History of Byrd Hammock

Photo of Clarence B. Moore
Photo of Clarence B. Moore
Photo of Mound at Byrd Hammock

Byrd Hammock was first documented by antiquarian Clarence B. Moore in 1918, who, traveling on his steamship, was part of an expedition which went along the coast and interior river valleys of the Southeast investigating prehistoric Native American sites. Moore was focused on excavating and recording mounds across the Southeast, man-made structures he believed contained burials that would have included artifacts like whole ceramic vessels, sheets of mica, or projectile points. When he first saw Byrd Hammock, he identified each ‘hump’ as a single mound, either containing mortuary remains or a house mound.

Byrd Hammock Intepretive Map C.B. Moore’s Gopher Steamship
National Parks Service - Hands holding potsherd Image of Weeden Island sherd

After Moore, other archaeologists returned to Byrd Hammock trying to understand its unusual layout. In 1940, Gordon Willey hypothesized Byrd Hammock was settled by the Weeden Island culture, the people who produced the pottery displayed on the artifacts page, known as Weeden Island pottery. However, all the work up to this point focused on the mounds, not the ‘humps’ that Moore misidentified.

In 1954, Glenn Allen Jr. was the first to suggest the ‘humps’ found in the northern portion of the site represented a ring surrounding a central area. In 1968, Judy Bense mapped the entire Byrd Hammock site (both the northern and southern portions of the site), suggesting yet another hypothesis that Weeden Island people occupied the entirety of the site. In 1970, Daniel Penton focused on the southern half of Byrd Hammock, discovering the site was occupied at two different times and the southern portion was occupied by the earlier Swift Creek people. Building on top of this, NPS’s Archeological Assistance Program returned to Byrd Hammock in 2014.

Florida Trail Association Logo Bense (1969) Map of Byrd Hammock during Judy Bense’s Investigation


Bense, Judith A.
1969 Excavations at the Bird Hammock Site (8Wa30), Wakulla County, Florida. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, Tallahassee.