Volume 61 Number 3-4
September - December 2008
Table oF ConTenTs
From the Editors 119
Rening the Ceramic Chronology of Northeastern Florida. 123
Reexamining an Archaeological Survey of Big Talbot Island. 133
Keith Ashley and Robert L. Thunen
The Thornhill Lake Archaeological Research Project: 2005-2008. 149
Jon C. Endonino
An Analysis of Seminole Artifacts from the Paynes Town Site (8AL366), Alachua County, Florida. 167
Jane Anne Blakney-Bailey
2008 Florida Field sChool summaries 189
Fas 2008 award reCipienTs 199
William M. Goza. Jeffrey M. Mitchem 205
Arthur R. Lee. George M. Luer 207
Chang-Rodríguez: Beyond Books and Borders: Garcilaso de la Vega and La Florida del Inca. John E. Worth 215
Simmons and Ogden: Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers. Hope Black 216
White: Gulf Coast Archaeology: The Southeastern United States and Mexico. Wm. Brian Yates 217
Morrow and Gnecco: Paleoindian Archaeology: A Hemispheric Perspective. Robert J. Austin 218
About the Authors 221
Cover: (Left) The St. Marys region of northeast Florida, (Top Right) a topographic map of the Thornhill Lake
Complex, (Bottom Right) glass trade beads from the Paynes Town site. See articles for more information.
Copyright 2008 by the
FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY, INC.
reexamining an arChaeologiCal survey oF Big talBot island
keiTh ashley1 and roberT l. Thunen2
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224-2659
Big Talbot Island is a picturesque barrier island located
along the Atlantic seaboard of northern Florida between the
St. Johns and Nassau rivers (Figure 1). Much of the island still
retains its natural allure, owing to the inclusion of more than
1700 acres within the boundaries of Big Talbot Island State
Park. In March 1998 the University of North Florida (UNF)
conducted a systematic shovel test survey of the southern third
of Big Talbot Island (Ashley and Thunen 1999). As a result,
one new and seven previously recorded archaeological sites
were sampled and bounded. Now, a decade later, we return to
the results of the UNF survey and review the ndings from the
perspective of a revised ceramic chronology for northeastern
Florida (Ashley, this volume). Emphasis is placed not on
individual sites per se but on the spatial distribution of shell
refuse and diagnostic pottery types across the southern third
of the island. These patterns are then examined to assess the
nature, extent, and changes in aboriginal settlement of the
southern third of Big Talbot Island during the Woodland,
Mississippi, and Contact-Mission periods. Before turning
our attention to the results of the UNF survey, we provide
an environmental and archaeological overview of Big Talbot
Big Talbot Island: An Environmental Overview
Big Talbot Island lies near the southern end of a chain
of barrier islands that front the Atlantic Ocean from the St.
Johns River, Florida north to the Santee River, South Carolina.
Compared to other islands it is short and curved, measuring
7.1 km north-south and 1.2 km east-west at its widest point
(Figure 2). These barrier islands surmount the continental
shelf, a broad and gently sloping landform that extends
seaward some 110 to 130 km into the Atlantic Ocean before
making a steep descent (Clayton et al. 1992). It is on this
stage that the creation, modication, and migration of barrier
islands has and continues to play out, often in sync with rising
and falling sea levels.
Most Atlantic coastal islands were formed by a
combination of Pleistocene (ca., 10,000 – 2 million years ago)
and more recent Holocene (ca., present – 10,000 years ago)
processes. Sea level uctuations over the past two million
or so years have resulted in multiple, alternating episodes of
rise (transgression) and retreat that have helped contour the
barrier island system of northeastern Florida (Scott 1997:66-
67). Barrier islands are dynamic landforms that grow, shrink,
and constantly change shape and size through the combined
actions of waves, winds, littoral currents, and intensive storms
that erode, transport and deposit sediments (Clayton et al.
1992; FDEP 2004; Schmidt 1997:1). The current rise in sea
level has caused many Atlantic coast barrier islands to migrate
landward in recent times (Johnson and Barbour 1990:431).
This is clearly evident in the northeastern part of Big Talbot
Island, where shoreline erosion has reached the typically
protected interior maritime hammock to form forested bluffs
above the beach (FDEP 2004).
Landform elevations on Big Talbot Island range from sea
level to as high as 6 m above mean sea level (amsl) at “The
Bluffs” on the northern end of the island and at Half Moon
Bluff on its eastern shore (FDEP 2004). On the southern third
of the island, elevations are typically less than 3 m amsl. Big
Talbot Island soils reect the dynamic and changing nature of
the island. Pedological analysis reveals that soils on the extreme
southern and northern ends of the island are “unweathered and
lack a soil prole,” indicating a more recent origin (deposited
over the past 10,000 years) compared to those in other areas of
the island (FDEP 2004). The primary soil type on Big Talbot
Island is Cornelia ne sand (0-5 percent slopes), an excessively
drained soil consisting of thick, sandy marine sediments found
on rises and knolls (USDA 1998:84). Somewhat poorly and
poorly drained soils mark atwoods and other lower-lying
areas on the island.
