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Calusa art presented at MCA meeting

February 26, 2014
Pine Island Eagle

Dynamic speaker, author, archeologist, artist and former family therapist, Denege Patterson treated Matlacha Civic Association guests to presentation of Calusa art at the MCA meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 18.

The Calusa civilization flourished in the local area from about 600-1710 A.D. In 1885, 14 Indian mounds on 240 acres were discovered. However, the records were misplaced and not relocated until 2005, thus the current and active research, headquartered at Randell Research Center, Pineland.

The Calusa were excellent woodcarvers and artists. Patterson brought several examples of exact replicas of artifacts from the center, where she works in archeology and guides, including an intricately carved kneeling cat/human, detailed painted face masks and a plank wood carving of a pileated woodpecker. Lead, feldspar and red ochre were used as pigments.

Carving was done with sharks' teeth and sanded smooth with shark skin.

Although some people are aware of the Calusa as fierce warriors, defending their territory against European invaders, the Calusa were brilliant engineers, creating miles of canals to connect Matlacha Pass to Pine Island Sound. They also took advantage of the abundance of local fish and shells, creating weirs and variously sized nets for fishing.

Although 85 percent of shells are formed with a counter-clockwise rotation, the local lightning whelk, which was used by the Calusa to create tools, weapons and jewelry, has a clockwise spiral shell. The Calusa replicated this clockwise spiral in the ascent of their mounds, believing this unusual spiral was a link to the hereafter.

The depiction of the eye on a tiny carved hairpin, to hold up their long hair, was thought to convey the eternal soul of the body, residing in the pupil of the eye.

Unfortunately, many of the mounds of the Calusa have been destroyed, used as fill for lakes, ponds and the elaborate canal system, as well as base for local roads.

Patterson is also the author of the 2010 book, "Edisonian Native Girl - the Life Story of Florence Keen Sansom, Artist Born on the Edison Estate, Ft. Myers, Florida." It is an easy-reading novel with local interest and the luminous artwork of Sansom, now 96 years old.

The association was reminded that it is a felony to remove anything from an archeological site.

Randell Research Center and the Calusa Heritage Trail and Gift Shop are open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Docent-guided tours of the Heritage Trail are offered Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., 13810 Waterfront Drive, Pineland. A $7 donation for adults and $4 donation for children is recommended to help maintain the site.

Denege's watercolors are available at the Center Gift Shop. Information to obtain a copy of "Edisonian Girl" is at:

MCA meetings are held at the Pine Island Art Asso-ciation Building, in Matla-cha Community Park, the third Tuesday of the month. The public is invited. The Matlacha Community Yard Sale is March 8. The Moonlight Paddle at the Park is March 15, at 6 p.m.

The next MCA meeting is March 18.



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