Native American


The Architecture of Fort Center Archaeological Site

Fort Center Mortuary Temple Site Plan

The Fort Center Mounds archaeological site was the first ancient Native American community near Lake Okeechobee to be studied thoroughly by contemporary, professional archaeologists. It was the last major archaeological project for Archaeologist, William Sears. ((Memorial for William Hulse Sears (1909-1996) Society for American Archaeology.)) For at least two decades, many of Sears’ peers dismissed his interpretation of the site as being “off the wall” and considered him a kook. However, in recent decades work by other archeologists have confirmed his interpretation and pushed back the occupation of Fort Center even further.

One of the most unusual examples of Native American architecture ever created was a mortuary complex at Fort Center, constructed around 200 AD. From the complexity and uniqueness of the complex, it is clear that it was “designed” and built according to the plans. The temple compound included a chevron-shaped earthen berm with rounded ends, a terrace for elite residences, a pond, a “sacred garden” for growing corn, a wooden platform for funerals, a conical mound veneered with shells imported from the coast, and a mortuary temple for cremating human remains.



Fort Center Archaeological Site

An overhead view of the Fort Center Mortuary

Fort Center was a large ceremonial complex on Fisheating Creek in the northern edge of Glades County, FL that was constructed during the Belle Glade Culture.1 The visible earthworks occupy an area that is about 1 mile long and ½ mile wide. Fort Center is currently believed to be the oldest center of Belle Glade



Belle Glade Culture of Lake Okeechobee

Map of Important Woodland Sites

Archaeological terminology gets confusing to laymen as we move closer to the present. Archaeologists have placed the label of Glades Culture for South Florida, except around Lake Okeechobee, where it is now labeled the Belle Glade Culture.1 Originally, the Belle Glade Culture was divided into three periods by archaeologist Gordon Wiley. They were Transitional (1000



The Archaic Period of Lake Okeechobee

American Mastadon

Archaeologists define the Archaic Period in southern Florida as lasting from around 7500 BC to around 500 BC.1 During the first half of this period, there were (in geological time) rapid environmental changes in the Florida Peninsula. In the latter half of this period, there were rapid cultural changes in Southeastern North America, but it



Early Human’s Presence around Lake Okeechobee

An example of drowned timber or bone found underwater around Florida.

Anthropologists believe that mankind has lived somewhere in southern Florida for at least 12,000 years. Its sub-tropical climate, abundance of water and fertile peat soils produces a diverse range of animal and vegetative food sources for humans year round. However, to date no Paleo-American artifacts have been discovered in or along the shores of the lake. Such evidences of the past are probably buried deep under the peat in scattered locations. They have been found in abundance about 88 miles (110 km) to the northwest in two natural springs near Sarasota, FL.



Lake Okeechobee Geology

Lake Okeechobee as seen from Space

Okeechobee is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek (Miccosukee) words Oka chopi, which mean “Water Big.” Its aboriginal inhabitants called the lake either Maya-imi, which apparently means “Maya Water or Mayakaa, which means Maya People in several northern South American tongues. The Spanish called it Laguna de Mayaco or on some maps Laguna de Espiritu Santo. However, that name more typically applied to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee River. In 1821, when Florida was ceded to the United States, the earliest English language maps generally retained the Mayaco name, but some called it Macaco.



Wiyot Tribe

A small tribe, whose name Powell adopted for the Wishoskan linguistic family, on the coast of North California about Humboldt Bay. The word seems to be a misapplication of their own name for their Athapascan neighbors, Wishashk. Wiyot, which has sometimes been used as an equivalent, is therefore probably a better term than Wishosk, though not entirely exact.



Plans for the Colonization and Defense of Apalache, 1675

Florida June 15, 1675 To His Majesty D. Pablo de Yta Salazar1 hereby renders account of the investigation made in regard to the most suitable places in these Provinces for settlement by Spanish families. All are agreed that the town of Apalache2 and the surrounding territory is best because of the great fertility of the



A Visit to Track Rock in 1848

Logan’s Plantation, Georgia, April, 1848. During my stay at Dahlonega I heard a good deal said about a native wonder, called “Track Rock,” which was reported to be some thirty miles off, on the northwestern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On revolving the information in my mind, I concluded that this rock was identical



Valley of Nacoochee, Georgia, April, 1848

I now write from the most charming valley of this southern wilderness. The river Nacoochee is a tributary of the Chattahoochee, and, for this country, is a remarkably clear, cold, and picturesque stream. From the moment that it doffs the title of brook and receives the more dignified one of river, it begins to wind



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