Research and Collections

Department of Anthropology





Managemnt (CRM)

Gold Coast

Society of
America (AIA) -
South FL Chapter

Department of Paleontology






Research Slate

Finished Research Projects:

Title: A Preliminary Review and Bibliography of Human Skeletal Remains Curated by the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando

The Palm Beach Museum of Natural History curates the approximately 900 boxes of the South Florida Archaeological Collection (SFAC), including a sizeable selection of human skeletal remains originating from 21 different archaeological sites in Southern Florida.  This article, written in 2006 and published in 2007 in The Florida Anthropologist, represented a first step for the fledgling PBMNH in the inventory and study of this material.  Moreover, this paper served as a blueprint for moving forward with bioarchaeological research with the SFAC and as an important first step of data-gathering for an ongoing investigation of the ‘Bioarchaeology of the Okeechobee Peoples’.

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Title: A Preliminary Study of the Midden Burials from the Spanish River Complex and their Potential Applications to Questions Concerning Status in Pre-contact Southeast Florida
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando

Given at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society held in Avon Park, Central Florida, this paper presentation was another initial step in the ongoing exploration of the ‘Bioarchaeology of the Okeechobee Peoples’.  Specifically, it investigated differential paleodemographic factors between several Southern Florida human skeletal populations.

Title: The Bioarchaeology of the 1975 FAU Salvage Collection from the Belle Glade Burial Mound (8PB41)
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando, and Micheline Hilpert, with additional input from Ronda Graves

Although excavated in 1975, the examination of this material had to wait over 30 years.  This paper, given at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society held in Ybor City, Tampa, is one of a number of current examinations of skeletal samples from the East Okeechobee and Lake Okeechobee archaeological areas.

Submitted Research Projects:

Title: Bibliography and Review of Human Skeletal Remains Curated by Florida Atlantic University: An Updated Accounting with Reference to Recently Re-discovered Populations
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando

As a companion to the above referenced inventory of the archaeologically-relevant human skeletal remains curated by the PBMNH, Peter Ferdinando also undertook a review of the material held by Florida Atlantic University (FAU).  The goal was to identify sufficient skeletal populations to complete a ‘Bioarchaeology of the Okeechobee Peoples’ from 2000 years ago through the contact era; data gathering for this book-length treatment is now well underway.  New human bones from over a dozen sites were identified in FAU’s collections during this process.  In many ways, the review of this material serves as an update to an earlier article by Mort Kessel.  Published in 2001 in The Florida Anthropologist, Kessel’s article was entitled A Bibliography of Human Burial Sites Curated at Florida Atlantic University.  Completed in late Summer 2008, the initial draft of this new paper has been utilized by a number of FAU students as a reference for the material held by the University.  A final version was submitted to The Florida Anthropologist in July 2009.

Title: A Translation History of Fontaneda
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando

Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda’s Memoir and other assorted notes are rightly famous historical documents discussing his time as a captive among the Calusa Indians of Florida’s Southwest coast.  This translation history, however, is more than a mere recitation of the publication history of the various Fontaneda documents.  It delves into the similarities and differences between these texts, both interlingually (i.e., from Spanish to English) and intralingually (i.e., between the English versions), along with discussing the potential influence of individual translators in enacting prevailing societal norms in translations, considerations of audience, and the translator’s position vis-à-vis the split between antiquarians and professional historians.  Written in the Spring of 2009, this paper was submitted to the Florida Historical Quarterly in November of 2009.


Currently ‘In-Editing’ Research Projects:

Title: Bioarchaeological Investigation of the Glades I Human Skeletal Population from the Patrician Site (8PB99)
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando, Ronda Graves, and Micheline Hilpert

The Patrician site (8PB99) is an archaeologically significant midden located in Eastern Palm Beach County, Florida.  Seven discrete burials were recovered from the northern part of the midden during excavation by the Palm Beach County Archaeological Society.  Ritchie et al.’s 1981 article in The Florida Anthropologist published limited osteological data concerning these burials, but full-scale examination of the human skeletal material was never completed.  Consequently, this new bioarchaeological study is vital, especially as this population is one of the earliest known for the East Okeechobee Area, securely dated to Glades I early (500 B.C.-A.D. 500).  This paper was originally drafted in Fall 2008, but was temporarily put aside to concentrate on completing several of the above articles.  Revisited and revised over Winter 2009, a late Spring 2010 goal is set for submission to The Florida Anthropologist.

