Cultural Resources in Rookery Bay Reserve Provide Insights to Early Coastal Life
Thousands of years ago, indigenous people called the Calusa inhabited much of coastal Southwest Florida. The Calusa culture was a complex society that thrived on the bounty of the estuary as opposed to agriculture, which was the primary means of subsistence for many other early American people. Numerous Calusa settlements were developed along the Collier County coastline and were occupied from 400 to 2,500 years ago.
There is still much to learn about our Floridian predecessors. Rookery Bay Reserve's cultural resource monitor, Steve Bertone, has been working with archaeologists to curate an inventory of prehistoric artifacts found during grant-funded surveys at some of the shell mounds in the reserve. Since 1978, the reserve has cataloged more than 200 artifacts in its inventory, which also includes shell tools, shell net weights, carved bones and remnants from pioneer settlers who squatted atop the abandoned mounds in the 1880s.
Each artifact in the inventory has been recorded in a database along with the GPS coordinates of the location where it was found and other details about the find. With help from Rookery Bay Reserve educator and photographer Dave Graff, each record in the database is now accompanied by a photo of the actual artifact. High resolution, close-up images enable close inspection of the artifact virtually, and the photos show clear details such as embedded fibers and fingernail marks.
This database serves as an incredible resource for archaeologists and other researchers who are studying at the reserve. Expanding our collective knowledge of the local history and land use is essential to guiding management efforts, educating the community and planning for trails or other recreational opportunities.