The beautiful white-sand barrier islands – Dog, St. George (and Little St. George), and St. Vincent Islands, and St. Joseph barrier spit peninsula occupy a special place in the history of the region. They have always been sparsely inhabited but clearly utilized since very ancient times. From Late Archaic times onward – in other words, since the islands formed 4000 years ago – people have inhabited them. All the prehistoric camps are shell middens on the sheltered bay sides, where there is adequate water and other resources. Even historic Indian sites are present on the bay shores. Many Euro-American shipwrecks have occurred on these shores as well. One shipwreck dating to the late 1800s is pictured below. Nobody lived on the Gulf side, considered a barren, hot and desert-like environment (even by World War II soldiers stationed there for training at Camp Gordon Johnston) until what we like to call the “Coppertone” culture of very recent times. Now that we have ways of making fresh water, food, and other resources easily available, and a desire for recreation on the beach, humans are loving the islands to death!
In 2009 we surveyed St. Vincent Island, which is a federal wildlife refuge. The entire north and east shore were used by natives camping while they collected fish and shellfish from as early as 1500 B.C. through historic times. The shell middens (garbage piles) they left are protected archaeological sites under federal law. So remember it is illegal to pick up artifacts from St. Vincent Island or any other public lands, but if you see pottery erroding out of the shore, photograph its location and get GPS coordinates so you can help save the record of the past.