Title: Paleodietary Trends in the East Okeechobee Area: Analysis of Stable Isotopes from Four Coastal Palm Beach County Burial Populations
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando, Ann Laffey, and John Krigbaum

The analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen from archaeologically derived human bone samples has been a useful tool in paleodietary research.  This paper draws samples from four burial populations in the East Okeechobee Area, and the selection of these sites enabled testing of not only general paloediet, but also additional questions concerning dietary trends through time, possible dietary distinctions between the sexes, and differences based on mortuary variables that may indicate differential status.  Moreover, it represents a part of an ongoing project to examine the Okeechobee peoples of southeast Florida, including both the Lake Okeechobee and East Okeechobee archaeological areas.  The vast majority of this article has been written, and the initial editing process is underway.  Submission to The Florida Anthropologist is intended, with a prospective completion date of late Spring to early Summer 2010.

Title: Socio-cultural Evolution in the East Okeechobee Area: Mortuary Practices, Complexity, and Chiefdoms
Author/s: Peter Ferdinando

This lengthy paper moves through a series of three phases.  First, a thorough review of mortuary practice from this culture’s emergence in Glades I through European contact (c.a. 500 B.C-A.D. 1763).  Second, a critical examination of these mortuary practices to probe for the presence of increasing complexity and inequality.  This study demonstrates some level of complexity by the latter part of Glades II, which is amplified during the Glades III period.  Thus, third, using this data, and information drawn from several other sources, e.g. settlement patterns, ceramic types distribution, and ethnohistorical documents, along with a thorough review of the literature concerning chiefdoms and other types of societal developments, five proposals were tailored and reviewed.  This extended paper is currently being edited, with a possibility of it being split into two distinct, but interrelated, parts due to length.  Submission to The Florida Anthropologist is projected by middle to late Summer 2010.  Interestingly, selections from this paper, entitled Mortuary Practices in the East Okeechobee Archaeological Area: Tracking Indicators of Complexity and Socio-cultural Evolution, have already been previewed at a recent Archaeological Institute of America, Southern Florida Society (AIA-SFL) event.


In-Progress Research Projects:

A number of research projects are currently under-way, including an investigation of mortuary attributes and GIS (with co-authors Paul Callsen and Trevor Feagin), an examination of the developmental relationship between the Fort Center and Belle Glade sites, Devin Howell’s examination of the Waldron skeleton (with Peter Ferdinando as co-author), and, finally, a series of bioarchaeological investigations into a number of Southeast Florida skeletal populations, including Boynton Multiple Mound (8PB100), Canal Point 2 (8PB45), Canal Point 3 (8PB46), Hours of Refuge Midden (8MT354), Margate Blount (8BD41), Nebot (8PB219), Riviera (8PB30), Spanish River Complex (Boca Raton Midden [8PB12], Boca Weir [8PB56], and Highland Beach Mound [8PB11]), and Waldron (8PB554).

Archaeological Holdings

South Florida Archaeological Collection

The Museum has been active in the study of Archaeology, especially focused on the South Florida area. The central element of this undertaking revolves around the South Florida Archaeological Collection. This collection has been the basis for scholarly articles, graduate study, and the continued investigation of the original pre-contact inhabitants of South Florida.

Educational Archaeological Collection

Along with the original Archaeological items the museum holds, we also have high-quality replica objects that are used for educating the young and old alike. We use these items for our outreach programs, and birthday parties to help educate the public about Archaeology. These activities include excavating dig boxes for artifacts, and learning about the original Native American inhabitants of Florida.


Florida's First Explorers

Ponce De Leon
Ponce De Leon

de Soto
Hernando de Soto



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