Big Talbot Island is part of the Nassau River Basin, which
covers approximately 89 river km and 16 square km of estuary
(FDEP 2004:21). The Nassau River, which empties into the
Atlantic Ocean at the Nassau River Inlet, lies immediately
north of Big Talbot Island and Fort George Inlet is to the
south. The Intracoastal Waterway—a mostly estuarine lagoon
system—separates Big Talbot Island and other barrier islands
from the mainland to the west. Mud River splinters off the
Intracoastal Waterway and runs along the southwestern edge
of the island. Simpson Creek abuts the island at several points
along its southeastern edge, whereas the Atlantic Ocean
touches the island along its northeastern coast. Salt marshes
fringe the entire western side and southeastern half of the
island. Creeks and sloughs meander through these grasslands,
which are ooded twice a day and support abundant sh and
The oceanfront consists of wave-deposited upper beach
and wind-deposited dunes aligned parallel to the shore and
separated from one another by swales. Situated on the leeward
vol. 61(3-4) The Florida anThropologisT sepTember-deCember 2008
Figure 1. Big Talbot Island vicinity.
side of the dunes is a coastal strand or salt-tolerant maritime
thicket environment that covers much of the eastern half of the
island (FDEP 2004). The southern third of Big Talbot Island is
mostly maritime hammock. Live oak is the dominant canopy
tree often arching above a oor of resurrection fern. Laurel
oak, cabbage palm, southern magnolia, hickory, and pine are
mixed into the canopy. The subcanopy is marked by red bay
and cherry laurel. However, all red bay trees on the island
are dead having succumbed to the deleterious effects of the
Asian ambrosia beetle. Southern red cedars also are common,
particularly in areas of densely accumulated shell midden
where the calcareous substrate fosters their growth. A variable
density shrub and herbaceous layer covers the forest oor.
Within the area of the UNF archaeological survey,
developmental impacts are limited. Most noticeable is a
limerock covered and periodically maintained roadway
134 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 135
Figure 2. Big Talbot Island survey area.
(Houston Road) that extends south off State Road A1A and
runs down the approximate center of the southern third of the
island. A roadside picnic area with a dirt access road lies along
the southern side of A1A, a short distance east of Houston
Road. Several privately owned parcels also exist along the
western side of Houston Road.
Common wildlife indigenous to the maritime hammock of
Big Talbot Island includes box turtle, gopher tortoise, opossum,
raccoon, rabbit, gray squirrel, gray fox, and bobcat. Though
no populations exist today, it is possible that white-tailed deer
would have been able to access the island from the west in
precolumbian times. The uplands and marshes also provide
important habitat for numerous bird species. Exploitation of
these mammalian, reptilian, and avian species along with the
more abundant sh and shellsh inhabiting the salt marsh and
estuarine waters formed the native’s breadbasket, as evidenced
by the recovery of countless bones representing an array of
fauna species preserved in shell middens dispersed throughout
Archaeological Investigations on Big Talbot Island
In 1894, Clarence B. Moore, a Philadelphian and part-time
mound excavator, approached Spicer Houston about digging
into two Indian mounds on his Big Talbot Island property. The
exact verbal exchange between the two is not known, but Moore
(1896) sums it up in the statement: “This gentleman values the
right to investigate [the mounds] at one thousand dollars and
is still the owner of undisturbed aboriginal earthworks.” The
only information Moore provides on the mounds is that each
was a symmetrical sand mound and that the two were situated
about one-half mile apart on the southern end of the island.
Although John Goggin (1952) never worked on Big Talbot
Island, he did assign site numbers to the two Big Talbot Island
mounds (8DU1 and 8DU2), presumably based on his reading
of the C.B. Moore report.
The rst formal archaeological work on the island was
limited and took place in 1960, when William Jones, a local
avocational archaeologist, began investigating colonial
plantation sites. Three years earlier Jones had identied tabby
ruins on Big Talbot Island and even formally recorded one
historic site (8DU80). On his return visit in 1960 Jones (1988)
examined a series of locations, three of which included tabby
ruins. One of these, the John Houston Plantation (8DU90),
is located within the southern third of the island. Also within
the UNF survey area he examined three “sites with no visible
ruins” that he designated Sites A-C (Jones 1988:9-15).
Most of Jones’s efforts focused on extant tabby ruins
associated with the nineteenth century Houston Plantation
(8DU90) and involved mapping and surface reconnaissance.
No subsurface testing was performed in this area. South of
the ruins, in a location he labeled Site A (still part of 8DU90),
Jones (1988:9) collected “a number of Spanish Olive Jar
fragments…two fragments of majolica and a few San Marcos
potsherds” from the surface of a dirt road According to Jones,
Goggin identied one of the majolica sherds as Fig Springs
Polychrome, which dates to the early seventeenth century. A
1.5 m square excavated adjacent to the road yielded “nothing
of historical value” (Jones 1988:9). Based on the surface
collected pottery, Jones suggested that Site A was the location
of the early seventeenth century visita of Sarabay, a satellite
village associated with the mission San Juan del Puerto on
nearby Fort George Island.
The “second site [Site B] with no visible ruins” was
situated within the roadside park east of the intersection of
A1A and Houston Road. This area previously had been
recorded by Jones as 8DU80 (Big Talbot Island site). A variety
of eighteenth century materials along with 16 aboriginal
potsherds was surface collected, but no subsurface testing
was performed. Pottery included 4 St. Johns Plain, 8 St. Johns
Check Stamped, and 4 grit tempered sherds that suggests a St.
Johns II component.
Another area investigated by Jones was “Site C”
(eventually considered part of 8DU631), which was located
adjacent to a dirt road near the Mud River landing (Jones
1988:13-15). This road, which was in use during Jones’s
investigation, is not part of present-day Houston Road. A
number of historic sherds were found in the soft sand of the
road. Jones excavated a 1.5 m square along the east side of
the road as well as an undisclosed number of shovel tests;
the area also was scanned with a metal detector. The majority
of artifacts dated to the late eighteenth century, and Jones
speculated that the materials might represent a “dwelling
house” associated with one of the ve families mentioned in a
1783 British census. Intermixed with the historic artifacts were
3 San Marcos, 2 sherd tempered, 2 sand tempered, and one grit
tempered sherd. Jones’s (1988) surface survey, limited testing,
and historical research represent an important contribution to
our basic understanding of the island’s history.
