Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas J. Whitmore, Ph.D.


Gulf Coast, Pollen Analy sis, Woodland Period, Environmental Change, Paleoecology


The Woodland-period (ca. 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1050) fisher-hunter-gatherers of the Crystal River drainage on Florida’s Big Bend Coast are well known among southeastern archaeologists for their elaborate shell mound architecture, maritime lifeway, and exotic exchange goods. Recent archaeological investigations at the Crystal River site have employed high-resolution topographic mapping, geophysical surveys, trench excavations, and coring to model the temporality of mound construction and occupation at the site; this work has set the stage for subsequent research focusing on community structure, resource extraction, and human-ecosystem dynamics. However, like many central and north peninsular Gulf Coast sites, our understanding of Crystal River lacks robust environmental context. Various geologists and archaeologists have proposed that several major sea-level oscillations transpired during the late Holocene at scales that would have heavily impacted coastal habitation; however, the paleoenvironmental reconstructions available for the Gulf Coast disagree dramatically about the timing, extent, and general pattern of sea-level history, which discourages the use of non-localized (or averaged) reconstructions for archaeological interpretation. This study investigates palynological remains recovered from midden and wetland core samples taken at Crystal River site to provide a record of vegetation response to both externally driven environmental changes (i.e. sea-level and climate flux) and anthropogenic landscape alterations throughout the first millennium A.D. Results show that stratified midden deposits and wetland soils at Crystal River site contain intact fossil pollen assemblages that span the site’s occupational history and extend into pre- and post-abandonment periods. The pollen data suggest that local communities experienced substantial environmental changes that reorganized the composition and geographic distribution of coastal ecosystems. These transformations align well with broadly recognized climatic episodes (i.e. the Roman Warm Period, Vandal Minimum, and Medieval Warm Period). In contrast, the Crystal River drainage experienced a unique pattern of sea-level flux that does not approximate oft-cited sea-level records developed elsewhere on Florida’s Gulf Coast, or the averaged sea-level curves for the Gulf Coast. Additionally, the microbotanical remains preserved within midden soils at Crystal River site may speak to the roles of particular plants as subsistence, technological, medicinal, and/or ceremonial resources.