Dugout canoes hewn from massive logs of pine and cypress, canoe canals designed and dug by hand, and indigenous canoe trails and routes along Florida’s coast and through the interior marshes and swamps provide some clues about the significance of water in the ancient world. Archaeologists, however, have been slow to embrace the centrality of water in ancient Florida, where it served as a conduit for communication and exchange and as a source of food, but also as an organizing principle that underlies aspects of social, political, and religious spheres. Archaeologists have avoided getting their feet wet when searching for sites, despite knowing that archaeological wet sites produce artifacts and ecological data rarely found at dry land sites. By focusing our attention on the low and wet spots we can reveal a previously hidden “water world,” a negative image of our own, which privileges elevations and high places. Finding analogies for water in other traditional cultures, and examining Florida’s canoes and canoe canals, provides an exciting glimpse into the lives of Florida’s ancient inhabitants–giving us a rare look into their watery world.
Funded project of the Florida Humanities Council. The Florida Humanities Council is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.