Guana River & Joseph Reed Shell Rings (2050 BC)

The Guana River, Joseph Reed, and St. Augustine Shell Ring structures found in Florida represent the earliest part of the Woodland Period in pre-Columbian America. The Woodland Period extends from approximately 2000BC to 1000AD and these Shell Ring structures date from approximately 2050 BC (Florida). Shell Ring archeological structures are a unique indicator of pre- Columbian and pre-historic life and culture. Some research has revealed at the Guana, Joseph Reed, and St. Augustine Shell Rings that, in some instances, over 4,000 cubic meters of various types of shells were required to construct them (Milanich).

The Shell Rings themselves are not limited to the remains of shell fish and other crustaceans but also contain the bones of fish, such as Catfish, the bones of mammals such as raccoons and other subsistence prey. Therein is the debate regarding the character of the Guana, Joseph Reed, and St. Augustine Shell Rings; what exactly was the intent, if any, behind their construction? Recent archeological theory has posited that Shell Rings are nothing more than refuse piles that were more developed over time rather than intentionally constructed (Mainfort). As detritus was regularly discarded behind residential structures arranged in a circular fashion, the result was a massive build-up. (A similar scenario can be found at the Sapelo Shell Ring Complex on Sapeolo Island, Georgia.)

An older shell ring-like structure, the Horr’s Island Mounds, can be found on the west coast of Florida that dates to around 3000 BC. Florida’s Native Americans would continue building shell constructions on a monumental scale at the next two sites in our story: Big Mound Key & John Quiet Mounds.

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