Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Nancy Marie White, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent R. Weisman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Trevor Purcell, Ph.D.


Shell artifacts, Prehistoric archaeology, Cultural Resources, Northwest Florida, Apalachicola River Valley


With this thesis, I aim to fill a gap in our knowledge of shell artifacts from the northwest part of the state of Florida. It represents a first look at the range of shell artifacts in the collections of the University of South Florida (USF) obtained during the ongoing program of archaeological investigations in the Apalachicola Valley and surrounding region. There are 46 sites in the study area that have been identified as yielding shell artifacts, of which samples from 27 sites are curated in the USF Archaeology Laboratory. The proposed typology is based on an analysis of over 2300 specimens collected from archaeological sites in northwest Florida, including the Gulf Coast, barrier islands, St. Joseph Bay, and the Apalachicola River drainage.

Shell artifacts represent one informative set of strategies that pre- and proto-historic Native Americans used to make a living. Despite this recognition, shell artifacts from northwest Florida have thus far received very little attention when compared with collections from south Florida. The paucity of available chert or other stone raw materials probably helped encourage south Florida peoples to utilize marine shell resources more extensively (White, Fitts, Rodriguez, and Smith 2002:16). The USF Apalachicola collection clearly demonstrates that marine shell played an important role in the lives of prehistoric native peoples from the north Gulf Coast as well. Twenty-two artifact types, including adzes, hammers, and dishes have been identified at 46 sites extending as far as 70 river miles inland.

It is hoped that the research here presented will provide an opportunity to expand our knowledge of how past peoples lived in their everyday settings and help anthropologists categorize material culture in a more organized fashion. The provisional typology of shell tools is intended as a foundation for future work in the Apalachicola River area and in neighboring regions.