Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Victor D. Thompson, and Brent R. Weisman

The Crystal, River site (BCn), located on Florida's westcentral Gulf Coast, has long been counted among the most" impressive yet inscrutable archaeological sites in the eastern United States. Excavations by C. B. Moore in the early twentieth century produced a number of artifacts with apparent Hopetoellian affiliations, thus indicating an occupation during the Middle Woodland period. However, other features of the site-particularly the presence of flat-topped mounds and negative-painted pottery-suggested a later" (Mississippian) date. This apparent conflict cast a cloud of confusion over the site, exacerbated by the later discovery of three purported limestone stelae. We present new insights into Crystal River based partly on new field work, including detailed topographic mapping, geophysical survelj, and limited small-diameter coring. These field investigations, when combined with radiocarbon dates and the data gleaned from preoious investigations, allow us to make new inferences regarding the chronologtj of settlement and mound consiruction at Crystal River. Specifically, we posit, based on these data, a greater degree of planning, structure, and complexiiu to the site from its founding, possibly as early as cal. 300 B.c. Further, these early practices impact the ooerarching historical trajectory of the site, guiding subsequent practices over a long time span, likely as late as cal A.D. 600.

The Crystal River site (8Cll), located on Florida's west-central Gulf Coast (Figure 1), has long been counted among the most impressive yet inscrutable archaeological sites in the eastern United States. The 8-ha site consists of two flat-topped ramped mounds bracketing its northern and southern ends, two burial mounds (one, the "Main Burial Complex," containing several parts), an extensive comma-shaped shell midden with two smaller shell mounds, and three limestone boulders interpreted as stelae. Visiting the site today, it is easy to conclude that all of the site features belong together and are of one plan and design, but previous archaeology at the site has not dated its mounds, middens, and stelae conclusively. A site visitor with general knowledge of American archaeology might also take the flat-topped mounds as evidence for Crystal River being "late" (i.e., Mississippian), when mounds such as these become standard site features. This belief is immediatelychallenged by the numerous Woodland artifacts displayed in the on-site museum.

Confusion regarding Crystal River is not limited to casual visitors to the site but is also true of archaeologists. Excavations of the Main Burial Complex by C. B. Moore in the early twentieth century yielded abundant artifacts of ceramic, copper, stone, and' shell, bearing similarities to those from 'Hopewell sites in Ohio (Moore 1901:240). Connections between the regions became more obvious as the cultural historical sequences for eastern North America became better defined (Greenman 1938:331). By the middle twentieth century, Crystal River had become a standard reference in discussions of Hopewell and Middle Woodland period archaeology (e.g., Griffin 1946; Phillips et al. 1951:173-74; Sears 1962; Willey 1966:288; Willey and Phillips 1958:160). While the presence of Hopewellian artifacts clearly suggested a Middle Woodland date for Crystal River, however, other features of the site--such as the presence of negative-painted pottery and flattopped mounds-did 'not accord so well with this stage in the cultural .historical sequences for the region. Instead, these traits suggested an association with the chiefdom-level societies of the Temple Mound, or Mississippian, period. Such was the logic adopted by Hale Smith (1951) and Ripley Bullen (1951, 1953, 1966), the latter arguing that it was "hard to believe" (Bullen 1951:143) that the platform mounds at Crystal River could be any earlier than Mississippian. This perspective presented an obvious problem, however, as work by Bullen and Smith consistently demonstrated only a slight Mississippian presence at the site. The apparent contradictions led Bullen (1951:142) to describe Crystal River as "enigmatic" and one of the "unsolved problems of Floridian archaeology."

Where Bullen and Smith looked for evidence of Mississippian occupations to explain the unusual features at Crystal River, McMichael (1960, 1964) and Ford (1969) offeredhyper-diffusionist explanations. McMichael argued that flat-topped mounds, negativepainted pottery, effigy vessels, and complicated stamped pottery were introduced to Crystal River by immigrants from Mesoamerica (probably the Maya lowlands) then spread north to the Midwest to stimulate the "Hopewell Climax." The discovery of three purported limestone stelae (Bullen 1966; Hardman 1971) during clearing of the site in 1960s and 1970s furthered such speculations. The site became fodder for hypotheses regarding Native American archaeo-astronomy, the mounds and stelae purportedly marking a number of solar and stellar phenomena of varying complexity (Hardman 1971; Williamson 1984).


Figure 1. Location of Crystal River and other sites mentioned in the text.

Although these interpretations of Crystal River' were never widely accepted, the interpretation of the site has suffered from the lingering confusion they have created. Diffusionist, cultural historical, and neoevolutionary theories have greatly colored public interpretation of the site, as evidenced by interpretive materials showing waves of influence from Mesoamerica and positing the existence of mound-top temples where there is no evidence for such. The stature of the site among archaeologists also appears to have suffered; although Crystal River still figures prominently in many scholarly treatments of Hopewell and Woodland period archaeology (e.g., Ruhl1981; Seeman 1979), it now merits only fleeting reference--if it is mentioned at all-in most syntheses of the prehistory of North America and the Southeast (e.g., Neusius and Gross 2007; Smith 1986; Steponaitis 1986). It would perhaps be an overstatement to blame the diminished relevance of Crystal River on the lack of clarity afforded by previous, competing interpretations. However, this, coupled with the lack of modem excavations, has certainly been a contributing factor. It isclear to us that solving Crystal River's problems has been doubly hindered by the linear thinking of the previous approaches and an archaeology solely based on the power of the shovel. In many ways, Crystal River remains as-much of an enigma today as it was when Bullen described it so in 1951.

Our work brings new technology to bear on the ageold problems of Crystal River. We present new insights based partly on new field work, including detailed topographic mapping, geophysical survey, and limited small-diameter coring. These field investigations, when


combined with radiocarbon dates and the data gleaned from previous investigations, allow us to make new inferences regarding the chronology of settlement and mound construction at Crystal River. Specifically, we posit, based on these data, a greater degree of planning, structure, and complexity to the site from its founding, possibly as early as cal 300 B.C. Further, these early practices impact the overarching historical trajectory of the site, guiding subsequent practices over a long time

span, likely as late as cal A.D. 600. ' "

We view the monuments of earth and shell at Crystal River and the features and artifacts they contain as evidence of cultural practices not reducible to general evolutionary types, and not explained by generic processes of diffusion (Pauketat 2001a, 200lb, 2004:38-39). The limited scope of our and previous investigations at Crystal River restricts our ability to describe specific cultural practices; Nevertheless, we see our work at Crystal River as the first step toward a revised and more detailed history of Crystal River . We also hope this work brings Crystal River back into discussions of the archaeology and prehistory of eastern North America.

Previous Research at Crystal River

Weisman (1987, 1995a) has admirably summarized the long and complicated history of archaeological investigations at Crystal River through the mid 1980s. The following brief outline--drawn primarily from his overview but also from Milanich (1999) and other published and unpublished sources-focuses mainly on previous attempts to place Crystal River and its features in historical sequence.