In the summer of 1974 Lynn Nidy of the Florida Division
of Archives, History, and Records Management (now the
Florida Division of Historical Research or DHR) visited
Big Talbot Island as part of an archaeological and historic
architectural survey of selected areas of Duval County (Nidy
1980). The objectives of the archaeological survey were to
relocate as many previously recorded sites as possible and to
survey accessible areas along or near the St. Johns River for
the presence of unrecorded archaeological sites. With William
Jones as his guide, Nidy apparently walked the dirt roads and
trails on the southern end of Big Talbot Island and revisited two
previously recorded sites (8DU2 and 8DU80) and documented
ve new sites (8DU627-8DU631). Nidy’s investigation
involved no subsurface testing, so eldwork was limited to
surface inspection. Although spatial boundaries were given
for each site, they were tenuous and apparently based on the
general distribution of collected artifacts and observed shell.
As a follow up to Nidy’s work, Kathy Jones of DHR
returned to 8DU1, which was subsequently named the Grand
site. Nidy certainly visited this site and completed a state site
form, but it is inexplicably omitted from his 1980 report. The
site consists of a shell ring and associated sand mound and is
most likely one of the two sand mounds mentioned by Moore.
Testing by Jones was limited to a single one-meter square dug
into the northern part of the shell ring to gather an artifact and
faunal sample. The unit revealed a 45-cm thick shell midden,
consisting mostly of oyster and clam shells with abundant sh
and turtle bones along with St. Johns II pottery. After formal
nomination, the Grand site was listed in the National Register
of Historic Places in 1975. The Grand site has been the subject
of recent excavation, which has dated its construction to the
St. Johns II period (Ashley and Thunen 1999:33-38; Ashley
et al. 2007).
University of North Florida Survey
Armed with a 1A-32 Archaeological Research permit from
the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and supported
by a Small Category Matching Grant from DHR, UNF
136 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
archaeologists undertook a shovel test survey of the southern
third of Big Talbot Island, an area of approximately 450 acres.
The objectives of the project were straightforward: to locate,
and in some instances relocate, all archaeological sites south of
the intersection of Houston Road and SR A1A and to provide
Big Talbot Island State Park with cultural information, spatial
boundaries, and management recommendations for each site.
Fieldwork took place between March 9 and May 8, 1998.
It was anticipated that, except for an area of poorly and
very poorly drained soils in its southeastern section, the entire
project area would need to be subjected to intensive shovel
testing. The survey began at an arbitrary point (5000N/1000E)
located near the tabby ruins at the Houston Plantation site
(8DU90). A shovel test grid radiated out from this point
along the four cardinal directions. Except for low and wet
areas, a few privately owned parcels, and a historic cemetery,
the project area was tested on a staggered 25-m grid. Four
additional tests were dug north of A1A, outside the project
area, to gather information on the northern extent of site
8DU801. All shovel tests measured 50 cm square, and soil was
screened through 6.35 mm (1/4”) hardware mesh. The volume
of recovered shell from each shovel test was measured in liters
before being discarded, and attempts were made to document
the variety of shellsh species and estimate their frequencies.
Pertinent environmental and cultural data were recorded for
each shovel test.
The UNF survey resulted in the excavation of 550 shovel
tests, of which 351 (63.8%) yielded cultural material (Figure
3). As a result, one new archaeological site (8DU13260) and
seven previously recorded sites (8DU1, 8DU80, 8DU90,
8DU627-8DU629, 8DU631) were located, sampled, and
bounded. The recorded location of a mound (8DU2) Nidy
suspected was one of the two mentioned by C.B. Moore was
relocated, but upon further investigation this particular mound
does not appear to be an aboriginal earthwork (Ashley and
Thunen 1999:38-39). In addition, 8DU630, which was tersely
described by Nidy, was determined to be indistinguishable
from 8DU631, so after consultation with the Florida Master
Site Files the site designation 8DU630 was eliminated in favor
of 8DU631. Finally, a nineteenth/twentieth century cemetery
(8DU1549) was inspected and photographed, but no shovel
testing was performed (Figure 4).
Results of UNF Survey
Ceramic Distributional Analysis
The following distributional analysis is based on the
results of the 1998 UNF survey. The vast majority of artifacts
recovered during shovel testing date to the late precolumbian,
mission, and plantation periods. In fact, no Paleoindian or
Archaic artifacts were found and only a small amount of
material from the Woodland period was recovered. With
regard to aboriginal materials, pottery was the most prevalent
artifact class and provides the best information on when and
where past activities occurred. In fact, nonceramic artifacts
were limited to a handful of whelk tools, 13 lithic artifacts,
and one piece of worked bone. A total of 2397 potsherds was
recovered, of which 1240 (51.7 percent) were larger than two
centimeters and subjected to detailed ceramic analysis. Sherds
identiable to pottery type included Deptford, Swift Creek,
St. Johns II, St. Marys II, San Pedro, and San Marcos series
wares. Those not meeting distinct pottery type criteria were
classied by surface treatment and temper; the later included
ne sand tempered, medium sand tempered, and grit tempered.
Sand tempered refers to sherds with quartz inclusions between
.125 and 1.0 mm in size, whereas grit tempered denotes the
presence of quartz particles between 1.0 - 2.0 mm. Sand
tempered was further subdivided into two size categories: ne
(.125 - .5 mm) and medium (.5 – 1.0 mm).
Table 1 lists and enumerates the various pottery types
from each site, while Table 2 provides basic site information.
Conventional narrative descriptions of these sites can be found
in Ashley and Thunen (1999:31-55). In the following, we will
forego traditional distributional analysis by individual site and
focus on the dispersal of diagnostic pottery types across the
broader sampling universe (i.e., southern third of Big Talbot
Island). In fact, many of the site boundaries are arbitrary and
based on brief breaks in artifact occurrence or denial of land
access. The systematic distribution of shovel tests across the
southern third of the island allows a glimpse into aboriginal
habitation and refuse discard patterns. As depicted in Figure
3, however, some areas were sampled on a 25-m grid, whereas
other locations were tested on a staggered 25-m grid resulting
in a somewhat uneven distribution of shovel tests. But complete
coverage of the survey area was accomplished.
