The Zooarchaeology of Herman’s Bay

Project Director: Irv Quitmyer

Herman’s Bay Midden (8SL1146) is located in St. Lucie County, Florida on Hutchinson Island. The midden is perched along a beach dune line in full view of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and a well-developed estuarine system of the Indian River to the west. In anticipation of land development, a research team from Florida Archaeological Services under direction of Robert Johnson, Florida Archaeological Services conducted an archaeological excavation that is intended to determine the extent of the site and the significance of its cultural heritage. The research provides convincing evidence that the Herman’s Bay Midden contains significant archaeological remains discarded by some of Florida’s earliest residents during the Okeechobee period (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1513). Johnson’s research shows that the site contained architectural evidence of a house structure, attendant cooking hearth, and the animal remains used by the Okeechobee period people.

The Herman’s Bay faunal remains were studied at the Environmental Archaeology Laboratory, Florida Museum of Natural History. Our goal was to identify the species represented at the site, calculate their relative abundance, and evaluate their state of preservation. The resulting data shows that these people were fisher, hunter, gatherers that exploited animal resources from the Indian River Estuary estuary and from the Atlantic Ocean. To a much lesser extent upland game and freshwater animals were also used. Very small schooling fishes that use the estuary as a nursery provide evidence for the use of fine mesh nets and other fine catch devices. Larger fish may represent bycatch from these nets or perhaps they were taken with hook and line or spears. The most prominent source of meat for the diet appears to come from fishes and turtles.

This research is an excellent example of the progressive relationship between academic research and the business community. This scientific study has helped to train five graduate students and one undergraduate student. The resulting data will also help development managers make the best decisions possible with regard to the future of the site.