Archaeological Tours

Native Peoples of Florida’s Mangrove Coast

October 17-24, 2022

$2,195 per person ($395 single supplement)

For over a thousand years the Calusa, Tocobaga, and Seminole dominated southern Florida. They developed complex civilizations, created breathtaking artwork, and constructed monumental earthworks. Time and again, they defeated those who attempted to subjugate them.

Our exciting journey will take us from the ancient mound center at Crystal River to the man-made island of Mound Key, the Calusa’s capital. Along the way, we’ll visit the key sites of Florida’s original inhabitants, explore the unique estuarine environment in which these people lived, and encounter a variety of wildlife such as manatees, dolphins, and alligators.

Joining us for the entire tour will be Dr. Jeffrey M. Mitchem, an expert in early Spanish and Native American contact in the Southeastern United States, as well as material culture, including beads and European weapons/armor. He recently retired from the Arkansas Archaeological Survey, is a board member of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education, and The Archaeological Conservancy.

View the schedule below. 

Florida Mangroves

Tour Schedule

Monday, October 17
Join us in St. Petersburg for a welcome reception.

Tuesday, October 18
We’ll visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park where we’ll observe manatees, alligators, and other species, and we’ll learn about the riverine environment where the Tocobaga Indians lived. At the Crystal River site, we’ll explore the ceremonial center and mounds of the mysterious Crystal River culture.

Wednesday, October 19
We’ll travel across Old Tampa Bay and tour the Safety Harbor Mound, type-site of the Safety Harbor Culture that arose around A.D. 900. From there we’ll visit the Weedon Island Site, an important Woodland period type-site. We’ll also explore the Anderson Narvaez site, a unique shell mound complex located in the heart of St. Petersburg.

Thursday, October 20
We’ll begin the day learning about a pivotal moment in Florida and southeastern history. We’ll visit the De Soto National Memorial to learn about Florida’s Spanish invasions, and we’ll take a walk through a mangrove wilderness. Then we’ll visit the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature to see the impressive collections housed there. We’ll spend time discussing the Tallant Collection which contains stone tools, ceramics, and European material from the early Spanish exploration and settlement of Florida.

DeSoto Shooters

Friday, October 21
At the Randell Research Center we’ll tour the massive shell mounds and canals of the Pineland site. A portion of this Calusa site was preserved by the Conservancy and is now protected by the University of Florida. After lunch at the Tarpon Lodge, we’ll travel to Mound House Museum, the oldest structure on Estero Island. The centerpiece of this museum is a large cutaway of a shellmound, outfitted with a video narration and LED lights. Surrounding the shellmound is a breathtaking mural of this Calusa village as it may have looked over 2,000 years ago. From the dock at Mound House, we’ll board a charter boat for Mound Key Archaeological Park. We’ll explore the water courts and the Grand Canal from where massive Calusa war canoes were dispatched by the Calusa kings. We’ll also see the enormous shell mounds that once supported homes of those same rulers. This day is always an adventure and may involve wading through the backwaters of Mound Key. We’ll be accompanied by some of the archaeologists who have been conducting ground-breaking research at the site.

Saturday, October 22
Our first stop will be a visit to see the famous Key Marco artifacts currently on loan from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to the Marco Island Historical Society. The exhibit includes the Key Marco Cat, a remarkably preserved kneeling cat carved from native hardwood some 500 to 1,500 years ago by the early Calusa people or their Muspa ancestors. For the first time since its discovery, it is reunited with other rare pre-Columbian artifacts discovered on Key Marco in 1896 during a Smithsonian sponsored archaeological expedition. After lunch, we’ll do some citrus sampling and shopping at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers.

Sunday, October 23
We’ll head back north to visit one of the Conservancy’s newest preserves which includes a burial area, midden and grove of cabbage palms. It’s adjacent to Paulsen Point Indian Mound Park and is an example of how the Conservancy works with local governments and developers to preserve sites. We’ll have lunch and then see Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site, Florida’s first archaeological State Park. It was occupied from the Manasota, Weedon Island and Safety Harbor Periods, AD 700-1300. Then we’ll return to our St. Petersburg hotel and you’ll have some free time before we gather for our final happy hour.

Monday, October 24
Tour participants depart for home or can extend their stay to enjoy the white sandy beaches of southwest Florida.

Tour Details

Cost includes first-class hotel accommodations based on double occupancy (single supplement is $395), lunches, happy hours, expert Conservancy and special guides, admittance fees, tips, tours, background reading, and surface travel via air-conditioned bus with restroom. Not included are meals other than lunches and travel to and from St. Petersburg. A moderate amount of walking is required.

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For more information about our upcoming tours, please email tours.tac@gmail.com or feel free to call us at (505) 266-1540.

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