The National Science Foundation has awarded three research institutions a collective $65,000 in emergency funding to survey the damages across 20 square miles of Florida’s Pine Island Sound and Estero Bay. Home to several precious archaeological sites of the Native Calusa people, who inhabited the region until the late 1700s, Pine Island was particularly brutalized by Hurricane Ian last September and continues to suffer from long-lasting effects of the Category 4 storm.
Researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia, and Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) have set out to examine the level of destruction, which includes heavy erosion and vegetation damage, to the remaining Calusa sites caused by the 150 mph winds and aggressive storm surge. The Calusa people resided on the South Florida coast for over a thousand years before their villages were wiped out by European explorers.
“By the 16th century, the Calusa were arguably one of the most politically complex non-agrarian societies in North America, and they were remarkable for their resilience in the face of European colonialism,” principal investigator and Florida Museum Curator Michelle Lefebvre said in a statement, pointing to the fact that the coastal population subsisted primarily on fish and shellfish.
Within the Pineland Archeological District on Pine Island, the museum’s Randell Research Center encompasses dozens of acres of Calusa-made shell mounds, middens, fish corrals, remnants of an elaborate canal system, and the one-mile Calusa Heritage Trail — all of which sustained damages or were potentially destroyed by the storm according to the press release.
“The Calusa cultural heritage sites across this region are significant to many different communities for many reasons,” LeFebvre told Hyperallergic. “First, these places have great ancestral meaning to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. These sites are also supported by a remarkable network of cultural and biological heritage stewards, and their care and work make it possible for these places to serve as valued community resources that we must continue to honor and protect.”
Such cultural sites yield invaluable information about the survival mechanisms of the Calusa, who were said to have had a powerful, hierarchical society of tens of thousands of people that depended on estuaries. The Calusa people are believed to be the first “shell collectors” for their use of shells in weaponry, hunting gear, jewelry, tools, and utensils. Isabelle Holland-Lulewicz, an assistant professor at Penn State and research grant collaborator, described the impacted areas as containing “some of the most well-preserved examples of Indigenous architecture in the southeastern United States.”
Nicolas Gauthier, the museum’s curator of artificial intelligence, will use pre- and post-hurricane satellite imagery combined with photographs from drone surveys conducted by the University of Georgia to develop damage assessment maps as well.
“We’re using machine learning to trawl though a massive amount of data to find out which areas have been most affected and to assess current and future vulnerabilities to storm events,” Gauthier said, indicating that the maps will be publicly available to those on the ground for continual restoration efforts.
Despite the overwhelming damage in the wake of Hurricane Ian, the collaborative research team remains optimistic about the restoration and preservation of Calusa historical landmarks. “This has all happened before,” Gauthier remarked, referencing Florida’s hurricane season.
“People have lived and thrived here for thousands of years, so we hope to learn as much about these sites’ continued resilience over the long term as we do their short-term vulnerability.”
Coasting the Topography of South Asian Futurisms
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Sadaf Padder presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
I’m a Florida Drag Queen and I’m Scared
I’m truly at a loss for what to do for work and what kind of life I can expect to live.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
An Artist’s Hopeful Vision of the Ocean
Indonesian artist Mulyana crafts a tactile, mystical world in which fish, whales, and coral reefs coexist with sea monsters.
An Introduction to “Afrogallonism
Serge Attukwei Clottey explores Ghanaian culture and identity through discarded jerrycans and other found materials.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
A Ride With Liz Cohen
Nothing in the artist’s personal biography could predict that she’d one day become a car builder and bikini model.
LA’s Hammer Museum Wants to Be Seen
After two decades of renovations, the museum that calls itself a “well-kept secret” reopens with a mission to be more visible.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
AI-Generated “Dope Francis” Fools the Internet
Many thought the picture of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, created using Midjourney, was the real deal.
1,400-Year-Old Mural of Two-Faced Man Found in Peru
Historians hypothesize that the Moche paintings could represent artists’ attempts to experiment with portraying movement or narrative.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Louvre Shutters as Pension Plan Protests Intensify
President Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 has sparked widespread demonstrations across the country.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.