Ancient Civilizations of Florida
Native Americans constructed impressive structures(referred to as Indian Mounds) throughout the state of Florida for over 5,000 years. This Amerindian building activity occurred across three separate archaeological time periods in Florida: the Archaic period, the Woodland period, and the Mississippian period.
Research reveals that Florida was depopulated at the end of the Paleoindian/Early Archaic Period. At least two new groups of people migrated into Florida during the Archaic Period– one group during the Early/Middle Archaic and another during the Late Archaic. Some of the first monumental constructions, the Horr’s Island mounds, were built along the west coast of Florida around 5,000 years ago during the Archaic period. This site is believed to be the location of the oldest burial mound in North America. Other Florida Indian Mound sites built during the Archaic period are the Tomoka Mounds, the Guana River Shell Ring, and the Joseph Reed Shell Ring (one of the largest shell rings ever discovered).
The next major constructions, Big Mound Key and John Quiet Mounds were not built until the early Woodland period. These two coastal mound sites show influences from the Poverty Point culture in Louisiana. Another Woodland era site, Fort Center, is one of the largest precolumbian sites in Florida from which amazing carved wooden artifacts have been unearthed. Other constructions during this time period include:
- Ortona Mounds, which feature unique earthworks and an extensive canal network, offers proof of contact with the Hopewell culture in Ohio
- the Crystal River Mounds site, home to one of Florida’s first truncated pyramid mounds & famous for its standing stone stellae which may have served calendrical functions
- the Letchworth Mounds site, home to the largest precolumbian earthwork in Florida, a truncated pyramid mound rising over 42 feet high
Florida Indians’ mound-building activity would reach its height during the Mississippian period when more and larger truncated pyramid mounds would be constructed at places such as:
- Lake Jackson Mounds
- Shields Mound & Mount Royal Mound
- Turtle Mound
- Terra Ceia Mounds (including Madira Bickel mound)
- Fort Walton Temple Mound
- Big Mound City
One of the most impressive accomplishments from this time period was the construction of Mound Key, a manmade island built up over a thousand years from discarded shells featuring a central canal, watercourts, and truncated pyramid shell mounds. A similar mound site is the Pineland mound site.