C. B. Moore (1903, 1907, 1918) conducted the earliest archaeological excavations at Crystal River. Moore began work at Crystal River in 1903, focusing his efforts on the Main Burial Complex (Mounds C-F) (Moore 1903; Weisman 1995a:12) (Figure 2). While work was conducted in all parts of the complex, he concentrated on the central sand mound (Mound F). The excavatio~ here produced many of the exotic artifacts for which the Crystal River site would become famous. Recognizing the possible similarities between the copper and meteoric iron ornaments he excavated at Crystal River and those from sites in Ohio, Moore, (1903:409-410) consulted Charles Willoughby, who had recently completed work at the Hopewell site, and Frederick Ward Putnam, excavator of the Turner Mound site. Both confirmed the similarities, the latter finding these as proof of the "close connections of the prehistoric peoples of Florida .,. with those of the Ohio Valley region" (Moore 1903:422).

Moore returned to Crystal River in 1906 (Moore 1907; Weisman 1995a:13). As before, he focused on the Main






Figure 2. Maps of Crystal River by Moore (1903:Figure 16) (left) and Bullen (1966:Figure 2) (right).

Burial Complex, but this time directed his efforts mostly to the platform (Mound E) surrounding the central burial mound. He also excavated a portion of the circular embankment (Mound C) that forms the perimeter of this complex. Moore found a number of burials in both locations, but most here lacked the exotic artifacts found in Mound E On his final visit to the site about a dozen years later, Moore (1918) continued working in the circular embankment (Mound C).

There were no archaeological investigations at Crystal River for more than three decades following Moore's final field season in 1918. Nevertheless, during the 1930s and 1940s, archaeologists began assessing the significance of the site through studies of its material culture, chronology, and apparent connections with the Hopewell phenomenon. Greenman (1938), building primarily from Moore's work at Crystal River, made the claim that Florida Hopewell diverged no more from that of southern Ohio than the latter region diverged from lllinois. Willey (1948a; Willey and Phillips 1944) puzzled over the unusual negative-painted pottery from Crystal River and its presumed relationship to Mississippian types, eventually concluding that the ceramics from Crystal River were ancestral to, rather than contemporary with, Mississippian types (Willey 1948c).

A year later in 1949, Willey published his landmark synthesis of the archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast, in which he identified the pottery from Crystal River as belonging to the Deptford, Santa Rosa-Swift Creek, and Weeden Island complexes (Willey 1949a), an assess-

ment with which most archaeologists today would agree: Also in 1949, Willey visited Crystal River for a day with Antonio Waring Jr. and Rufus Nightingale. Willey's investigations were limited to a surface collection of Mounds C and F (Milanich 2007:22; Weisman 1995a:28; Willey 1949b). Willey pointed out that the dating of the large platform mound (Mound A) was unresolved, but suggested that it could date to the Santa Rosa-Swift Creek or Weeden Island I periods.

Willey's speculation that Crystal River dated primarily or exclusively to the Woodland period was met with skepticism by Hale Smith (1951) and Ripley Bullen (1951, 1953, 1966) (Weisman 1995a:28-29). To resolve questions about the relative ordering of the pottery series and mound construction at Crystal River, Smith conducted limited work at the site in 1951, including one 2-by-2-ft test unit in the midden area (Feature B), another test unit of equal size in Mound H, several test units in Mounds C and E, and a surface collection of Mound A (Smith 1951; Weisman 1995a:14, 28-29). Smith's analysis indicated that at least a portion of the Mound C embankment was constructed late in the Weeden Island period, thus pushing construction of the monument at least partially into the Mississippian period (as the sequence was then understood),

. A short time later, Bullen initiated the first of several seasons of field work at Crystal River (Bullen 1953; Weisman 1995a:28-29). The 1951 investigations included two stratigraphic excavations in the midden to test his idea that the site was in use for more than one period (Bullen 1953). On the basis of this and previous


work, Bullen postulated three periods of occupation and mound construction: Santa Rosa-Swift Creek (lower levels of Mound F), Weeden Island (the Mound E . platform and Mound C embankment), and late Weeden Island or Safety Harbor (the upper levels of Mound F). Like Smith, then, Bullen argued that the Main Burial Complex was built at least partially during the Mississippian period.

Bullen completed more extensive excavations at Crystal River in 1960 (Weisman 1995a:37-38). Perhaps most significantly, these investigations included topographic mapping that led to the identification of two additional mounds and an extension of the midden area (Mound B) to the north of Mound A. Bullen described Mound J as an "irregularly shaped imminence of shell" (Weisman 1995a:37), while Mound K was described as a flat-topped deposit resembling a small temple mound. Test units were excavated into each of these two mounds. Another test unit was excavated into Mound G, where 35 burials were identified in a 1O-by-20-ft trench. Finally, Bullen identified undisturbed burials in the Mound F platform and Mound C embankment. Unfortunately, the 1960s investigations by Bullen have never been thoroughly reported.

The state of Florida acquired the Crystal River site in 1962 (FDEP 2000:1, Addendum 1). In 1964, as the site was being cleared for the creation of the state park, two limestone stelae were discovered (Bullen 1966; Weisman 1995a:31-32). Bullen excavated the area around Stela I, which is pecked and incised with a representation of a human face and torso. The identification of these two, plus a. third possible stela (Hardman 1971), fueled speculation about connections between Crystal River and Mesoamerica (Bullen 1966; Ford 1966, 1969; Hardman 1971), as noted above.

Post-Bullen fieldwork at Crystal River has been limited. In 1985, Brent Weisman and Jeffrey Mitchem excavated core samples and two 2-x-2-m test units in the midden north of Mound A, with the goal of obtaining samples from the Safety Harbor component on the site, but little or no Mississippian materials were recovered (Weisman 1985; Weisman 1995a:35-36). In 1993, Barbara Purdy (assisted by Ray McGhee and Brent Weisman) augered several3-in cores through the midden to determine if soil conditions were favorable for the preservation of organic materials in the basal levels. Most of the other archaeological work in the 1990s and more recently has resulted from monitoring or salvage. These projects, although small in scope, cumulatively demonstrated the existence of intact deposits in areas thought to have been heavily disturbed, particularly the destroyed ramp and eastern third of Mound A, the southern portions of the midden, and the southern part of the circular embankment (Area C) associated with the main burial complex (Weisman 1992; Wheeler 2001). Eroding shoreline


deposits and archaeological strata exposed in root balls of storm-felled trees have also been documented and productively analyzed (Ellis 1999, 2004; Ellis and Martin 2003). Laser scanning of site features in 2005 resulted in new visual presentations of the overall site plan and documented the scarp-like exposed eastern and southern profiles of Mound A (Weisman et al. 2007). This project continues under the direction of the University of South Florida's Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (Collins and Doering 2009).

While modem fieldwork has been limited, Bullen's burials from Mound G were subjected to a flurry of analyses in the 1990s resulting in several student

. papers (Green 1993; Judd 1997; Mabulla n.d.) and one University of Florida master's thesis by Cheryl Katzmarzyk (1998). We describe below several important implications of the latter study. In particular, the stable carbon isotope ratio of bone collagen from rib samples taken from three individuals revealed a "mixed terrestrial and freshwater diet" not indicating a "strong marine component" (Katzmarzyk 1998:37). In Katzmarzyk's view, the population represented by the 35 individuals analyzed from Mound G was generally well adapted to its environment (1998:91) and experienced low frequency of stress and· adequate dietary intake. Further, she highlights the differences in context and treatment between the burial populations in Mound G and the Main Burial Complex while acknowledging the possibility of their contemporaneity (or overlap), as had Weisman previously (1995:59).

