Pre-Columbian Era

Prior to 1513

Feather holders. Date unknown. (photo by Roy C. Craven, Jr.)

300 million years ago

From a wonderful book by Professor Barbara Purdy, we learned that about 300 million years ago, Florida was located 50 degrees south of the equator. Dinosaurs roamed, but bones have never been found because they are buried under thousands of feet of limestone. About 4 million years ago, Florida abounded in horses, camels, elephants, rhinoceros and the saber-toothed tiger. Florida has changed many times, from a generally-dry savannah to a sub-tropical climate with fresh water easily found. At the end of the last Ice Age about 14,000 years ago, the ice began to melt, and in the ensuing 10,000 years, sea level rose 300-400 feet. Florida was reduced in size by nearly one-half during that period, and all of the Native Americans who had lived near the coast, retreated, over thousands of years, inland, leaving remnants of their civilization buried under sand and silt 20-40 miles offshore.

It has been believed for many years that the first humans came to the Americas across the “land-bridge” from Asia about 14,000 years ago. Some of the latest and still-controversial research presents evidence that humans were in Florida during the last Ice Age, perhaps 20,000 or more years ago. An object has been found in Florida that is 14,000 years old, which may be the oldest expression of “art” ever found in North America. Objects found, including pottery and weaponry, are beautiful, but their existence is unknown to most laymen. In Purdy’s book, Indian Art of Ancient Florida appears photos of objects that are 1000-2,000 years old. Unfortunately, these objects are not seen by most Floridians and visitors. The History Council will popularize the knowledge of ancient Floridians with a small booklet, in layman’s terms, that includes key reference dates and some photos. Since most Florida coastal natives disappeared from history sometime between the “first contact” and the southward immigration of northern tribes about 200 years later, there are no local tribes (as there are in many places in the western U.S.) to carry-forward the telling of their history. Archaeologists and anthropologists can help us to try to tell their story for them.

Pictured Left – Incised bottle with effigy bird feet and human hands. Wilson Mound, Old Myakka City, Sarasota County. Ca. A.D.1350-1500. Ceramic. Private collection. (photo by Roy C. Craven, Jr.)

Pictured Right – Eagle totem. Fort Center site, Glades County. Ca. A.D. 200-600. Florida Museum of National History, Gainesville. (photo by Roy C Craven, Jr.)