Saturday, May 8, 2021

Hurricane Irma Unearths Rare Calusa Artifacts

Hurricane Irma uprooted many trees across Southwest Florida. Some of which were at Otter Mound Preserve on Marco Island. While surveying the area, – Rachel Kangas of Florida Public Archology Network (FPAN) spotted what is thought to be ancient Calusa artifacts in and around the roots of the downed trees and notified staff.

At a recent regular meeting, the Board of County Commissioners voted to approve archeological field work to be performed by FPAN. FPAN archaeologists will survey the site to safely retrieve possible Calusa artifacts. Following the archaeologists’ fieldwork, the Marco Island Historical Society will curate any artifacts and accept them as a donation for display at the Marco Island Historical Museum.

“Hurricane Irma blowing over large trees and exposing root balls and soils provides a one-time opportunity to collect and preserve items that were previously buried and may be important Calusa artifacts,” said Conservation Collier Program Coordinator Alex Sulecki.

The Calusa were Native American people that inhabited Southwest Florida for centuries. Over the years, Calusa artifacts such as shell and bone tools and art have been found and preserved in Southwest Florida.

Otter Mound Preserve is located in a residential area of Marco Island, known locally as the Indian Hills section. The property was acquired by Conservation Collier due to the presence of tropical hardwood hammock, a priority habitat type. Otter Mound Preserve also holds archeological and historical significance. It is located on the site of an ancient Calusa mound, though it is not thought to be a burial site.

The archaeological fieldwork has begun. Unauthorized digging at the site or collection of any artifacts is strictly prohibited.

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