Collection: Lake Okeechobee Indians

Crystal River Archaeological Zone – Citrus County, Florida

The 61.55 acre Crystal River Archaeological Zone (8CL1) is located on the Crystal River within the Crystal River Preserve State Park. It is a National Historic Landmark and contains at least six mounds. This important Native American occupation site is located on the Central Gulf Coast of the Florida Peninsula, about 92 miles north of the mouth of Tampa Bay and 20 miles south of the mouth of the Suwannee River. It is possible to canoe on the Suwannee River to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia then on the St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean. This was a major trade route in pre-European times. The entrance to the park is about two miles northwest of the town of Chrystal River, off of US 19/98.

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Pineland Archaeological District – Lee County, Florida

The 211 acre Pineland Archeological District was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places on November 27, 1973. It is located on Pine Island within the Pine Island Sound in Lee County, Florida. The archaeological zone is adjacent to Pine Island Sound. Pineland Archaeological District contains medium-to-large sized shell and sand mounds, pre-European canals, earthen platforms, artificial ponds and effigies created from sandy soil. Many small mounds and occupation sites were destroyed by real estate development during the past 150 years.

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The Native American History of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Basin

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.

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The Chontal Maya or Putun Maya

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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Maya Cultural Traditions at the Ortona Archaeological Zone

One of the several arguments that Southeastern archaeologists have used to dismiss a direct cultural connection between the Southeastern United States and Mesoamerica is that architecture of the respective regions was different. The architecture of the largest and most sophisticated Maya cities WAS more sophisticated and larger scaled than in towns in the Southeast, but the same architectural elements could be found in both regions. The Mesoamerican pyramids were really earthen mounds veneered with stone in some civilizations, left as clay stuccoed mounds in others.

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Mississippian Symbolism at the Ortona Archaeological Site

Archaeologists working at the Ortona site in the late 1990s and early 2000s were astounded to find “landscaping” in the shape of the scepters carried by the Maya elite in the Yucatan Peninsula. Both a mound and a ceremonial pond were over 100 yards/meters long. The discovery has great significance for the understanding of how cultural ideas traveled around the Caribbean Basin and North America, prior to the arrival of European explorers.

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