enmeshed varied internal and external processes and flows that encompassed exploration, migration, diaspora, trade, and politics. While no evidence exists for a Cahokian outpost or diaspora as far south as Florida, the presence of American Bottom artifacts along the St. Johns River could have involved more than the stock answer of simple down-the-line-exchange. This essay explores issues of long-distance travel, direct contact, knowledge seeking, object biographies, and diplomacy among peoples from these geographically disparate locales.
Full-text available
A large focus of Mississippian period archaeological research concerns itself with the role groups have played in the long-distance social exchange networks prevalent across the Mississippian World. The Mill Cove Complex, a Mississippian period (A.D. 900-1250) village and dual sand mound burial complex situated on the periphery of the Mississippian World in Jacksonville, Florida is one such case. The St. Johns II people living at the Mill Cove Complex had connections deep into the Mississippian southeast reaching all the way to Cahokia. Understanding the role of these unique people within the large social networks requires an examination of all archaeological material recovered from the site. The lithic assemblage from modern excavations (1999-present) is the final missing component in building this understanding. This lithic typology, based upon macroscopic and geochemical analysis, provides the final foundational set of data required for future research necessary to gain a more complete view of the St. Johns II people and their role in Mississippian long-distance social exchange. It lends insight into local community practices as well, highlighting the importance of lithic raw material in ritual use, illustrating direct connections with Cahokia based upon the presence of projectile points from the American Bottom, and demonstrating the resourcefulness of a people who overcame a lack of raw material within their geographic area through the maintenance of social networks and conservative use and maximization of procured stone resources.
Full-text available
The Mill Cove Complex is an early Mississippi period settlement and mortuary center situated near the mouth of the St. Johns River, Florida. The complex consists of habitation and ritual middens, earthen causeways, and the Grant and Shields mounds. Although situated on the outskirts of the Mississippian world, residents of Mill Cove acquired exotic artifacts and raw materials from far-flung areas of eastern North America, including Cahokia. Focusing on a special event or ritual midden known as Kinzey’s Knoll, this chapter explores social memory and the use of pieces of the past in ritual at Mill Cove.
Full-text available
This study integrates disparate geographical areas of the American Southeast to show how studies of Early Mississippian (A.D. 900-1250) interactions can benefit from a multiscalar approach. Rather than focus on contact and exchanges between farming communities, as is the case with most Mississippian interaction studies, we turn our attention to social relations between village-dwelling St. Johns II fisher-hunter-gatherers of northeastern Florida and more mobile Ocmulgee foragers of southern-central Georgia; non-neighboring groups situated beyond and within the southeastern edge of the Mississippian world, respectively. We draw upon neutron activation analysis data to document the presence of both imported and locally produced Ocmulgee Cordmarked wares in St. Johns II domestic and ritual contexts. Establishing social relations with Ocmulgee households or kin groups through exchange and perhaps marriage would have facilitated St. Johns II access into the Early Mississippian world and enabled them to acquire the exotic copper, stone, and other minerals found in St. Johns mortuary mounds. This study underscores the multiscalarity of past societies and the importance of situating local histories in broader geographical contexts.
Full-text available
In an article published in this journal in 1986, I critically reviewed models of the emergence of the Calusa social formation in southwest Florida. An interdisciplinary project that I hoped would provide detailed information with which to refine those models had just begun, so at the time there were few substantive results. In subsequent years, detailed data gathered by an interdisciplinary team have helped improve the models and also provided some surprises.
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