Useppa Island Dig




This is an image of Denege’s watercolor painting of an archaeological dig on the east side of Useppa Island in which Denege participated in early 2006. The original painting was 18” x 24.”

Giclee Prints are available in various sizes (16 x 20, 12 x 15, and 8 x 10) each individually signed by the artist. Note card sets are also available. Please contact Denege to order.

The gopher tortoise on the left side of the painting ventured from beneath the gazebo every morning. He surveyed the excavation and then proceeded to eat the flowers on the hill.

In the center of the painting, the graduate student who conducted the dig as part of his dissertation, John Dietler of California, stands near a sorting screen. He wears a blue shirt and a red bandanna. An excavator is handing him a large shell.

The archaeological evidence suggested that a mass production of shell tools occurred on this site in approximately 700 AD. The findings strengthened an existing hypothesis that a complex trade network of the Calusa arose about this time.

Denege logged 385 volunteer hours over ten weeks, including lab work. She is shown kneeling far right at the middle unit, blue shirt, next to a red-shirted teammate. Each morning and late afternoon the volunteers took a marvelous twenty-five minute water taxi ride to and from the island. Dolphins frequently jumped and played in the wake of the boat.

Captiva Cruises off-loaded a number of visitors daily. They took turns having lunch at the Collier Inn, visiting the archaeological site, and touring the tiny, excellent Useppa Museum. This painting shows three people reading posters about the excavation. Their guide, bottom right, invites more to come see.

At the conclusion of the excavation, the pits were filled, the grass was replaced, and the tortoise went down the hill once again. John Dietler went back to California and completed his research in the lab. Two years later, he received his doctorate in archaeology from UCLA.