The following discussion is facilitated through the use
of ceramic distribution maps generated by Surfer™ mapping
program. Because of the uneven nature of shovel testing, we
decided not to use ceramic density contour maps since such
plots would have interpolated values between data point (i.e.,
shovel tests) separated by distances of 25 m or more, thus
possibly obscuring the reality of pottery distributions. Thus
we chose to depict graphically sherd weights for each shovel
test by individual pottery types (or ceramic series) and not
interpolate values between them. By focusing on the broader
distribution of pottery we should obtain a better picture of
settlement structure enabling us to identify shifts and infer
land use patterns during different periods of native occupation
of the southern third of the island.
Woodland Period (500 B.C. – A.D. 900)
Diagnostic Woodland period pottery was limited to only
14 sherds, 10 Deptford and 4 Swift Creek. It is likely that
some of the sand and/or grit tempered plainwares associated
with (or recovered near) these decorative types also date to
the Woodland period. With respect to Deptford pottery, two
isolated sherds were found along the west side of the island
(one at 8DU90 and one at 8DU631). The remaining 8 sherds
were recovered from 8DU629 and 8DU13260, on small points
of land that extend into the salt marsh in the southeastern part
of the survey area. The sparse occurrence of Deptford ceramics
on the southern end of Big Talbot Island suggests that Early
Woodland occupations were brief encampments or short-
term procurement ventures that took place between 500 B.C.
and A.D. 200. The same can be said for the Late Woodland
Swift Creek period, represented by 4 sherds sprinkled across a
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 137
narrow east-west band near the center of the survey area that
crosscuts sites 8DU627 and 8DU631. All Swift Creek sherds
appear to be of the late variety suggesting an A.D. 500 to 850
St. Johns II Phase (A.D. 900-1250/1300)
Sponge spicule tempered St. Johns pottery (n=500)
was recovered from all sites, save for 8DU13260. It was the
most common pottery series recovered during the survey,
accounting for slightly more than 40 percent of the total
ceramic assemblage (see Table 1). In northeastern Florida, St.
Johns Plain and Check Stamped pottery, the most dominant
types within the survey area, mark the local St. Johns II phase.
These wares, however, can occur as minority types on early
St. Marys II sites and even later mission period sites in the
region. This opens up the possibility that some of the St. Johns
Plain and Check Stamped sherds, especially those from areas
where appreciable amounts of St. Marys Cordmarked or San
Pedro ceramics were recovered, might date to either the later
St. Marys II or San Pedro phases, respectively. Finally, two
additional pottery types clearly associated with the local St.
Johns II phase include grit tempered Ocmulgee Cordmarked
(n=15) and spicule tempered Little Manatee (n=8). The latter
included zone and shell stamped varieties.
As shown in Figure 5, St. Johns pottery was most prevalent
in shovel tests on the eastern side of the survey area (at 8DU1,
8DU80, and 8DU627) and at the southern tip of the island
(8DU628). While recovered from shovel tests west of Houston
Road at sites 8DU90 and 8DU631, its ceramic density was
markedly less. Within its extensive distribution are several
concentrations containing densely deposited shell, vertebrate
animal bone, and St. Johns Plain and Check Stamped, Little
Manatee, and Ocmulgee Cordmarked pottery types. The most
conspicuous St. Johns II feature on the island is the Grand
site (8DU1), a shell ring and burial mound complex (Ashley
and Thunen 1999:33-38). This one-of-a-kind piece of St.
Johns II architecture has been the scene of recent excavation
and securely dated to the period A.D. 900-1250 (Ashley et al.
Figure 3. UNF archaeological survey, shovel test loca-
Figure 4. UNF archaeological survey, archaeological site
138 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
Table 1. Aboriginal pottery totals (sherds > 2 cm) by site.
2007). Located near grid point 4600N/1450E in Figure 5, the
Grand Shell Ring appears to represent a major St. Johns II
phase ceremonial center of regional importance.
The largest apparent concentration of St. Johns II pottery
lies north of the Grand Shell Ring (Ashley and Thunen
1999:39-42). While shell density varied, a more than 100
meter long and 50-75-m wide band of dense shell midden,
that included several distinct shell heaps, was encountered
along the northern and western margins of the cove at site
8DU80 in the far northeastern part of the survey area. Another
concentration is Area A of the Middle Midden (8DU627),
which is located about 100 m west-southwest of the Grand
Shell Ring (near grid point 4500N/1200E). There, covering
an area of approximately 60 m in diameter, are a series of
180 90 627a 627b 628 629 631 13260 Total
Deptford - - 1 - - - 3 1 5 10 0.8
Swift Creek - - - - 3 - - 1 - 4 0.3
St. Johns 126 214 13 45 19 56 16 11 - 500 40.3
St. Marys Cordmarked 1 22 36 - 19 2 1 51 - 132 10.6
San Pedro 9 21 30 8 14 34 1 49 - 166 13.4
San Marcos 1 5 24 - 2 7 - 27 - 66 5.3
fine sand tempered plain 2 11 14 5 8 3 3 8 2 56 4.5
fine sand tempered other 3 4 5 - 6 7 1 13 2 41 3.3
medium sand tempered plain 2 11 29 19 8 4 - 27 - 100 8.1
medium sand tempered cordmarked - 7 33 - 9 6 - 25 - 80 6.5
medium sand tempered other 2 3 20 17 - - 1 20 1 64 5.2
grit tempered plain/other 1 2 - - - 1 1 1 - 6 0.5
grit tempered cordmarked - 13 - - - 2 - - - 15 1.2
TOTAL (count) 147 313 205 94 88 122 27 234 10 1240 -
TOTAL (%) 11.9 25.2 16.5 7.6 7.1 9.8 2.2 18.9 0.8 - 100
Name Size (m) Shovel tests Cultural Periods
8DU1 Grand 50 x 50 4 positive
St. Johns II, St. Marys II, Contact-Mission
8DU2 Talbot Mound B < 10 in
8DU80 Talbot Island 900 N-S
St. Johns II, St. Marys II, Contact-Mission,
Deptford, St. Johns II, St. Marys II, Contact-
Mission, Historic Plantation
8DU627 Middle Midden 350 N-S
Swift Creek, St. Johns II, St. Marys II,
8DU628 Reid 400 N-S
St. Johns II, St. Marys II, Contact-Mission
8DU629 Jones Bluff 300 N-S
Deptford, St. Johns II, St. Marys II, Contact-
8DU631 Armellino 800 N-S
Deptford, Swift Creek, St. Johns II, St. Marys
II, Contact-Mission, Historic Plantation
8DU13260 Simpson Point 250 N-S
Table 2. Archaeological site data.