Recent Research at Crystal River

Given the limitations of previous research, the purpose of the present study was to provide new information about the internal structure and chronology of Crystal River while respecting the need to minimize disturbance to the site. The investigations consisted primarily of detailed topographic mapping and geophysical survey. Limited, minimally invasive coring was also conducted, to "ground truth" the geQphysical data and to provide materials for relative and radiometric dating. Detailed descriptions of these investigations are presented elsewhere (Pluckhahn and Thompson 2009; Pluckhahn et al. 2009; Thompson and Pluckhahn 2010). Here, we present a brief overview of the methods and results before drawing these data together with those from previous investigations to form a new narrative history of Crystal River.


Almost sixty years ago, Gordon Willey (1949b:45) noted the need for a detailed topographic map of the




Figure 3. New topographic map of Crystal River ..

Crystal River· site to supplement the original sketch map by C. B. Moore (1903:Figure 16). Despite Willey's plea, Moore's sketch provided the foundation for most of the later maps' of the site, with additions and modifications by Bullen (1966:Figure 2). Our mapping of the Crystal River site was accomplished using three total stations. Over the course' of . two weeks, we collected approximately 18,000 elevations across the site. Maps were created using ArcGIS 9.1 (ESRI, Inc.) and SURFER (Golden Software, Inc.) GIS and mapping

I software. When compared to previous maps of the site our new topographic map (Figure 3) lends insight into not only the spatial structure of the site but also ·the interpretive potential of earlier maps.

Since Moore's (1903:Figure 16) sketch map has long served as the principal base map for Crystal River, it is instructive to compare it with our topographic map. What is immediately apparent is the degree to which Moore's map must be rotated (about 90 east of north) to bring the major site features into alignment with our own map. According to the National Oceanic and Space Administration's Satellite Information Service (2008), the current magnetic declination at Crystal River IS 4° 42' West, while in 1903 the magnetic declination was 2° 18' East. Thus a difference of

approximately 60 might be expected in the more than 100years between Moore's mapping and our own.

Notwithstanding orientation, Moore's map is otherwise remarkably in agreement with ours. Our mapping indicates that the Main Burial Complex (Mounds C-F), as well as Mounds G and H, are located slightly farther west (relative to Mound A) then as mapped by Moore. Perhaps the greatest discrepancies between Moore's map and ours are, first, in the· placement and orientation of the shell midden he designated as "B" (particularly along its eastern end), and, second, in the depiction of the topography immediately north of Mound A. In general, however, Moore mapped the relative distances and orientations of these mounds with astonishing accuracy, given the simple mapping technology of the day, as well as the dense vegetation that covered the site at the time of his visit.

Not surprisingly, given that Bullen (1966:Figure 2) appears to have based his site map on Moore's, it also needs to be rotated significantly to bring it into alignment with our own. Once this is done, however, the two maps correspond nicely. Bullen may have corrected the locations of Mounds G and H, given the

. closer correspondence of these features to our map (visa-vis Moore's sketch). Perhaps the only major discrepancy is in the placement of the eastern end of the midden (Feature B). It is notable that Bullen considerably revised the appearance of this end of the shell midden from Moore's original sketch.

As was noted above, a great deal of interpretive weight has been placed on the arrangements of some of the key features at Crystal River. Our mapping casts doubt on some of the assertions put forth by Hardman (1971) and Williamson (1984) concerning the alignments of several of the key features of the site with the cardinal directions and solar events such as the solstices and equinoxes. For example, these authors claim that a line between Stela 2 and the top of Mound F is oriented due east (900), the direction of the rising sun at the equinox; our map shows the actual alignment at 960• Hardman (1971) and Williamson (1984) also claim significance to the alignment between Stela 2 and the top of Mound J, and again between Stela 2 and the northern end of the Mound C embankment. They associate these with the setting sun at the winter solstice and the rising sun at the summer solstice, respectively. According to our map, these three features do not form a straight line, and thus at the very least cannot represent both of the phenomena they describe.

Some of the presumed solar observations at Crystal River come closer to the mark. For example, Hardman (1971) and Williamson (1984) suggest that a line between Stelae 2 and 1 could be utilized to mark the position of the rising sun at the winter solstice. Our calculations place the angle between the two stelae at


around 1190• This is about 2-3° from actual azimuth of the sun at dawn on the winter solstice today (Hardman 1971:155; NOAA, Earth System Research Laboratory 2009) but close enough for a general observation of this solar phenomenon.

Bullen's (1966:233) observations on the relationships between Stela 1 and Mound A and again between Stela 2 and Mound H are also at least partially challenged by our map. Bullen stated that the ramps of these mounds pointed "a little east" of the corresponding stela. While this is true of Mound H and Stela 2, the ramp of Mound A appears to have pointed substantially (about 20 m) south and east of Stela 1. Our mapping also suggests that the distances between mounds and stelae are farther than described by Bullen. Nevertheless, Bullen's general point-that the two. platform mounds each roughly face a stela and that the distances between the mounds and stelae are comparable--remains valid.

Geophysical Survey

. The results of the geophysical investigations are presented in detail elsewhere (Pluckhahn et al. 2009; Thompson and Pluckhahn 2010), so we only briefly highlight some of the more salient aspects of this part of our research. Our research program at Crystal River included resistance and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys. We used a Geoscan RM-15 Advanced Resistance Meter to conduct the resistance survey. Resistance data were collected in 50-cm intervals along transects spaced 1 m apart using a twin electrode array (Clark 1990:44). The twin electrode array uses two pairs of current and potential electrodes; one pair of probes was mobile, and the other was inserted in the ground 20 to 30 m away from the survey grid. The instrument's mobile probes were mountedSf cm apart on a single frame. This arrangement recorded information up to a depth of approximately 50 cm below the surface.

Resistance collection grids generally measured 20 X 20 m, but in some cases we imposed smaller grids (10 X 20 m) to conform to site features or to avoid obstacles. The project used ArcheoSurveyor® to process. all resistance data. Following the procedure outlined in Gater and Gaffney (2003:104, Figure 49), we first reviewed the raw resistance data. Next, we de-spiked the readings and used a high pass filter, which centers resistance values on a mean value of zero. Finally, we enhanced the data by smoothing and interpolating the values.

The resistance survey covered 49 20-x-20-m collection grids and two 10-x-20-m collection grids,resulting in coverage of 2 ha (about 4.9 ac) (Figure 4) .. ~e estimate this covers approximately one-half of the SIte s core area. In placing the collection grids, we emphasized areas and features that have been less intensively


Figure 4. Resistance data from Crystal River, overlain on topographic map. Adapted from Thompson and Pluckhahn (2010:Figure 3).

excavated and which are not obviously constructed of shell, thus' excluding for the most part the Main Burial Complex and Mound A, respectively. Even at a relatively broad scale of analysis, comparisons between the resistance survey and topographic maps show a striking correspondence; topographic relief generally . corresponds with higher resistance readings (i.e., the dark gray to black areas). This generally, but not always, reflects the use of shell as a building material and as principal component in the accretion of middens.

