Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Florida Indians: People of the River

This week we went to visit Crystal River State Park for a field trip. It was a little last minute, but we pulled it off and it paid off, to my great surprise. The park is an amazing area to walk around and see where some of Florida's first people lived along the river. The Ranger was super great and so filled with facts, that even though he had plans for the day, he made time for our small group. The park includes a number of shell middens (trash piles) and two burial mounds. Before we went I wondered how anyone could tell if a small mound was just dirt or was an archaeological site, because after all, here in Florida every other mile there is a small hill or two. Of course I learned that many times it is not known until digging occurs and then "things" are found. This park is right next to a neighborhood. It is right along the River heading towards the Gulf. It is overgrown with all kinds of oaks, Magnolias and other hardwood trees. Grass covers all of the once white sanded, shell piled grounds. I think that was the most difficult part for the kids... transferring the vision of the model inside the museum to the outside green world. It was worth the drive and the large ceremonial shell midden was amazing! So was the stele with the face!
This is one of the burial mounds. It was the larger of the two. Fifteen feet down they dug and found a skeleton of a man with some artifacts surrounding him. They stopped digging once they released it was a burial ground. The other smaller mound is flatter. It was for the common people who were buried without tools or supplies for the afterlife.

This was atop the tallest midden. It was strange to find large oak trees growing out of the top of the pile. I like that it demonstrated how long that pile of oyster shells had actually been there....hundreds and hundreds of years.

This is the walkway up the shell midden.

This is the southern side of the large shell midden that was dug out when the sea wall along the river was being built. This is how the area was discovered. It is amazing. The kids were funny when they started talking about the chores of the Indian kids and how many times they had to take out the garbage to make a pile that big!

Most of the midden is covered in grass and weeds now, but under the stairs you can see the shells. Way cool!

The Ranger gave us great explanations of the time periods and some of their tools. I thought it was pretty interesting that the "spools" they wore in their ears like modern day "gages" were probably used for gathering of fibers...after all, pockets in clothing were limited, and it was a convenient way to always have it.

The Ranger took the group outside so we could practice using an ancient spear like tool called an atlatl. The kids were pretty good but they realized it would have taken LOTS of practice to have good aim. An extra portion of the tool was added years later by the Indians to make the spear move farther and faster with just a flick of the wrist. It was super fun to try them out!

We all were aiming for the trees. None of us hit the mark!

This is an adz. It is a tool that was used for many things. The whelk shell was a common find around the shores of Florida and multiple tribes used them. One story I read mentioned how some trees were covered with the shells that had been "holed-out" so as the branches grew, it would make a tighter fit. Some used sinew to tie the shell on.

If you need an outing for the day, it is worth your few dollars of entrance fee and a great place to spend a portion of your day. Bring bug spray, the little biting gnats and ferocious mosquitoes are awaiting!


Vivian Dippold said...

This was so amazing...oh, I wish my book was done! I love this history. So glad you learned so much and there are SOOO many more in this state!

Lisa said...

Thank you for sharing this!!!