mounded ridges and other irregular shaped heaps evincing
signs of previous digging, likely the result of past shell-mining
activities (Ashley and Thunen 1999:46). A nal clustering of
St. Johns II pottery appears at the southern tip of the island
where St. Johns pottery occurred in association with far less
shell than in the concentrations to the north.
St. Marys II Phase (A.D. 1250/1300-1450)
St. Marys Cordmarked (n=132) pottery was widely
dispersed across the northern part of the survey area, but
limited to only two shovel tests in the southern half (Figure 6).
The results of shovel testing indicate a mostly low to moderate
density distribution, with 75 percent of the shovel tests in
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 139
Figure 6 containing less than 10 g of St. Marys Cordmarked
pottery. A few high density (more than 25 g) shovel tests were
encountered in the west-central (8DU631) and northeastern
(8DU80) sections of the survey area. Compared to the dispersal
of St. Johns pottery, St. Marys wares were more prevalent west
of Houston Road.
Within the Big Talbot Island ceramic collection,
cordmarked wares demonstrated a wide range of paste
characteristics. In order not to obscure or conate culturally
or temporally distinct pottery types, ne sand, medium
(coarse) sand, and grit tempered cordmarked sherds were
distinguished and quantied separately. The grit tempered
specimens were clearly Ocmulgee Cordmarked, which is
associated with local St. Johns II assemblages, whereas the
ne tempered cordmarked matched the type description for St.
Marys Cordmarked. The medium sand tempered cordmarked
sherds were more problematic. Were they part of the range of
variation within the St. Marys type or were they afliated with
San Pedro assemblages? It is also worth noting that many of the
medium sand tempered wares had wider cordage impressions
than the St. Marys specimens.
Figure 7 displays the distribution and density of medium
sand tempered cordmarked pottery (n=80) across the survey
area. It too has a mostly low frequency spread, with more than
Figure 5. Distribution of St. Johns series by weight (grams).
140 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
eighty-three percent of the shovel tests in Figure 7 containing
less than 10 g. As was the case with St. Marys, medium
sand tempered cordmarked wares were most common in the
northwestern part of the survey area; however, it was a little
more abundant in the extreme southern part of the survey area
than St. Marys While not always in the same shovel tests, St.
Marys and medium sand tempered cordmaked sherds occurred
mostly in the same general areas suggesting some degree of
Contact and Mission Periods (A.D. 1450-1702)
San Pedro (n=166) is a distinctive grog-tempered pottery
made by aboriginal groups in northeastern Florida and
southeastern Georgia during the late fteenth through early
seventeenth centuries (Ashley 2009; Ashley and Rolland
1997). The paste reveals frequent crushed sherds (grog) within
a ne to coarse sand paste. The coarse paste of some of the
San Pedro sherds closely resembled that of the medium sand
tempered cordmarked category. As a tempering agent, grog
has been rered, therefore its texture often appears denser and
Figure 6. Distribution of St. Marys cordmarked sherd by weight (grams).
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 141
more vitried than the surrounding clay body. In the Big Talbot
collection a great variety of grog sizes and frequency was
observed. Unlike Late Woodland-period Colorinda pottery,
San Pedro grog rarely contains sponge spicules. Surface
treatments found on San Pedro specimens from the project
area included plain, bold check stamped (unlike that found on
St. Johns pottery), textile (or fabric) impressed, cordmarked,
cobmarked, and complicated stamped. Any surface treatment
may reveal areas of intentional obliteration.
San Pedro wares had the most widespread distribution of
any pottery type in the survey area (Figure 8) Of the 71 shovel
tests that yielded San Pedro pottery, 40 (56.3 percent), yielded
less than 10 g and 31 (43.7) produced weights greater than 10
g. Of the latter, ve contained more than 25 g of San Pedro
pottery. Although widely scattered, high density clusters are
Figure 7. Distribution of medium cordmarked sherds by weight (grams).
apparent throughout the survey area. The core area was located
at the Armellino site (8DU631), between approximately 4000
and 4300 North, slightly inland form where Mud Creek
abuts the island. While the density of San Pedro pottery is
slightly higher on the western side of Houston Road, present
distribution data suggest that the island’s protohistoric through
mission period settlement was dispersed over a broad area.
In addition to San Pedro pottery, mission-period activities
on the island are represented by San Marcos (n=67) ceramics.
San Marcos, also known as Altamaha, is a grit-tempered ware
that appears to date to the seventeenth century in northeastern
Florida. Quartz temper ranged from rare to abundant grit-sized
inclusions. Surface decorations associated with this series
included plain, simple stamped, cross simple stamped, line
blocked, and complicated stamped. Some sherds possessed
142 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
a distinctive rim decoration consisting of a series of circular
punctations. The horizontal spread of San Marcos pottery
was grossly similar to that of San Pedro, but it was far less
frequent, particularly at sites on the eastern side of Houston
Road (Figure 9). A single olive jar fragment, along with San
Pedro and San Marcos sherds, was recovered from a shovel
test near the southern tip of the island at 8DU628. This is
believed to be the location of a mission-period ferry landing
operated by local natives, which linked Big Talbot Island to
Fort George Island and the mission San Juan del Puerto.
