Turning Point for Turner River

Paleoecology and Paleoclimate at the Turner River Mound Complex project

Alongside a National Park Service archeologist, an environmental archaeologist from the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS) is conducting a research project in the Everglades National Park of Florida.

Mixture of bones, shells and remaining dirt particles sent to Ph.D. Carla S. Hadden from the dig site in Florida.

On December 1, 2016 Carla S. Hadden of CAIS is partnering with Margo Schwadron (both having doctorates in Archaeology) of the National Parks Service to start the project titled “Paleoecology and Paleoclimate at the Turner River Mounds Complex”, where they will investigate the zooarchaeological record of Turner River Site.

The area of study is found in the Florida Everglades, specifically the Turner River Mound site. Hadden explains that the site is unique for two major reasons: it being mainly composed of shells and garbage from the inhabitants dumping over 900+ years and because during this time, there were fluctuations in sea levels.

“What the archeologist I’m working with in the park services are interested in is how did these kind of large fluctuations of sea levels affect the sorts of resources people has access to, so by looking at the plant and animal remains, as a team we are getting a sense of how the ecosystem responded to these sea level changes.” says Hadden.

Hadden sifting through a small bag of fish teeth and ear bones.

Hadden tells us that the two archeologists will work together to look at how the people and the ecosystem responded to these changes through radioactive dating.

Small shark bones.

“So, one of the approaches to try and figure out what is normal for the Everglades is to try and look at the archaeological record combined with lots of other different kinds of data sets to get a sense of what is the normal range of variability.” She said.

The two will look at a column of dirt found on the sight containing many strata or levels that are separated by time, temperature, salinity and other variables that cause each layer to differ from the next. They will then compare and contrast the C14 found in fossils of shells and other previous living organism’s remains to ones today that we know the age of, Hadden explains. By comparing the levels, Hadden will be able to have an estimate of the type of organisms that lived and the resources that were used during each time period and how old they are.

“There has been an interest in the past 10–20 years to try to restore the Everglades to some kind of prior condition, but nobody really remembers what that was like.” Hadden tells us.

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