Mound Key was once the capital of the Calusa Kingdom, a large Pre-Hispanic polity that controlled much of southern Florida. Mound Key, like other archaeological sites along the southwest Gulf Coast, is a large expanse of shell and other anthropogenic sediments. The challenges that these sites pose are largely due to the size and areal extent of the deposits, some of which begin up to a meter below and exceed nine meters above modern sea levels. Additionally, the complex depositional sequences at these sites present difficulties in determining their chronology. Here, we examine the development of Mound Key as an anthropogenic island through systematic coring of the deposits, excavations, and intensive radiocarbon dating. The resulting data, which include the reversals of radiocarbon dates from cores and dates from mound-top features, lend insight into the temporality of site formation. We use these insights to discuss the nature and scale of human activities that worked to form this large island in the context of its dynamic, environmental setting. We present the case that deposits within Mound Key's central area accumulated through complex processes that represent a diversity of human action including midden accumulation and the redeposition of older sediments as mound fill.
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