Block excavations conducted at the Armellino site
(8DU631) by UNF helps shed some light on the island’s contact
and mission period occupation. An excavation area consisting
of 23 contiguous 1 X 2 m units produced large amounts of
San Pedro and San Marcos pottery along with a handful of
Spanish olive jar sherds (Thunen 1999). Preserved corn cob
fragments were recovered and an assortment of features and
postholes were revealed suggesting a domestic activity area
with structures. San Pedro and San Marcos wares were mixed
within the upper excavation levels, although only San Pedro
wares—and in a few contexts olive jar—were recovered from
subsurface features. Historic and archaeological evidence
points to the southern third of Big Talbot Island as the location
of the contact village and visita of Sarabay (Ashley and Thunen
1999:14, 52-54: Jones 1988; Thunen 1999).
Shell and Refuse Disposal Patterns
With the ceramic discussion complete, let us turn to the
distribution of shell refuse across the survey area and how
it relates to past cultural groups. With respect to shellsh
species, oyster was by far the predominant species encountered
Figure 8. Distribution of San Pedro series sherd by weight (grams).
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 143
throughout the southern third of the island, and minority
species composition varied by context. Typically, quahog
clam, stout tagelus, and Atlantic ribbed mussel were the
most common minority species, but eastern mud nassa, giant
Atlantic cockle, sharkeye, Carolina marsh clam, and whelk
also were recovered. In most instances, loci of high density
shell midden throughout the surveys area were replete with
preserved vertebrate animal bones.
Shell was recovered from 384 (86.9 percent) of the 442
shovel tests associated with archaeological sites (Table 3). The
amount of shell per shovel test ranged from a few fragments
to more than 200 liters (l). More than sixty percent of the
shovel tests yielded no shell or less than one liter of shell.
Furthermore, shovel tests producing 50 l or more of shell were
limited to seven tests in three general areas. Two of these,
yielding 225 l and 198 l, were associated with the mounded
shell ring at 8DU1. Three additional tests that each produced
more than 50 l of shell derived from the mounded shell midden
that corresponds to Area A of 8DU627 near the center of the
island. The nal two tests were placed within a moderate to
dense band of shell midden spread along the upland edge of
a cove, immediately south of A1A at site 8DU80. On average
at least 10 l of shell were recovered from each shovel test dug
at 8DU80. In addition, untested shell heaps were identied at
Figure 9. Distribution of San Marcos series sherds by weight (grams).
144 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
this site, and a reconnaissance conducted on the northern side
of A1A indicated the presence of additional shell mounds (see
The densest shell deposits were encountered on the
eastern side of Houston Road, and almost without exception
all were associated with St. Johns II phase pottery types.
Shovel tests dug on the western side of the island more often
yielded later St. Marys II, San Pedro, and San Marcos pottery
types and far less shell. While this distribution could suggest
that St. Marys II and contact-mission phase inhabitants of
the island did not exploit shellsh as intensively as earlier St.
Johns II groups, regional settlement pattern data suggest that
another explanation appears more likely. As discussed below,
we suggest that the patterning of shell within the southern
third of the island reects different refuse disposal patterns
associated with culturally distinct groups combined with post-
In the St. Marys region of northeastern Florida and
southeastern Georgia, many late precolumbian St. Marys II
and contact-mission period San Pedro sites are manifested as a
constellation of discrete circular to oval piles of shell midden,
each measuring ca. 2-15 m in diameter and anywhere from
10 cm to more than 1 m in height (see Ashley 2008 for an
overview). These shell deposits are frequently interpreted as
the refuse of individual households. Long-term use or reuse
of sites typically resulted in the formation of new individual
shell heaps, thus increasing the horizontal extent of the site.
For example, at the Quercus site (8DU628), a repeatedly
occupied St. Marys II site on the north side of the St. Johns
River, individual shell deposits measuring less that 10 m in
diameter, are dotted over an area of approximately 9 hectares
(Ashley 1997; Ashley and Chance 1995).
In contrast, St. Johns II sites are more often described
as diffuse “sheet shell middens” or larger “consolidated shell
middens” ranging from thin scatters to a depth of a meter
or more (Ashley 2003; Johnson 1988; Milanich 1994:245;
Russo et al. 1993; Sears 1957). Thus, at continuously and/or
repeatedly occupied St. Johns II period sites, distinct refuse
deposits were consolidated over time to form thick, continuous
shell middens that in some instances display themselves as
liner ridges or arcs that rise above ground surface.
At some sites, however, refuse patterning is masked
and not readily identiable due to extensive site reuse by
many different cultural groups over an extended period of
time. Moreover, post-depositional activities such as historic
agriculture have marred or even erased signature patterns
of native refuse disposal. In fact, the effects of such ground
disturbing activities should vary depending on the density
and spread of shell in the refuse accumulations. In theory,
agricultural plowing should inict more damage on St. Marys
II and San Pedro sites with their small, scattered mounds
than on St. Johns II sites containing a more consolidated and
continuous concentration of shell midden.
With regard to the western half of the survey area,
few piles, heaps, or mounds of intact shell midden refuse
were observed during transect shovel testing, although a
high frequency of St. Marys II and San Pedro pottery was
recovered. This part of the island was intensively farmed
Table 3. Shell frequency volume per shovel test by site.