Perhaps the most notable result of our resistance survey is the corroboration of a presumed plaza in the low flat area southwest of Mound H and flanked by Mound G and the Main B~ial Mound Complex (Bullen 1965:225). In the Southeast, plazas are identified as flat areas that evidence no domestic occupation and are usually flanked by some form of architecture ( domestic or monumental) (Kidder 2004:515-516). This area is obviously well defined architecturally, but the lack of domestic occupation has been' assumed rather than demonstrated. The resistance data indicate that this area is generally free of anomalies indicative of shell middens or' other domestic features. This strongly




suggests that it is not merely an empty space, but" one of the central design elements of community planning and intrasite spatial organization" (Kidder 2004:515). Plazas have been identified at a number of Middle Woodland sites in the region (Russoet al. 2006; Stephenson et al. 2002), perhaps most prominently at the Fort Center (Sears 19S2), McKeithen (Milanich et al. 1994), and Kolomoki (Pluckhahn 2003; Sears 1956) sites.

For the GPR survey we used the Geophysical Survey Systems, Inc. (GSSI) SIR-3000 GPR with a 400-MHZ antenna. As with the, resistance survey, we collected the GPR data in transect lines spaced 50 ern apart. However, the GPR collection grids were selectively sized and oriented according to the feature being surveyed. For example, grids on the summit of Mound H were oriented with the long axis of the mound, and sized to cover the platform. Following collection, GPR data were processed using GPR-SLICE ® software. '

We completed seven GPR grids at Crystal River in 200S (more precisely, six grids and one single transect "grid") '(Figure 5). We focused particular attention on several of the mounds that have been less intensively excavated and thus remain little known in order to gain insight into the methods and materials of construction, as well as an enhanced understanding of how the

mounds were used. '

The first three GPR grids were placed on Mound H, including two on the summit and one on the ramp. The radiogram profiles from these grids generally indicate a highly reflective layer at around 50 ern below the surface of the mound and another at around 90 cm (Figure 6A). We suggest on the basis of these data that Mound H was constructed in at least three stages. The highly reflective layers represented in the GPR data likely represent construction fill containing higher quantities of shell or limestone boulders, or both. This interpretation in based on our knowledge of shell layering at other shell bearing sites (e.g., Thompson et al. 2004) and photographs at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) of Bullen's excavation that clearly show layers of dense shell deposits in this

'mound (see also Weisman 1995a:Figure 16). Layers containing less reflective material probably represent stages of construction or use composed of greater amounts of sand than shell. The fact that these levels are represented in the profiles from both collection grids support a view that, in terms of the length of the platform, Mound H was conceived as we see it today and expanded twice in the same general shape and proportions.

The data from Grid 4, placed on the summit of Mound K, provide an interesting contrast with the results from Mound H (Figure 6B). The profiles from this ca. 12-x-S.5-m grid reveal that with the exception of the uppermost 40-50 ern of soil, it is composed almost exclusively of highly reflective materials, which we

Figure 5. Location of GPR survey grids.

interpret to be high-density shell deposits. The absence of any layering suggests to us that this mound, rather than being constructed in stages, was built in a single episode. The less reflective layer at, the top of the profiles could represent the buildup of soil on the surface of the mound during the period of use or after use through the decomposition of organic matter. Alternatively, and perhaps less likely, it could represent the deliberate addition of a capping layer of relatively shell-free soil. In any case, if our interpretation is correct, this mound was constructed using a different technique-and perhaps also under different circumstances-than Mound H.

Grid 5, measuring 30 X 20 m, was positioned immediately to the east of Mound A, in an area where a graded ramp formerly stood (Bullen 1966; Moore 1903:Figure 16), before it was mined to fill the surrounding low-lying, lagoon-like .area, We hoped to determine if any vestiges of the ramp remain buried beneath the fill, but the data are difficult to interpret. The uppermost portions of the profiles show anomalies that are indicative of disturbances, as might be expected given the grading of the ramp and subsequent use of this area as a mobile home park. However, at least a few profiles show possible features (see Figure 6C). Higher refl:ctive values below around







5 Disfance(m)


'iii' .s


E t=


8 12

Distance (m)

Figure 6. (A) GPR profiles from Grid 1, on the eastern half of the summit of Mound H (this profile is oriented east-west; east is to the right); (B) example of a GPR profile from Grid 4, on the summit of Mound K (this profile is oriented north-south; north is to the right); (C) example of a GPR profile from Grid 6, in the Feature B midden north of Mound A; CD) example of a GPR profile from Grid 5 ill the Mound A former ramp vicinity (this profile is oriented north-south; north is to the right).




Figure 7. GPR profile from Grid 7, on the slope of Mound A. This is a vertical profile oriented roughly southwest (left) to northeast (right).


40 cm in some of these profiles suggest the presenceof a somewhat more homogenous, denser stratigraphic layer consistent with a shell deposit. Whether this shell deposit represents a surviving portion of the ramp to Mound A or simply shell associated with Feature B midden is impossible to determine with the information at hand.

Grid 6, the largest of the seven GPR grids at 40 X 20 m, was located immediately north of Mound A in the northern extension of the Feature B Midden (see Figure 6D). As with Grid 5, the data here are difficult to interpret. The high density of near surface anomalies in this area is consistent with a midden with a heavy shell content within 40 em of the surface, a finding corroborated by our coring (as described below). Some of these anomalies may be the result of shell filled basins or pits (see Figure 6D). Below around 40 cm, there appear to be more isolated. areas of greater reflectivity. One possibility is that the lower levels of the midden in this area are comprised of discrete piles orlenses of shell, rather than the more continuous sheet midden. However, we did identify several anomalies that begin at or near the surface, suggesting that these might instead represent test units, several of which were placed in this general vicinity.

The final GPR "grid" consisted of a single transect from the summit to the toe on the better-preserved northern slope of Mound A. Given that no professional excavations have ever been conducted in Mound A, the radar profile from the Grid 7 transect (Figure 7) provides our only indication of the stratigraphy of the mound. Not surprisingly-given that the exposed areas of Mound A show fill containing high shell contentthe radar data demonstrates highly reflective fill within the depth of the radar signal (about 1.5 m). What is more intriguing, although difficult to interpret from the . radar data alone, is the area of less reflective fill toward the base of the mound (the area to the right in the profile). This area, defined bya thin, curving lens of more reflective material (probably shell), could be interpreted as evidence of an earlier, dome- or coneshaped mound stage composed mainly of less reflec-



tive materials. Obviously, however, this interpretation must remain very tentative until further investigations can be conducted.


