The Montague Tallant Collection of Florida’s First Peoples Artifacts
Most of Montague Tallant’s collecting was done in the 1930s. It is estimated that his collection totaled in excess of 5,000 artifacts. Tallant employed a variety of methods in his archaeological work. Metal detectors, shaker screens and even his Model A Ford named “Cacique” became tremendous aids in the field.
Native American pottery styles and methods help us define cultures and understand lifestyles of our early peoples. Florida pottery dates back to 4,000 years ago. Montague Tallant’s pottery collection dates from A.D. 300 until the 1700s. These pots help us tell the story of Florida’s lost tribes.
Florida’s native peoples found a new outlet for their artistry with the discovery of metal as a resource. Metal was widely and heavily traded among the native groups. The wide variety of silver, gold, bronze and tumbaga (an alloy of gold and copper) represented in the Tallant collection indicate heavy trading among the Florida natives.
Anthropomorphic effigy pendant, gold
St. Marks, Jefferson County
Gold and silver artifacts came from Latin America via Spanish contact, though not necessarily by direct trade. Iron, bronze and brass came from Europe. This gold pendant, sometimes called the crocodile god effigy is a good example of South American artistry.
Ornament, silver with gold eye
Bee Branch Mound, Glades County, FL
This silver hair ornament is one of three in the Tallant Collection. Only eight of these rare hair ornaments depicting the woodpecker are known to exist. All were found in Florida
Cut Crystal beads, late 1600
For archeologists, glass beads are much more than beautiful pieces of jewelry. They are clear and distinct links to previous and specific time periods. Glass beads were highly valued by Native Americans, as they had no glass-making technology. Spanish explorers recognized this and used them to trade or as gifts, sometimes in exchange for gold and other precious metals. The beads in the Tallant Collection date from the early 16th century.