Ancient engineering of fish capture and storage in southwest Florida

Victor D. Thompson, William H. Marquardt, Michael Savarese, Karen J. Walker, Lee A. Newsom, Isabelle Lulewicz, Nathan R. Lawres, Amanda D. Roberts Thompson, Allan R. Bacon, Christoph A. Walser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 16th century, the Calusa, a fisher-gatherer-hunter society, were the most politically complex polity in Florida, and the archaeological site of Mound Key was their capital. Based on historic documents, the ruling elite at Mound Key controlled surplus production and distribution. The question remains exactly how such surplus pooling occurred and when such traditions were elaborated on and reflected in the built environment. Our work focuses on the “watercourts” and associated areas at Mound Key. These subrectangular constructions of shell and other sediments around centralized inundated areas have been variously interpreted. Here, we detail when these enclosures were constructed and their engineering and function. We argue that these structures were for large surplus capture and storage of aquatic resources that were controlled and managed by corporate groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8374-8381
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 14 2020


  • Archaeology
  • Calusa
  • Fisher-gatherer-hunters
  • Florida

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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