Hunter Gatherer Research

Terraforming the middle ground in ancient Florida

Hunter Gatherer Research (2017), 3, (1), 9–29.

Abstract

All societies face contradictions between experienced pasts, imagined futures and the reality of the present. Changing social and ecological contexts are catalysts for intervention by communities hoping to restore or assert structure during turbulent times. Terraforming is one mode of intervention in which large-scale modifications to land reference ancient times, events and persons to create new opportunities for the future. At the landscape scale, terraforming is a form of futurism that reproduces or redirects the relations between communities, ecologies and cosmologies as historical process. In North America, ancient Floridians engaged in a wide range of landscape modifications to navigate the diverse relations between underworlds, upperworlds and the day-to-day. Over 6000 years ago on the St Johns River, communities deposited shell, earth and objects in ridges over assemblages of massive pits dug by their predecessors, arguably restructuring the relationships among wetlands, the living and the dead. Later communities of the Florida Gulf coast constructed mounds and ridges, which were conjoined with celestial events, at a time of rapid sea-level rise to redirect their social capital towards landward communities of lesser vulnerability.

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Author details

Randall, Asa

Sassaman, Kenneth