The Seminole Tribe and Archaeology

Indigenous groups have been key components in our discussions about archaeology this semester. The majority of the artifacts we have discussed are from Indigenous cultures in North America. This makes sense because these artifacts are the most relevant to us given where we live. The artifacts help tell us stories about Native American groups by teaching us about their lifestyles and what is important to them. The majority of the Native American groups we have focused on in class have been centered in the North East and the Midwest. We’ve also discussed groups in the South West region of the United States. We have not really talked about groups in the South East region. This may be due to Vassar’s location and the relevance of North Eastern archaeology to us, nevertheless, Indigenous groups from the South East and the artifacts they created are just as important to this country’s history as those of the North East. One prominent Native American group from the South East was the Seminole Tribe who lived in what is today Florida.

A large portion of the history of the Seminole Tribe is explained by the written history of the European settlers because, “Very few Seminole towns have ever been excavated in Florida” (Keen 2004). This the makes the artifacts that are found so much more important. These artifacts are more likely to be free of bias, and if interpreted correctly they can give a more accurate history of the Seminole Tribe than the written history composed by the biased European settlers. For example, in Keen’s article she describes the excavation of Paynes Town, a Seminole Town near Gainesville Florida. During this excavation they found that there was a clear mixing of Seminole and European cultures, “in a unique combination of the two material cultures, was a piece of manufactured brass sheet metal that had been molded into an arrowhead to meet Seminole needs” (Keen 2004). This shows that the Seminoles had a good enough relationship to trade with Europeans. It can be inferred that the Seminoles may have traded for specific materials that could have benefitted them in the crafting of their hunting tools. There is much that can be learned by studying artifacts such as these that cannot be learned by written history.

Members of the Paynes Town excavation team working on a test hole.

We can learn things about the Seminole Tribe by looking at their other artifacts too. One such artifact is the Turtle Rattler. The Turtle Rattler was “used in some Seminole ceremonies. This kind of rattle has been used by many different groups of Native Americans and holds great meaning as a symbol of independence” (Florida Seminole Traditions: 3) Artifacts like these show a degree of shared tradition between Native American groups. It also shows what things the Seminole Tribe value, that being independence. This is more than what a biased written history produced by the Europeans could tell you.

Seminole Turtle Rattler used in ceremonies.

Further Readings:

The Fight to Bring Seminole Ancestors Home


“Florida Seminole Traditions.” Orange County Regional History Center, n.d.

Keen, Cathy. “Excavation Finds Clues of Cultural Blending in Seminole Indian Life.” Florida Museum, May 14, 2019.

“Seminole Indian Turtle Rattle [Height/Length (in)= 11.5, Width (i…” Online Auctions. Accessed December 4, 2022.

2 thoughts on “The Seminole Tribe and Archaeology

  1. It is important to recognize that native Americans are not people of the past. The Seminole tribe of Florida and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma are federally recognized Indian tribes in Florida and Oklahoma, respectively. What can we learn about their history from current day Seminole people, rather than looking at European-written history?

  2. I agree! That is another great way to learn about the history of the Seminole tribe of Florida and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma that I forgot to explore in my blog. By engaging with the living members of the Seminole tribe we can learn much about their history. Although, as I stated in my blog post I too think we should move away from European-written history because it is biased and that examining artifacts is a way to do so. I think that the method of learning about their history that you presented is another great option and it should be used as well.

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