8DU1 0 0 0 0 2 - 2 4
8DU2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
8DU80 3 24 16 5 16 1 0 65
8DU90 11 48 22 6 3 0 0 90
8DU627a 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 3
8DU627b 3 25 15 6 3 1 0 53
8DU628 9 25 10 4 2 0 0 50
8DU629 7 11 6 3 1 0 0 28
8DU631 17 70 26 8 5 0 0 127
8DU13260 6 12 2 0 1 0 0 21
TOTAL 58 215 97 32 33 4 3 442
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 145
throughout the nineteenth century by the Houston family and
others. Thus, past agricultural activities may have resulted in
the leveling and dispersal of formerly discernible shell heaps.
Consequently, the present landscape does not reect that of the
late precolumbian period. In the absence of discernible shell
heaps, small individual middens may be difcult to locate
and identify in wooded areas via shovel testing at intervals
of 25 m or more, as was the case during the UNF survey.
Still the spotty and localized nature of sampled shell midden
deposits revealed during shovel testing at 8DU90 and 8DU631
suggest St. Marys II and San Pedro refuse disposal patterns.
Such an interpretation was borne out at 8DU631, where block
excavations exposed small shell middens and activity areas
believed to be associated with the visita of Sarabay (Thunen
Discussion and Conclusions
To date, no evidence of Paleoindian (ca. 10,000+ - 8000
B.C.) or Archaic (8000 - 500 B.C.) period activities has been
uncovered within the southern one-third of Big Talbot Island.
However, Archaic period artifacts (e.g., projectile points) have
been found at site 8DU106 on the northeastern shore of the
island in the vicinity of Black Rock as well as to the south on
Fort George Island. The reason for the lack of early aboriginal
occupations in the present project area may be due to the
geomorphology of the island. That is, the southern portion
of the island may be a more recent coastal formation that
precluded occupations prior to ca. 500 B.C. Artifacts recovered
during the present survey indicate that the southern one-third
of the island was rst occupied during the Woodland period,
some time after 500 B.C. But even during the Woodland
period, habitation was sparse and of short duration, perhaps a
reection of the instability of the salt marsh ecosystem at the
southern end of the island at that time.
Intensive occupation of the survey area began with the
St. Johns II phase, around A.D. 900. St. Johns pottery covers
much of the southern third of the island. Signicant St. Johns
II phase deposits include the shell ring and mound complex at
the Grand site (8DU1); an amorphous cluster of shell heaps
and ridges in Area A of the Middle Midden (8DU627); and
thick oyster shell-dominated refuse deposits along the cove at
the Big Talbot site (8DU80). In addition, areas of scattered
shell and artifacts that include St. Johns II wares occur within
the boundaries of the Middle Midden and Big Talbot Island
sites as well as at the Reid site (8DU628) at the southern tip
of the island. There is no doubt that these areas are grossly
contemporaneous and date to the local St. Johns II phase (A.D.
900-1250/1300), but their precise relationship to one another
in time and space is uncertain at this time. It is possible that
a permanent St. Johns II community resided at the southern
end of Big Talbot Island (Ashley et al. 2007). During the St.
Johns II phase, household locations may have moved about
the landscape but remained tethered to the Grand Shell Ring
which served as the community’s ritual and mortuary center.
Subsequent St. Marys II occupations (ca. A.D. 1250/1300-
1450) appear to have been more common on the western side
of Houston Road, although substantial evidence of habitation
occurs in the northeastern corner of the survey area mixed with
earlier St. Johns II and later San Pedro phase refuse. Based on
shell midden data, St. Marys settlements appear to have been
characterized by the deposition of small individual household
middens, although this patterning has been obscured to some
extent by past land clearing activities on Big Talbot Island.. In
contrast to the thin, ne sand tempered St. Marys Cordmarked,
thicker cordmarked sherds with coarse sand tempering and
wider cordage impressions were recovered. In terms of both
technology and style, these wares fall between classic St.
Marys II and San Pedro types. Based on these attributes and
considering the distribution of these pottery types across of the
southern end of Big Talbot Island, we suggest that the “medium
sand tempered cordmarked” wares are part of a transitional St.
Marys II – San Pedro assemblage, perhaps dating to ca. A.D.
1400-1500. In fact, some of the San Pedro sherds exhibited
the same coarse sand tempering observed in the transitional
cordmarked wares. This situation has been observed at several
other sites in the region (Ashley 2009).
San Pedro pottery, an archaeological correlate of the
contact and early mission era Mocama-speaking Timucua,
was more widely distributed across the survey area than
any other ceramic type/series. The production of classic San
Pedro pottery began around A.D. 1450 and continued to be
made into the early 1600s, at which time it was replaced by
the local manufacture of San Marcos/Altamaha wares. Based
on available archaeological, cartographic, and documentary
evidence, we suggest that the contact village and late sixteenth-
early seventeenth century visita of Sarabay was located at the
south end of Big Talbot Island. The main part of the village
may have been located along the southwestern edge of the
island, parallel to Mud Creek, which would have provided
watercraft access to the Intracoastal Waterway. However,
households appear to have been widely scattered across the
southern third of the island.
In conclusion, the southern third of Big Talbot Island was
the scene of transitory occupations during the Woodland period,
repeated and intermittent encampments and procurement
activities during the St. Marys II phase, and the creation of more
settled village-like communities during the St. Johns II phase
and later contact-mission periods. These settlement trends seem
to echo what was going on throughout northeastern Florida.
Big Talbot Island represents an ideal research arena because
the sites still maintain untapped potential to explore important
questions regarding issues of material culture, community
layout, regional settlement patterns, and subsistence pursuits
to name a few. It is hoped that this study is a mere rst step in
a long term archaeological investigation of the southern third
of Big Talbot Island.
1. Archaeological testing recently took place north of
A1A at 8DU80 as part of an archaeological survey of
the proposed Timucuan Multi-use Trail. Initial shovel
testing (Anderson-Waters et al. 2005) and subsequent unit
146 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)
excavations (Klein et al. 2006a, 2006b) sampled shell
midden and non-shell loci that contained abundant St.
