Though I have always maintained a broad-based interest in the prehistory and early history of the Southeastern Indians, in my three-decade research career I have primarily focused on the impact of the European colonial era on indigenous chiefdoms of the southeastern United States, and their response and adaptation over time in differing political and economic circumstances. In broader perspective, one of my major long-term goals has been to explore the developmental trajectories of the new colonial society comprising greater Spanish Florida between 1513 and 1821, incorporating both indigenous and immigrant colonial groups (and emergent new social and ethnic formations) within and beyond the colonial frontier. Over the course of my professional career, I have had the opportunity to conduct direct research across a broad geographic region within the zone of influence of Spanish Florida and its colonial neighbors, including not just the core mission territories in the Coastal Plain region to the west and north of St. Augustine, but also the territories of the historic Creek and Cherokee Indians of the Piedmont, Appalachian, and Ridge and Valley provinces, as well as the Calusa and other nonagricultural groups of the deep southern Florida peninsula, and most recently the far western margin of colonial Florida along the northern Gulf coast in Pensacola. To this end, I collaborate with students and colleagues in broad-based anthropologically-oriented research which draws upon multiple sources of evidence from a number of disciplines.
For context, my theoretical orientation leans strongly toward logical positivism, with an emphasis on scientific analysis, empirical proof, and objectivity. As an anthropologist, while I was originally trained in processual archaeology, I also embrace more recent approaches including agency and practice theory, and historical ecology. With regard to historical and ethnohistorical research, my outlook aligns well with the Annales school of social history, including an emphasis on serial data and quantitative analysis. Finally, in concert with these perspectives, I believe a strict wall of separation should be maintained between objective scientific inquiry and partisan political advocacy, and that the past should be studied but not judged.
A sampling of my ongoing research activities is listed below:
- Since 2007 in concert with ongoing excavations by UWF at the Emanuel Point II shipwreck here in Pensacola Bay, and much more intensively since the 2015 discovery of the Luna Settlement, I have been continuing my earlier studies of Spanish records relating to the expedition of Tristan de Luna y Arellano to Pensacola Bay (and points inland) between 1559 and 1561. I have been exploring various dimensions of the Luna expedition, ranging from the destruction of the fleet in September of 1559 to various survival strategies undertaken by colonists during subsequent months, including the relocation of the colony inland, as well as the penetration of a small military detachment as far as the Coosawattee River valley of Northwest Georgia, where I was able to conduct archaeological work several years ago. Complementing this research, I am also reviewing detailed documentary and archaeological evidence for material culture in use at the time of the Luna expedition.
- Another long-term research project I have been pursuing since 2008, particularly as part of the 2009-2015 UWF terrestrial archaeological field schools that I taught, is the ongoing analysis of 18th-century Spanish documentation relative to Native American communities established in the environs of Pensacola's three successive presidios (Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel), including missionary activity and military detachments in these communities. Working with several colleagues and graduate students at the UWF Archaeology Institute and Department of Anthropology, I identified high-probability areas where archaeological fieldwork may result in the discovery of one or more of these Pensacola missions, permitting us to examine the source communities for the large collections of Native American ceramics in all three presidios. Moreover, since the descendants of these mission communities migrated to Veracruz with the evacuation of Spanish Pensacola in 1763, there may also be possibilities for future archival and archaeological work there as well. I have developed a separate web page relative to the Pensacola Colonial Frontiers Project, which contains further details regarding the overall project as well as a link to a blog regarding our 2009-2015 field schools at Molino, Florida.
- For a number of years, I have also been exploring the survivorship of Florida Indians who migrated to Cuba during the 18th century, including not only the 89 surviving inhabitants of the Franciscan missions who evacuated St. Augustine in 1763 and settled in Guanabacoa, but also several earlier waves of migration by Calusa and other South Florida Indians to the vicinity of Havana before 1760. Detailed review of parish archives in Guanabacoa, combined with extensive Florida and Cuba records in Spain, has provided a remarkable portrait of these expatriots from Florida, in some cases including biographical details from before and after their relocation to Cuba. I have also recently turned my attention to another 108 Yamasee and Apalachee Indians who migrated to Veracruz in 1763 from their mission communities near Pensacola, and their subsequent fate in Mexico in the newly-formed town of San Carlos de Chachalacas.
- I also maintain interest in continuing to analyze the results of my intensive investigation of the Cuban fishing industry in the coastal waters of southwest Florida, from its origins during the 17th century through its growth and development during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. From their primary base in the fishing community of Regla, Cuba, a small fleet of sailing vessels maintained an increasingly regular presence along Florida's southern coastlines, especially following the evacuation of the region by its indigenous inhabitants and their replacement by immigrant Creek and Yamasee Indians after 1760. Parish records in Regla have supplemented other Cuban and Spanish archival sources to document the emergence of a new creolized ethnic group known as the "Spanish Indians," resulting from extensive commerce and eventual intermarriage between Cuban-based Spanish fishermen and Creek Indians residing in Florida.
- Another very long-term research interest of mine is the relationship between stylistic and technological variability in household utilitarian ceramics produced by Southeastern Indians, and the social identity of their makers. Speficially, to what extent do archaeological "style zones" with limited geographic and chronological extent (including what are commonly known as phases) correspond to indigenous political or ethnic identities more commonly documented in the historical record. I have conducted research and presented and published on this topic for more than two decades, and have recently been focusing on a theoretical framework that I refer to as "landscapes of practice," referring to the spatial materialization of "communities of ceramic practice."