We excavated five core samples at Crystal River in 2008 (Figure 8). Core sampling locations were determined largely with respect to the geophysical survey data. However, no coring was conducted in mounds or other sensitive areas. We utilized an auger measuring 8 em in diameter and about 30 em long. The core

Figure 8. Location of core samples.



accepts a removable transparent plastic liner that can be capped, so that when the core and liner are removed the soil profile can be observed and recorded. Soil samples were collected from the core sections that retained sufficient volume of undisturbed soil (i.e., soil that was not obviously redeposited fill). The remaining

soil from each core section was screened in the field The principal goal of our investigations was to define

through 1/4-in (0.64-cm) mesh. more clearly the internal structure and chronology of

The soil profile from Core Sample 1 seems to confirm Crystal River. Readers are referred elsewhere for more the survival of basal layers of the ramp to Mound A or detailed descriptions of our field investigations (Plucat least a midden upon which this ramp was khahn and Thompson 2009; Pluckhahn et al. 2009; constructed. Soils here consisted of a black fine sand Thompson and Pluckhahn : 2010). Here, we take a loam with abundant shell, relatively uniform from the synoptic approach that draws together the findings of first core section to the fourth and final section this and previous investigations into a narrative history terminating at around 120 em below the ground of the site. Of course, there are still many gaps in our surface, where we encountered the water table. There knowledge of the archaeology of Crystal River. were no obvious disturbances, suggesting to us that the Although excavations have been conducted in most midden here represents either an undisturbed basal of the mounds and scattered off-mound locations, these portion of the Mound A ramp or an earlier midden investigations have generally been inadequately anaupon which the ramp was constructed. lyzed and reported. Thus the narrative history we

Core 1 contrasted sharply with Core 2 farther to the present in this section should be considered a series of east in the location of the former mobile home court, working hypotheses for future research, rather than a where the signs of disturbance were obvious. The soil definitive statement.

was lighter in color and significantly more compacted, This and previous investigations of the Crystal River so much so that we were forced to terminate the sample site have resulted in a total of 13 radiocarbon dates. at around 50 em below surface. Shell was present, but This total includes five dates retrieved by Bullen was largely broken up into smaller pieces. Based on (Bullen 1966; Ford 1969; Weisman 1995a:Table 2), three these observations, we believe that Core 2 intercepted a dates reported by Katzmarzyk (1998), and four dates

. layer of fill that was deposited when the area was obtained in association with this project. Table 1 and

leveled to create the trailer park. Figure 9 list these dates, including both the uncalibrat-

Cores 3, 4, and 5 were all located on the Feature B ed radiocarbon years before present and the 2-sigma midden north of Mound A. Core 3 was positioned to calibrated dates and ranges in calendar years. The latter investigate the possibility that one of the anomalies in were obtained using the OxCal4.0 calibration program GPR Grid 7 might represent one of Bullen's test pits. and the IntCal04 calibration data set (Reimer et al. 2004; We saw no obvious indications of such a disturbance, Stuiver and Reimer 1993). In the discussion that but it is quite possible that our core missed the precise follows, we focus on these 2-sigma calibrated date location of the old unit. Similarly, Core 5 was ranges.

positioned to investigate an area of slightly higher The earliest radiocarbon date from Crystal River resistance that was evident in the resistivity data. We comes from Mound G. This sample, with a calibrated saw no indications of denser shell near the surface that range of 800 to 420 B.C., was retrieved from Bullen's might have caused these readings. Nevertheless, Cores Burial 1 and previously reported by Katzmarzyk 3-5 are generally consistent with GPR data suggesting (1998). As Jerald Milanich (Katzmarzyk's major prothat the lower portions of the Feature B midden might fessor) noted in emails to Beta Analytic, Inc. (on file at be composed of relatively discrete clusters orconcen- the FLMNH), this date is problematic for several trations, in contrast with a more sheet-like midden in reasons. First, it is inconsistent with the pottery from the upper layers. While shell and bone were present in the mound (comprised primarily of Middle Woodland relatively large concentrations in the lower sections of types such as Pasco Plain and Saint Johns Check all three of these cores, Core 5 was clearly unique in the Stamped) (Katzmarzyk 1998) and also from the site as a density of these materials. This is also generally . whole. Next, it precedes two other dates from the consistent with Bullen's (1953) observations regarding Mound G by at least 400 years when the calibrated the midden. Bullen noted that the highest density of ranges are considered. The early date from Mound G is shell was generally found in the upper four feet, which also surprising because Bullen (1965) believed that this would correspond with the upper four sections of our feature dated late in the site's history, perhaps even to

. cores. However, in his Test II he noted a deposit of the Safety Harbor period. However, based on his crushed oyster shell between 7 and 8 feet. This would examination of the artifacts, Weisman (1995:58--59)

seem to correspond with the dense deposits we noted in lowermost section of Core 5.

Synthesis: Toward a New History of Crystal River



Table 1. Radiocarbon dates from the Crystal River Site.

2-sigma calibrated date range

Sample no.

Radiocarbon years B.P.



Bone from Bullen's.Burial l in MoundG

Human bone from the circular embankment

Unidentified material from Mound B midden

Unidentified material from Mound B midden, "deposits from the Deptford period, but ... not from the lowest part of these deposits"

Bone from Bullen's Burial 2 in MoundG .

First of two dates from same charcoal sample from cache of food remains associated with Stele 1 (this sample was treated with hot caustic soda to remove contaminants and was run in small counter)

Unidentified material from Mound B midden, "deposits from the Deptford period, but ... not from the lowest part of these deposits"

Bone from Bullen's Burial 35 in Mound G

Second of two dates from same charcoal sample from cache of food remains associated with Stele 1 (this sample

was not treated and was run in larger

counter) .

Deer bone from Bullen's (1951) Test 2 in the Area B midden, 72-78 in Worked deer bone from Bullen's Test 1 in Mound H (1960),1-2 ft

Deer bone from Bullen's (1951) Test 2 in the Area B midden, 24-30 in . Charcoal lens found in profile of Mound A, 19 ft below sununit

1310 ::!: 100


2520 ::!: 60 2490::!: 4b


1980 ::!: 100


1870::!: 130


1990::!: 40


1600 ::!: 210


1750::!: 130


1620 ::!: 40


1420::!: 125


1580 ::!: 40


1550 ::!: 40


1460 ::!:40



800 to 420 cal B.C.

Katzmarzyk 1998:33; Milanich 1999:23

Pluckhahn et aI. 2009:Table 5-1

Ford 1969:29; Weisman 1995a:Table 2

780 to 420 cal B.C.

350 cal B.C. to cal AD. 250

200 cal B.c. to cal A.D. 430 .

Bullen 1966:861; Weisman 1995a:Table 2

90 cal B.C. to cal AD: 120

Katzmarzyk 1998:33 Bullen 1966:864; Weisman 1995'l:Table 2

40 cal B.C. to cal AD. 870

20 cal B.C. to cal A.D. 570

Bullen 1966:861; Weisman 1995a:Table 2

cal AD. 340 to 540

Katzmarzyk 1998:33; Milanich 1999:23

Bullen 1966:864; Weisman 1995a:Table 2'

cal AD. 350 to 890

cal A.D. 400 to 570

Pluckhahn et al. 2009:Table 5-1

cal AD. 420 to 600

Pluckhahn et aI. 2009:Table.5-1

cal A.D. 540 to 660

Pluckhahn et aI. 2009:Table 5-1

cal A.D. 560 to 970

Bullen 1966:865; Weisman 1995a:Table 2

Note: Calibrated dates were computed with the OxCa14.0 calibration program and the IntCal04 calibration data set (Reimer et aI. 2004; Stuiver and Reimer 1993) and rounded to the nearest decade.

argues that there is little reason to believe that the mound dates as late as Bullen surmised.

