History of the Tekesta
Part 2. South Florida in the Archaic Period
to 2700 B.P.)
Florida offers evidence of continuing occupation from the Paleoindian Period into the Early Archaic Period. Such widespread
traits as are seen in Florida's material culture, which probably have no economic or ethnographic implications, are called
a "horizon." The Kirk Horizon (9000 to 8000 B.P.), for example, seems a continuation of Paleoindian features.
However, this horizon was followed by a culture shift throughout Florida that clearly differentiates Florida from the rest
of the southeast
Particularly in South Florida, this Early Archaic Period (8000 to 7000 B.P.) is little understood, and there may not even
have been an occupation at all. It seems that the era of big game had ended in about 8000 B.P., and henceforth substance
would depend on a broad-spectrum technology needed to hunt smaller game, scavange, and gather wild plant foods. Among the
foods eaten were shell-fish and fish, game such as deer and bear, and plants such as seagrape and prickly pear.
While proof is lacking, it seems probable that the discontinuity in material culture represents a social discontinuity as
well, marking the point at which Arawak-speaking peoples moved into Florida from Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and
Boriken (Puerto Rico). The migration would have been made easy by the lower sea levels that reduced the distance between
the islands and the mainland. It is begining to appear that the most intensive development in Archaic Florida did not occur
in the North this time, but along Florida's southwest coast, directly west of Miami.
The Middle Archaic Period (7000-4000 B.P.)
After 7000 there is clearly a new culture emerging in Florida known as Middle Archaic (7000-4000 B.P.). Grave goods such as
bone and stone points, an atlatl, an antler headdress, bone harpoon tips, sharks' teeth, wooden digging sticks, various
wooden tools and a carved wooden plaque from one of the excavated graves anticipates later South Florida styles. What in
particular distinguishes this new era is the use of shell tools, which a common and permanent feature of life in South Florida.
The presence of these shell tools at interior sites suggests the existence of exchange relations. Pre-ceramic shell tools
included picks, hammers and chisels, and perhaps net weights. These are no antecedents for shell tools before 7000 B.P.,
and it seems that the new culture reflects a maritime adaptation rather than the traditional hunting of game on land.
Even more telling, a new mortuary pattern arises which further distinguishes South Florida. The dead are interred in slopes
of ponds below water level. The old informal burials are replaced by formalized cemeteries (1000 burials in one case) with
evidence of associated rituals.
Furthermore, the burials reveal social stratification into perhaps three social categories: commoners without any mortuary
offerings, an elite with some limited offerings such as shell beads, an atlatl, and economic toolkits, and finally the great
man, as reflected in a single rich male burial with many artifacts, a deer-antler headdress, shell beads, an atlatl, a barbed
harpoon, and some lithic artifacts.
After 7000 B.P., we are fortunate t have much richer material evidence. Sites are more numerous; cemeteries begin to appear,
there arises a distinctive mortuary pattern and artistic style that will persist into Hopewell times and even later in Florida.
In fact, here are the roots of the later Glades Ceramic Tradition.
The reader should be warned, however, that one cannot infer social units from archaeological remains. It is often true that
people will experience a sharp change in their culture, or that a new people will adopt the culture of their predecessors.
However, the existence of a break with the past in terms of a new and permanent cultural orientation certainly warrants the
hypothesis that it marks the entry into Florida of Arawak speakers who brought with them from the Caribbean a highly developed
tropical maritime adaptation.
Late Archaic (Pre-Glades) Period (4000 to 2700 B.P.)
The Late Archaic in Florida is distinguished by appearance of ceramics. Otherwise there was a continuation of the Middle Archaic
Period culture. In South Florida, this period is often called Pre-Glades because the continuity is quite evident. Its chronology
is founded on a evidence from the Marco Island site on the southwest coast.
One troubling aspect of Late Archaic evidence is that there is simply less of it. This might suggest a reduced occupation for
some reason, but also perhaps a shift in settlement pattern, or it might simply indicate that ceramic production was not
universal. The ceramics of this period are distinguished by palmetto fiber tempering, which characterizes southeast US 4500-3000
B.P. in general, but less so South Florida, for the fiber was unavailable in the far south. It is possible that the fiber-tempered
ceramics technology originated north of Florida and diffused south through nascent trade routes.
In Florida archaeology, this period of fiber tempered ceramics is called the Orange Period, and South Florida is chronologically
subdivided into periods that are marked by shifts in the Orange ceramics style. The final subdivision of the Orange Period is
termed the Transitional Period (2950-2450 B.P.) because fiber tempering ends and a limestone tempering technology, which seems
to have originated in southwest central Florida, diffused to the Gulf Coast. Semi-fiber tempered ware is found, among other
places, near Lake Okeechobee, in Broward county along the southeast coast at the Peace Camp site, and Markham Park Mount No. 2
site, and the 202nd Street site in Dade County. These coastal sites probably represent the forebears of the Tekesta, but it would
be adventurous to employ that ethnic term this far back in time.