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

Diane Wallman, Ph.D.


Southeastern archaeology, Cluster analysis, GIS, Least cost analysis, Settlement patterns, mounds


The Safety Harbor culture that resided in West-Central Florida during the Mississippian period (~1000-1500 CE) was distant from the Mississippian heartland but built similar platform mound complexes and exhibited social hierarchies despite practicing an estuarine lifestyle that likely did not rely on extensive agriculture. To determine whether this coastal culture exhibited similar spatial patterns of platform mound centers to traditional inland cultures, GIS spatial analyses including distance matrices, density analyses, and least cost analyses (LCA) were performed within the Safety Harbor geographical nexus of Tampa Bay. The results were able to detect temporal changes in settlement patterns and estimate the extents of basic clusters from a single site, with LCA delivering the best results. Consistent with previous research, coastal site patterns exhibit less distinct clustering and more dispersed spatial patterning than interior site patterns, suggesting less sociopolitical centralization and greater self-reliance that likely manifested in polities different in size and nature than Mississippian chiefdoms yet utilized similar themes in the monuments and political structures. Improved theories about coastal settlement patterns and mound formations will be needed to understand the social organizations and relationships outside of the traditional Mississippian horizon.