. Milanich suggested that the sample from Mound G was somehow contaminated during its time in storage (emailsonfileattheFLMNH.Gainesville). However, we retrieved a remarkably similar date from a sample of human bone from the Mound C, the circular embankment of the Main Burial Complex. The cali-

I brated range for this assay (Beta-254521) is 780 to 420 B.C. This is only twenty years removed from the calibrated range for the sample from Mound G. Moreover, the measured radiocarbon ages for these two samples are only thirty years apart.

It is possible that both bone samples were somehow contaminated or comingled (or both). Notes on file at the FLMNH indicate that the human bone from Crystal River was utilized in at least one physical anthropology class at the University of Florida. However, other samples of human bone from Crystal River have produced dates more in keeping with expectations of an occupation in the Middle Woodland period (as noted below), arguing against some type of contamination of the collections.

Assuming the proveniences from which these samples were taken were not somehow mixed, the correspondence between the dates from Mounds G and C is, as we stated above, remarkable. The dates also have profound implications for the history of Crystal River. First, they suggest that at least two individuals were interred on the site during the Early Woodland period, rather than the Middle Woodland period as has long been assumed .: This opens up the possibility of even earlier connections between Crystal River and sites in the Midwest, including those of the Adena complex. More important, it suggests that the site may have been used as a burial ground before there was any domestic occupation, given that the earliest calibrated date from the midden is at least 70 years more recent (of course, it is possible that additional dating of the midden will someday produce correspondingly early dates). Finally, it suggests that the construction of Mounds C and G-or at least mortuary activities in the areas where these mounds were later built-began around the same time. This is consistent with the question put forward by Weisman (1995:59) regarding the possible coexistence of these two burial


(h~ ... 41l.5Srot\1t~" 7't~Int~lltIM rieeu'VI!"n:b' d._
R_Date Beta-98043 .... ---
R_Date Beta-254521 --
- -
R_Date ~1916 -
R_Date ~1366
R_Date Beta-97072 bo..
- f-.
R_Date ~1367 .-
R_Date Beta-98044 .Ai.
R_Date ~1464 -.
R_Date Beta-254523 /!II.
...., ~
R_Date Beta-254520 ,.
- ~
R_Date Beta-254522 ~
R_Date ~1365 --...
- 1500



1 calBC/l calAD



calibrated date (caIBC/calAD)

Figure 9. Plot of radiocarbon dates from Crystal River. Created using OxCal 4.0. Only the more precise of the two dates obtained by Bullen (1966:864) as sample I-1464 is shown.

areas, as well as his observations of greater degree of initial planning and complexity than had been envisioned by Bullen. Clearly, additional dating ofmaterials from these mounds is called for to resolve these issues.

Early in his work at Crystal River, Bullen proposed that the site was probably first occupied around AD. 200 (Bullen to G. L. King, June 22, 1951, on file at the FLMNH). He later amended his estimate to "a little before the time of Christ" (Bullen 1965). Radiocarbon dates from the site are more consistent with his second estimation. The calibrated ranges for a number of radiocarbon assays from the Feature B midden suggest that people began living at the site sometime during the third to first centuries B.C. The earliest of these samples (I-1916) has a calibrated range beginning at 350 B.C. Unfortunately, we have little information regarding the context for this date; it was omitted from Bullen's_ (1966) publication and only subsequently reported by Ford (1969:29) (see also Weisman 1995a:Table 2). The range for a second date from the midden (I-1366) begins at 200 cal B.C. Bullen (1966:861) noted that thisdate was associated with deposits from the Deptford period, although not the lowest (earliest) such strata. A third date from the midden (I-1367), also obtained by Bullen and described in the same manner, has a range beginning at 20 cal B.C.

All of these early dates from the Feature B midden have relatively large uncertainty values relative to most radiocarbon dates processed using contemporary protocols. For this reason, we submitted two samples from the midden for AMS dating. Both of these samples were obtained from Bullen's Test 2, excavated in 1951. We chose one sample from the lower levels of this unit,


at a depth of 183 to 198 em (72-78 in). Bullen associated the deposits from this depth with the Deptford/Santa Rosa-Swift Creek occupation. This sample (from a deer bone) produced a date with a range from cal AD. 400 to 570 (Beta-254523). This is somewhat more recent than expected. However, Unit 2 was excavated to a depth of 213 em (84 in), and Bullen indicated that the midden deposits continued still deeper, below the water table. The existence of subwater table deposits was confirmed by Purdy's (unpublished) coring results. Thus we clearly did not date the earliest occupation of the site. Our second sample (also from a deer bone) was obtained from a depth of 61 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in), within the stratum Bullen associated with the later Weeden Island occupation. This yielded a date with a calibrated range of AD. 540 to 660 (Beta-254522).

Taken together with those obtained by Bullen, our dates from the Feature B midden suggest a long span of domestic occupation at the site. We would suggest that people began living at Crystal River by around 100 B.C., and perhaps even 200 or 300 B.C., near the. beginning of the Deptford period (Milanich 1994:114). The occupation of the site probably continued until at least the AD. 600s.

The starting date that we have suggested for the village occupation is somewhat earlier than has been proposed by several of our contemporaries' (e.g.,

. Milanich 1999:20; Weisman 1995a:5-6). In addition to the radiocarbon dates, we think that there is other evidence to support our interpretation. As noted above, the midden deposits extend below the current water table, as indicated both by our coring and by Bullen's test units. While some subsidence has undoubtedly taken place over the course of the last two millennia, it is reasonable to assume from this evidence that sea levels were lower than at present at the time the site was initially occupied. Archaeological and geological evidence from the southwestern coast of Florida is consistent with this hypothesis. Walker and colleagues (1994) suggest that sea levels were 30-60 cm below their present levels from 1050 to 50 B.c. (see also Balsillie and Donoghue 2004). Beginning around AD. 100, sea levels rose to 70-80 em above their current levels, and remained high until around AD. 600. Thus our argument that the earliest occupation of Crystal River took place in the first few centuries B.C. would seem consistent with the sea level data (cf. Milanich 1999:20).

If this interpretation is correct, the initial settlement at Crystal River would have been located farther from the Gulf of Mexico, and presumably also from shellfish beds. This interpretation also helps make sense of Katzmarzyk's isotope results showing a freshwater dietary emphasis, which at first thought seem counterintuitive. As sea levels .rose over the course of the site's occupation, Crystal River may have become better



positioned economically and ecologically. Milanich (1999:20) suggests that, as a result of higher sea levels, the residents of Crystal River would have been able to gather shellfish from the adjacent estuary, rather than having to canoe to shellfish beds located closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

We find some evidence for this historical reconstruction in the limited data that are available for the composition of the Feature B midden. Bullen (1953), summarizing his own stratigraphic excavations and earlier work by Hale Smith, described the upper 1.2 m (4 ft) of the midden as consisting of black dirt and shells. He estimated that shell represented about 40 percent of the debris, and that about 70 percent of the shell was oyster. Below 1.2 m, Bullen noted that shell declined to about 15 percent by volume. However, some concentrations of shell were noted in the lower, earlier levels of the midden; in Test II, Bullen encountered a deposit of crushed oyster shell between 2.1 and 2.4 m (7 and 8 ft) below the modern ground surface.

