Pottery and Other Results at Garcon Point, Pensacola, Florida

This summer we finished fieldwork at Garcon Point, east of Pensacola, and uncovered not only remains of Yamasee Mission San Antonio de Punta Rasa (1749-1761) but also material from Pensacola’s Late Archaic (1000 BC or earlier, up to 3000 BC), Mississippian (ca 1100 AD-Spanish contact), British (1763-1781), Second Spanish (1781-1819), and American periods (1819-present).

The Late Archaic period marked the beginning of pottery, at about 3000 BC in Northeastern Florida and Southwestern Georgia and in Central and Western Florida. Most of the artifacts dating from this time period are ceramics with fibers such as Spanish moss added as tempering agents, and only rarely decorating with designs stamped from paddles. Exchange and other social interactions occurred during this time period from coastal Georgia to the Poverty Point area of Louisiana and perhaps farther west.
The Florida Museum of Natural History has cross-sections and other images of fiber-tempered and other sherds, and we found fiber-tempered sherds from Garcon Point:
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During the Misssissippian period, Pensacola existed between the sites of Bottle Creek (interpreted at the University of South Alabama Archaeology Museum) in the Mobile River Delta and the Temple Mound of Fort Walton Beach. Ceramics wise, shell tempering dominates Mississippian ceramics, which often have incised designs. These incisions sometimes occur on the rims of vessels and other times in distinctive artistic motifs. Such designs also persisted into the colonial era. Spacing and depth of incisions provides cultural information; for example the vessel below appears similar to Fatherland Incised vessels which characterize the Natchez of Mississippi and the Bayou Goula site in Louisiana.

Left: Fatherland Incised                                                                      Right: Incised/Ticked Rim
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In Florida, creamware—with a yellowish tinge to the glaze– offers the best evidence of a British occupation rather than an earlier one since creamware was first marketed in 1762 and the British took Florida as a result of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Pearlware—with a blueish tinge to the glaze that appears closer to Chinese porcelain– was introduced to the world market by 1779, so can roughly date the Spanish re-occupation of Pensacola by Bernando de Galvez and official move in 1781. Spaniards made plantations on top of older British ones.

In addition to pottery, we found a wealth of glass, but only some the handmade olive green or amber colored glass typical of the colonial era. Nineteenth-century glass and shotgun shells demonstrate the later American period occupation at Garcon Point. All told, we excavated 146 shovel tests—50 x 50 centimeter units up to a meter in depth—and four 1 x 1 meter units specifically focused on areas with the most Yamasee artifacts and Spanish tin-enameled pottery majolicas—particularly Abo, Puebla, and Playa types. Unit excavation showed why we found mixed contexts rather that architectural features: most of the area was plowed, which mixed artifacts and left “scars” in the soil.
Left: Shovel-testing                                         Right: 1 x 1 meter unit shows scars from plowing
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Typical Yamasee pottery—termed either San Marcos or Altamaha– includes stamped designs and temper of sand, crushed stone, and/or crushed ceramic.
San Marcos Stamped sherd:20160907_142719Apalachee Indians at their seventeenth-century mission San Luis stamped pottery as well Such pottery occurred at the eighteenth-century Apalachee Mission San Joseph de Escambe in Molino as well as at the Yamasee Mission San Antonio de Punta Rasa in Garcon Point, so may reflect social connections with Apalachees. Yamasees also had a seventeenth-century mission near San Luis so the design may be tied more to the seventeenth-century Tallahassee area than to a particular ethnicity.

Pottery made by Creek Indians who lived on the Chattahoochee River by brushing or roughening the surface, creatively termed Chattahoochee Roughened or Brushed pottery, occurred almost as frequently as San Marcos pottery at Garcon Point.
Chattahoochee Roughened Pottery: 20160907_135522
Interestingly, this decoration is far more common at the mid-eighteenth century Apalachee Mission San Joseph de Escambe located just north of Pensacola, likely because many of those Apalachees lived among the Creek Indians before moving to the Pensacola area. Many Yamasees in the Pensacola area moved there from St. Augustine, but had connections to Apalachicolas and other Creek Indians. Such pottery could thus reflect time spent among Creeks, trade with those groups to the north, or both.

Eighteenth-century Native American potters across Georgia, Florida, and elsewhere in the Southeast also painted pottery red in this type termed Mission Red variety Kasita:
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Native American potters in the eighteenth-century Pensacola area, and perhaps elsewhere, at times added both crushed shell and ceramic to the clay. The sherds below seem to combine to one vessel, which was decorated both with stamping more common in the eighteenth century and the ticking on the rim more common before European contact: 20160907_141056
In addition to not quite fitting into our present-day categories, pottery can indicate social contact such as trade or gift-giving, physical movements of entire communities, and tradition in terms of a common landscape or past. Analysis of this eighteenth-century Yamasee pottery assemblage—including comparing it to other pottery in the Pensacola area and other Yamasee pottery outside of Pensacola—will demonstrate continuity and change at a more quantitative level. For now it’s safe to say that Yamasees certainly kept their past traditions alive and well while also negotiating in new social and physical environments. Thank you to staff and students at the University of West Florida and College of William and Mary as well as local landowners for all of your generous support!

About Patrick Johnson

I'm an anthropology PhD candidate studying archaeology and history of Southeastern Native Americans and writing a dissertation about the diplomatic and daily life of Yamasee Indians in eighteenth-century Florida. Find me at https://twitter.com/patj86 or https://wm.academia.edu/PatrickJohnson if you're so inclined!
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