Johns II pottery.
The UNF survey of the southern third of Big Talbot Island
was funded in part with a Small Category Matching Grant from
the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical
Resources, Florida Department of the State and we thank
them for their nancial assistance. Bob Joseph, Park Manager
of Talbot Islands State Park, is commended for his help with
the project as well as his continued support of our research on
the island. Numerous people helped out in a variety of ways
and we wish to thank them all: Heather Shuke, David Nelson,
Laura Holton, Charles Potter, Mike Tarlton, Dave Bishop,
Jim Freels, Bob Richter, Jeff Will, and the Armellino family.
Thanks also to Greg Hendryx and Deborah Mullins for their
editorial comments. Finally, we especially want to extend our
deep appreciation to Vicki Rolland, whose hard work in the
eld and laboratory contributed immensely to the success of
Anderson Waters, Jamie, Gifford J. Waters, and Lucy B.
2005 Cultural Resources Survey and Assessment, Timucuan
Multi-Use Trail, Duval and Nassau Counties, Florida.
Report on le, Division of Historical Resources,
Ashley, Keith H.
1997 The Quercus Site: Shell Heaps, Cord Marked Pottery,
and the Savannah Tradition in Northeastern Florida.
Paper presented at the 49th annual meeting of the
Florida Anthropological Society, Miami.
2003 Interaction, Population Movement, and Political
Economy: The Changing Social Landscape of
Northeastern Florida (A.D. 900-1500). Unpublished
Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology,
University of Florida, Gainesville.
2009 Straddling the Florida-Georgia State Line: Ceramic
Chronology of the St. Marys Region (A.D.1400-
1700). In From Santa Elena to St. Augustine:
Indigenous Ceramic Variability (A.D. 1400-1700),
edited by Kathleen Deagan and David Hurst Thomas.
Volume in preparation, Anthropological Papers,
American Museum of Natural History.
Ashley, Keith H., and Marsha A. Chance
1995 An Archaeological Survey and Evaluation of the
Blue Cypress and Cedar Point Tracts, Duval County,
Florida. Report on le, Division of Historical
Ashley, Keith H., and Vicki L. Rolland
1997 Grog-Tempered Pottery in the Mocama Province.
The Florida Anthropologist 50:51-66.
Ashley, Keith H., and Robert L. Thunen
1999 Archaeological Survey of the Southern One-Third of
Big Talbot Island, Florida. Report on le, Division of
Historical Resources, Tallahassee.
Ashley, Keith, Vicki Rolland, and Rochelle Marrinan
2007 A Grand Site: Archaeological Testing of the Grand
Shell Ring (8DU1). Report on le, Division of
Historical Resources, Tallahassee.
Clayton, Tonya, Lewis A. Taylor, Jr., William J. Cleary, Paul
E. Hosier, Peter H.F. Graber, William J. Neal, and Orrin H.
1992 Living with the Georgia Shore. Duke University
FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection)
2004 Big Talbot Island State Park and Little Talbot Island
State Park Unit Management Plan. Florida Department
of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee.
Goggin, John M.
1952 Space and Time Perspective in Northern St. Johns
Archaeology, Florida. Yale University Publications
in Anthropology 47, New Haven.
Johnson, Robert E.
1988 An Archeological Reconnaissance Survey of the St.
Johns Bluff Area of Duval County, Florida. Report on
le, Division of Historical Resources, Tallahassee.
Johnson, Ann F., and Michael G. Barbour
1990 Dunes and Maritime Forests. In Ecosystems of
Florida, edited by R. Myers and J. Ewel, pp. 429-
481. University of Central Florida Press, Orlando.
1988 A Report on Big Talbot Island, Duval County, Florida
Ms. on le, Archaeology Laboratory, University of
North Florida, Jacksonville.
Klein, Rebecca, Martin F. Dickinson, and Lucy B. Wayne
2006a Archaeological Site Assessments, Talbot Island
Site and Talbot Tip Site, Timucuan Multi-use Trail,
Duval County Florida. On le, Division of Historical
2006b Addendum to: Archaeological Site Assessments,
Talbot Island Site and Talbot Tip Site, Timucuan
Multi-use Trail, Duval County Florida. On le,
Division of Historical Resources, Tallahassee.
ashley and Thunen big TalboT island 147
Milanich, Jerald T.
1994 Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida. University of
Florida Press, Gainesville.
Moore, Clarence B.
1896 Certain Florida Coast Mounds North of the St. Johns
River. In Additional Mounds of Duval and Clay
Counties, Florida, pp. 22-30. Privately Printed.
Nidy, Lynn S.
1980 Historical, Architectural and Archaeological Survey
of Duval County, Florida. Miscellaneous Project
Report Series Number 12. Division of Archives,
History and Records Management, Department
of State, Tallahassee.
Russo, Michael, Ann S. Cordell, and Donna L. Ruhl
1993 The Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve
Phase III Final Report. National Park Service,
Southeast Archeological Center, National Park
Scott, Thomas M.
1997 Miocene to Holocene History of Florida. In The
Geology of Florida, edited by A. Randazzo and
D. Jones, pp. 57-69. University Press of Florida.
1997 Geomorphology and Physiography of Florida. In
The Geology of Florida, edited by A. Randazzo
and D. Jones, pp. 1-13. University Press of Florida.
Sears, William H.
1957 Excavations on Lower St. Johns River, Florida.
Contributions of the Florida State Museum 2,
Thunen, Robert L.
1999 Testing at Sarabay. Paper presented at the 56th annual
Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Pensacola,
1998 Soil Survey of City of Jacksonville, Duval County,
Florida. United States Department of Agriculture,
148 The Florida anThropologisT 2008 vol. 61(3-4)