Our data from the Feature B midden are generally consistent with Bullen's observations. As noted above, the resistance and GPR data suggest the presence of a sheet midden with a high shell composition in the upper levels of the midden. The GPR data, although far from conclusive, suggest that the lower levels of the midden may be composed of more discrete clusters of shell. We noted a similar trend in the core samples in the Feature B midden, the shell content generally increasing with depth to around 120 em, then declining in the lowermost core section (120 to 180 em). However, we noted a possible increase in shell in the lowermost section of Core 5, perhaps corresponding with the concentration noted by Bullen in the lowermost levels of his Test II.

In sum, we suggest that the domestic occupation of Crystal River likely began in the first century B.C. or slightly earlier, at a time when sea level was lower and the Gulf of Mexico was located farther away from the 'site. The earliest occupants of Crystal River probably

practiced a subsistence regimen focused primarily on terrestrial animals and fish caught in the adjacent river. Canoe trips would have been necessary to gather oysters. The shells were probably discarded in relatively discrete piles around the settlements on the low sand ridge adjacent to the Crystal River. As sea levels rose after around AD. 100, shellfish beds may have been established nearer the site. The residents of Crystal River took increasing advantage of these readily available resources, resulting in a midden with higher and more continuous shell content. As discussed in greater detail below, the increasing availability of shell would have also facilitated the construction of monuments.

Bullen (n.d.) imagined the early community at Crystal River as probably consisting of "a small shellridge village and its accompanying small burial mound (part of the main burial mound)." As noted above, if the early dates from Mounds C and G can be trusted, Bullen's reconstruction will need to be amended to reflect the fact that burials may have been placed on the site several centuries earlier. Nevertheless, we agree with Bullen that the much of the construction of the Main Burial Mound Complex probably took place after the earliest occupation in the village, perhaps sometime in the first century AD. We have no dates yet from MoundsE and F of the Main Burial Complex to support this assumption. Instead, this interpretation is based on the types of pottery found in these mounds. Hopewellian artifacts recovered by Moore (1903, 1917, 1918) and identified by Sears (1962) as markers of the Yent Complex (defined from the Yent site in northwestern Florida) also suggest a date in the range of one or two centuries AD. Such is indicated by a number of radiocarbon dates from Mound B at the Mandeville site in southwestern Georgia, which shares many traits with Mounds E and F at Crystal River (Kellar et al .. 1962a, 1962b; Smith 1979). Knight and Mistovich (1984:219) place the Mandeville phase between A.D. 1 and 300. Finally, but more tentatively, we suggest that the lack of shell in the fill composing the Main Burial Complex reflects construction before around AD. 100, when sea levels began to rise and shellfish beds were established in closer proximity to the site.

Milanich (1999:14) suggests that Mound E probably began as "a platform mound containing burials, perhaps with a ramp on the southeast side." Mound F was subsequently added on the northeast side of this platform (Milanich 1999:14; Willey 1949:316-323). Both Moore and Bullen believed that Mounds E and F dated earlier than the surrounding circular embankment (Mound C). However, later work in the embankment divulged the presence of ceramics as early as those from Mounds E and F (Bullen 1965; Milanich 1999:18). This suggests, as Weisman (1995:56, 58) has pointed out, that these mounds form a complex, in the sense of "a set of associated features that had been ·constructed according to some kind of design" (see also Milanich 1999:18). In fact, it may even be reasonable to suppose that the embankment was constructed first, given our radiocarbon date (described above) and the- relative lack of Hopewellian items.

Our geophysical work adds no new information regarding the construction and use of the Main Burial Complex, which was thoroughly excavated by-Moore and Bullen. Milanich (1999:21) interprets the burial mound complex as a lineage facility-a recognizable symbol of lineage membership associated with ceremonies performed by lineage members and led by elders or priests. As the lineage became wealthier over


the course of several decades (or even centuries), the mound may have .been enlarged and elaborated with the construction of the embankment (Milanich 1999:22). We generally concur with this interpretation, although we believe that the mound complex may have been symbolic of a larger corporate identity.

The Main Burial Complex may not have been the only monument at Crystal River to be constructed during the first and second centuries AD. We have already mentioned an early radiocarbon date from Mound G, suggesting at least the presence of some

. burials in this area at an early date. A second, more precise, date from Mound G has a J-sigma calibrated range from 90 B.C. to A.D.· 120. This would seem indicate that this burial mound was in use as the same time as Mounds E and F of the Main Burial Complex. A third date from Mound G has a range from cal AD. 340 to 540, suggesting that the mound continued in use for. a few centuries.

A relatively early date for Mound G may also be supported by the relative lack of shell in the mound fill. . As we noted above, shell might have been easier to obtain later in the site's history, when sea levels were higher. It follows that mounds with less shell-like the Main Burial Complex and Mound G-might be reasonably dated to earlier periods of occupation. Our resistivity data showed strong reflective values for Mound G, indicating that shell is present near the surface. However, photographs of Bullen's excavations in this mound (on file at the FLMNH) indicate that shell was not a principal component of the fill, as Weisman (1995:59) has also noted. It is also worth pointing out that stable carbon isotope values from burials in Mound G suggest a diet focused more on mixed terrestrial and freshwater resources than marine species (Katzmarzyk 1998:37).

If we accept the radiocarbon evidence. suggesting that Mound G and the Main Burial Complex were in use at the same time, how do we explain the contemporaneity of these mounds? It seems possible that these mounds were burial facilities for different corporate groups within the community that lived at Crystal River, perhaps distinct lineages or moieties. Their opposition across the plaza would seem to symbolically reinforce a dual social organization along the lines of the latter. It is also possible that the two burial facilities reflect some larger social division : recognized by people who came to the site on ceremonial occasions from farther flung settlements.

Our geophysical investigations support the interpretation of the area between Mound G and the Main Burial Complex as a deliberately maintained plaza. The resistivity data demonstrate conclusively that this area is almost entirely free of the shell midden so pervasive across much of the rest of the site. Although we cannot date the plaza directly, it is indirectly dated to the same


interval as the features that define it, including Mound Gand the Main Burial Complex.

We ·obtained a radiocarbon date with a calibrated range of A'D. 420 to 600 (Beta-254520) from the third feature that defines the plaza, Mound H. This date was taken on a smallsainple of a worked deer bone recovered by Bullen in his Test 1, excavated on the summit of Mound I-I in 1960. The bone was recovered from a depth of 31 to 61 em (1-2 ft). The GPR data from the summit and ramp of Mound Hsuggest that this mound was expanded at least twice. Our radiocarbon assay dated the last mound construction stage, so it reasonable to assume that construction of Mound H began sometime earlier, perhaps around AD. 300 to 400. The high density of shell in the fill of the mound, as indicated by the GPR data and by photographs of Bullen's excavation, is consistent with a period of construction after shellfish beds became established nearby.

