Ancient Explorers: Little Salt Spring and the Peopling of the Americas

little salt spring event flyerFebruary 24, 2018
Storer Auditorium, University of Miami
Co-Sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Department of Geological Sciences, Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, Florida Public Archaeology Network, HistoryMiami Museum


Click here to view Flyer

Accordion Group

Open All Tabs
  • About

    Join us for a one day public symposium on Little Salt Spring. Through a variety of scholarly presentations, a pop-up artifact exhibit, and discussion panel we aim to explore the role of Little Salt Spring within the broader spectrum of knowledge of the first peopling of the Americas and address the site’s pertinence to climate change in the past, present, and future.

    Leading figures in the study of America’s earliest human occupation will present new research findings from Little Salt Spring and related archaeological sites. An afternoon forum will bring together leaders within the south Florida archaeological community to discuss future research and preservation of Little Salt Spring and other underwater cultural resources. This conference is open to the public and co-sponsored by the University of Miami, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and HistoryMiami Museum.

  • Keynote Speaker

    Waters photoDr. Michael R. Waters, Director of the Center for the Study of First Americans, Texas A & M University

    Forging a New Understanding of the Late Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas 
    Archaeological and genetic evidence accumulated over the last few decades show that the 80-year-old Clovis First model no longer explains the exploration and settlement of the Americas by humans at the end of the last Ice Age.  Evidence from archaeological sites in North and South America are providing empirical evidence that people occupied the Americas by 15,000 years ago.  Studies of modern and ancient genomes confirm this age estimate and tell us who these people were and where they came from.  This archaeological and genetic evidence is rewriting our understanding of the First Americans.

    Professor Waters holds the Endowed Chair in First American Studies at Texas A & M, is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, directs four research projects on early Americans and is the author of the key textbook on geoarchaeology. Dr. Waters will address the importance of Little Salt Spring and other early archaeological sites for understanding the origin of human occupation of North America.

  • Speakers

    Newsom Lee Ann photoDr. Lee Newsom, Flagler College, Emerita, Dept. of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University

    Paleobotanical Research at Little Salt Spring
    Wood, seeds, gourds and other materials from nearly all temporal components have been recovered from Little Salt Spring. Data from the 27-meter ledge demonstrate the presence of a late Pleistocene wetland forest community that lacks any modern analogue, mirroring the extinct fauna from that period. Paleoindian and Archaic Period plant use is reflected in the wooden implements, including throwing sticks and atlatl shafts, as well as two types of gourd, among other economic plant species, from excavations in the spring basin. Radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA research confirm a very early presence of African bottle gourd at the site, lending support to one origin model positing oceanic drift as the dispersal vector for the fruits, which later became the basis of plant cultivation and reveal agricultural origins in eastern North America.

    Jason photoDr. Jason O’Donoughue, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources

    The Past and Future of Florida’s Springs
    Florida houses the largest concentration of artesian springs in the world, many of which are besieged by the impacts of development. Debate rages over how best to balance conservation, recreation, and sustainable groundwater use. Despite their abundance, relatively little is known about past human use of these places. Histories of springs typically emphasize their role as watering holes where game and freshwater could be obtained or as sacred pools where ritual was conducted. However, recent archaeological investigations at several springs in the state are casting new light on these interpretations. Drawing on examples from across Florida, I outline the environmental and cultural history of Florida’s springs and argue that archaeology can help us better understand contemporary threats to these places and enhance efforts to conserve and restore what Archie Carr called “the singular blessing of the Florida landscape.”

    Jessi Halligan photoDr. Jessi Halligan, Florida State University

    A View from the Blackwater Aucilla: How Florida’s Underwater Paleoindian Sites Are Providing Insights into the First Americans
    The Paleoindian record of Florida is a study in contrasts. Well-preserved paleoenvironmental data and numerous bone and ivory artifacts from freshwater submerged sites provide clues about the earliest inhabitants and their lifeways. Much of Florida’s Paleoindian record was submerged by sea level rise, so we know little about any early coastal adaptations while sites on land suffer from problems common to the Southeast: poor preservation and destruction from development. However a century of research has demonstrated that Florida’s underwater sites can provide important information about the first Floridians, the first people in the Southeast, and the first Americans.

    hemmings vero photoDr. Andrew Hemmings, Aucilla Research Institute

    Recent Observations on Materials Collected from Little Salt Spring
    A number of observations based on a recent examination of the geologic samples, faunal remains, and material culture from Little Salt Spring suggest clustering of data at specific points in the use of the site over time.  Terminal Pleistocene and Middle Archaic evidence are discussed in detail. How Little Salt fits within a regional cultural framework is suggested and meaningful lines of future inquiry are also presented.

  • Afternoon Panelists

    Steve Koski, moderator, University of Miami and Sarasota County

    Traci Ardren, Department of Anthropology, University of Miami

    Sara Ayers-Rigsby, Florida Public Archaeology Network

    Paul Backhouse, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Seminole Tribe of Florida

    Frederick Hanselmann, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami

    Jeff Moates, Florida Public Archaeology Network

    Lawry Reid, Friends of Little Salt Spring, Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeology Society

    Pop-up Exhibit at the conference-
    See some of the artifacts recovered from over 25 years of research at Little Salt Spring including an antler calendar, lithic spear points, and shell ornaments.

  • Registration

    This conference is open to the public but registration is required.  Limited seating is available.  Registration includes entrance to all the presentations, the panel, the exhibit, and lunch.

    Students can email Professor Arden at to reserve a FREE entry to the event.

    Conference Refund Policy: Refunds will be made ONLY if written notice of cancellation is received prior to December 29, 2017. After this date, NO REFUNDS WILL BE ISSUED. Refunds will be processed after completion of the conference.

    Privacy Policy: No information provided while registering for the conference will be sold or made available to companies or organizations not affiliated with the University of Miami.


  • Conference Hotel

    The Hampton Inn—Coconut Grove will offer conference registrants a special University of Miami rate of $144./night.  Please call the hotel to make your reservation and request the UM rate.  The hotel is located 4 miles from campus at 2800 SW 28th Terrace, Coconut Grove, Florida 33133.  Make your reservation by calling 305-448-2800.