Jared Ragland (& Cary Norton)
Tierra Verde, Pinellas County, Florida - site of a Tocobaga charnel house and burial mound (2020) & Weedon Island, Pinellas County, Florida (2020) (both from the series Where You Come From is Gone)
Jared Ragland is a fine art and documentary photographer and former White House photo editor. His collaborative, socially-conscious work critically confronts issues of Southern identity, marginalisation, and the history of place.
Spanning approximately 3,700 acres, Weedon Island is located on the shores of Old Tampa Bay and is Florida’s largest estuary. The Weedon coastal system is comprised of a variety of aquatic and upland ecosystems, and has been occupied by human populations since the Middle Archaic period (5000-3000 BCE). The island was once home to the Yat Kitischee people of the late Weeden Island Culture [alternative spelling], who along with the nearby Safety Harbour Culture formed the major centres of political, ceremonial and social significance on the Pinellas Peninsula around 200 -1000 CE. The Weeden Island Culture is known for its sophisticated ceremonial and utilitarian pottery, mound complexes, and dugout canoes. Today, much of the estuary is managed under preservation efforts, but legacy effects of mosquito ditching in the 1950s have made salt marshes more vulnerable to flooding impacts from climate change.
Near this site, south of present-day St. Petersburg, Florida, a Tocobaga charnel house and burial mound were once situated on a series of 15 islands. Scholars believe the dead would be laid in the charnel house and a shaman/priest – with help from scavenging birds – would remove the flesh from the skeleton in preparation for burial. Once stripped or picked clean, the bones and the eternal spirit they held were placed in the mound. The Tocobaga disappeared from the historical record by the early 1700s, as disease brought by European explorers decimated the Safety Harbour culture, leaving the Tampa Bay area virtually uninhabited for more than a century. The landscape of Tierra Verde was completely transformed in the late 1950s when the burial grounds were razed and used as fill dirt for a residential development and golf course.
Both digital images are from wet-plate collodion tintype.