The GPR data suggest that each time Mound H was expanded, it retained. the same basic shape and proportions. This is a significant new insight. As with the Mclin Burial Complex, if true, it indicates continuity in the conception of this mound, and perhaps its use. Further, Mound H and its adjacent space, like the Main Burial Complex, were conceived of and used as a complex. We would note here Bullen's (1965) idea that the plaza was a space for watching ritual performances on Mound H.

The stelae at Crystal River remain difficult to interpret. Bullen (1966) produced two radiocarbon dates on material associated with Stela 1, the limestone slab with the carved human face and torso south of the Main Burial Complex. The two assays were conducted on the same sample of charcoal from .a cache of food remains (the two dates have the same lab number [1- 1464]). One portion of the sample was reportedly treated with hot caustic soda to remove contaminants and was run in . a smaller (and presumably less accurate) counter. This date has a very large margin of error and thus also a very broad range in calibrated calendar years. The second portion of the sample was not treated and was run in a larger (presumably more accurate) counter. This date is at least somewhat more precise, and has a calibrated range extending from A.D. 350 to 890.

Bullen (1966) was convinced that the Stelae 1 and 2 were deliberately erected (Stela 3 was discovered later and remains poorly understood). He also maintained that at least the face on Stela: 1 had been carved in antiquity, while suggesting that the carving of the torso was a more recent addition. He pointed to similarities with stelae in the Maya area. Weisman (1995:62-65) rightly dismisses the latter speculations but suggests that there are stylistic similarities between the carved face on Stela 1 and representations of human and



animal figures elsewhere in the prehistoric Southeast. Milanich (1999:23) favors the view that the stelae are "simply limestone slabs that eroded up from the surface of the limestone stratum that underlies the site." He withholds judgment on the question of whether the carving on Stela 1 was completed relatively recently or instead is of greater antiquity.

Our coring and geophysical investigations did not extend to the area near Stela 1. However, coring elsewhere indicated that the Area B Midden extended to a depth of more than 2 m, well below the bottom of Stela 1 as indicated by Bullen's (1966) excavations. This would seem to suggest that the stela was deliberately erected on top of previous midden layers. In this light, the radiocarbon date for food remains associated with Stela 1 seems reasonable.

As we noted above, Bullen (1966) proposed a relationship between Stela 1 and Mound A, pointing out that the former ramp to the mound was oriented roughly toward the limestone monument. The hypothesized relationship between these features was bolstered by a radiocarbon date (1-1365) Bullen obtained from a charcoal lens found in the profile of Mound A, 5.8 m (19 ft) below the summit. This sample is calibrated to the interval from A.D. 560 to A.D. 970. This suggests that at least the upper portions of Mound A-like Stela 1-date relatively late in the history of the site, albeit not as late as A.D. 1200 as Bullen (1953, 1965) sometimes stated.

Our geophysical investigations of Mound A were limited to a single GPR transect, and our observations must therefore be considered tentative. Previously, on the basis of a profile that had not been corrected for topography, we suggested the possibility of an earlier, dome-shaped construction sequence. within the mound (pluckhahn et al .. 2009:73). This was thought to. be evidenced by less reflective values below a highly reflective upper surface, which is obviously comprised primarily of shell. In the GPR data corrected for topography, reproduced here as Figure 7, we still see evidence for an earlier construction, but this now appears to be comprised of moderately reflective materials below a highly reflective "veneer." It also appears to be platform- rather than dome-shaped. We offer as a hypothesis for future research the notion that a smaller platform mound of earth and shell early was enlarged later in the history of the site, at a time when shellfish was more easily obtained from the adjacent estuary.

We have no new definitive evidence for the dating of Mounds J and K. .. Resistivity data suggest that the upper surfaces of both mounds are composed primarily of shell, as is readily apparent from the surface. GPR data further suggest that Mound K was erected in a single stage, with shell as the primary constituent of the fill. Following the logic we have developed above, these mounds would date relatively late in the history of Crystal River.

Bullen (1965) proposed that Mound K may have served "as a foundation for a chief's or high priest's home." We see no evidence in the GPR data for the presence of a structure on top of the mound. However, we were also unable to positively relocate Bullen's test

. pit on the summit. Additional geophysical survey may be called for.

The latest radiocarbon date thus far obtained from Crystal River has a calibrated range extending to A.D. 970. It is therefore possible that the occupation of the site lasted as late. as the Weeden Island-Safety Harbor period transition or even the early Safety Harbor period, as Bullen (1953) suggested. However, the bulk of the archaeological evidence clearly suggests that the fluorescence of Crystal River was a Middle Woodland phenomenon, falling primarily in the period from a century or two B.C. to A.p. 600 or 700.


Crystal River is an impressive site with unusual features; the stelae are without equal on prehistoric sites north of Mexico and the Main Burial Complex is one of the most direct Hopewellian manifestations in Florida and the Southeast. Yet many of the features that appeared enigmatic fifty years ago are no longer so; the existence of Middle Woodland platform mounds and plazas, for example, has been demonstrated for dozens of sites in Southeast (Jefferies 1994; Knight 1990, 2001; Milanich et al. 1997; Pluckhahn 1996, 2003). As old mysteries are solved, however, new questions appear. The integration of Crystal River into local and regional settlement patterns is not addressed in the research reported here, but looms large as a key issue in understanding the role and function of the site. The need to address settlement patterns has happily become more urgent with the state park's purchase of the large Robert's Island mound complex literally within sight of Crystal River, on the south side of the river (Weisman 1995a, 1995b). How these two large mounded sites related to one another is far from understood and difficult to grasp even through analogy. Of course, unanswered questions still abound at the Crystal River site itself, at very level of analysis. We hope in this report to have cleared away some of the misunderstandings regarding the site, and to have taken a first step toward a new and more detailed integration of history and process at Crystal River. Nevertheless, we caution that our historical reconstruction is best understood as a series of hypotheses for future research rather than a definitive statement. In a brief, . unpublished manuscript laying out his notions regarding the history of Crystal River, Bullen (n.d.) humbly concluded that "it will require more archaeological work to make a complete and authoritative


interpretation." We find ourselves in the position of bringing a new archaeological perspective to Crystal River with a renewed vigor of effort, but we recognize Bullen's caveat as an equally appropriate conclusion to this report summarizing our own work at the site.


Acknowledgments. This work was supported, in part, by the University of South Florida Office of Research through the New Researcher Grant Program. Additional support was provided by the Departments of Anthropology of the University of South Florida and the University of West Florida, and the Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. For permission to work at Crystal River, we thank Nick Robins, Parks Small, Ryan Wheeler, Louis Tesar, and William Stanton. Our work was greatly facilitated by graduate students Nicolas Laracuente, Sarah Mitchell, Amanda Roberts, and Adrianne Sarns. We are indebted -to Chris (Paula) Carpenter, Jamie Gridwain, Gary Ellis, Rich Estabrook, Lori Collins, Mike Petellat, and Leroy Smith for advice and logistical support. Laboratory assistance was provided by Jana Futch and Shannon McVey. Donna Ruhl and Irv Quitmyer were instrumental in the retrieval of radiocarbon dates from material curated at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Notes on Collections. Artifacts, notes, photographs, and other documentation relating to this project are stored at the Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources, Tallahassee, Florida.

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