Florida


The Native American History of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Basin

The Village of Calos

The Lake Okeechobee region contained some of the most sophisticated indigenous cultures that ever existed north of Mexico. Its towns built large earthworks and ponds in the shape of the ceremonial scepters carried by leaders in the Southeastern Ceremonial Mound Culture, but they were built several centuries before the Southeastern Ceremonial Mound Culture appeared elsewhere. Its engineers constructed several hundred miles of canals and raised causeways to interconnect the towns. They even built locks to enable cargo canoes to bypass rapids. Yet despite all this cultural precociousness, so far there is no evidence that the people of South Florida ever practiced large scale agriculture. However, intensive cultivation of raised garden beds in a semi-tropical climate, also a practice of the Mayas, may have produced a far higher percentage of their diet than anthropologists currently presume.



Mayaimi People

Mayami Catamaran

The Mayaimi People lived around Lake Okeechobee from at least 300 BC to until around 1700 AD.1 Their ancestors probably lived in the region as early as 1000 BC, because some village sites show continual cultural development from that era forward. The Mayaimi were the progenitors of the Glades Culture. During the period from around



Tekesta People

Village of Tekesta

The Tekesta were an indigenous maritime people, whose primary villages were near the mouths of rivers along the Atlantic Coast of what are now Miami-Dade, Broward and southern Palm Beach Counties.1 At certain periods in the past, they also occupied the Florida Keys, but Calusa artifacts outnumber those of Tekesta in Florida Key archaeological sites,



The Miami Circle

Vector image of the Miami Circle

The Miami Circle was discovered in 1998 during excavation for the construction of a luxury condominium at Brickell Point in Downtown Miami near the Miami River and Biscayne Bay.1 The developer, Michael Baumann, tore down an existing apartment complex in 1998. Prior to initiating construction of the new tower, he was required to retain archaeologists



The Calusa People

Birdseye View of Calusa

During the 1500s and early 1600s, when Spanish explorers were first making contact with the indigenous inhabitants of the Florida, they made contact with a powerful nation on the southwest coast between Charlotte Harbor and Cape Sable.1 The first contact was made in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon, when he landed at the mouth



Big Gopher and Boynton Mound Complexes

The immensely rich archaeological heritage of South Florida is little known outside the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula. Perhaps least known are the large town sites east of Lake Okeechobee. Several have been studied by professional archaeologists and the large town sites are all now protected by some form of public ownership. The 143



Big Mound City Archaeological Zone

Site Plan of Big Mound City archaeological zone

Big Mound City is the only site from the Belle Glade culture on the National Register of Historic Places.1 It was added in 1973 as an example of a Calusa ceremonial complex, but is now understood to have originally been constructed by the same ethnic group that built the Ortona and Wakate towns – probably



Muspa Culture, Key Marco and other Platform Villages

Key Marco

A cluster of islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida, immediately south of Naples, FL and southwest of Lake Okeechobee once held numerous mounds and town sites. Know as the Ten Thousand Islands Region, it contains the villages and mounds of an unidentified Archaic Period people, the Muspa Culture and the Calusa People, who absorbed



Wakate – Guacata Town

Wakata temples

Around the year 900 AD, the provinces of the Calusa, Mayaimi and Tekesta in southern Florida merged into one political entity that was the scale of a nation.1 Almost immediately, the same styles of pottery were being produced in all three provinces, and the Mayaimi town of Wakate (Guacata in Castilian) began to grow rapidly.



The Chontal Maya or Putun Maya

A vector image of a Chontal Maya seacraft

The presence of crescent shaped temple mounds in the Florida Peninsula strongly suggests cultural contacts with Maya ethnic groups, who worshiped the goddess, Ixchel. Very few Florida archaeologists have been willing to suggest publicly that Florida, Mesoamerica and South America had direct cultural contacts. Those who did, were all ostracized by their peers. However, the linguistic and architectural evidence is overwhelming for contacts between illiterate Maya merchants and the indigenous peoples in Georgia – which is north of Florida.



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