Sacred Lands Preservation and Education 
 

Indian Mounds - North of Tampa Bay

(By Mac Perry)

 

In Port Richey, turn west on the south side of the Pithlachascotee River and along Sunset Blvd. you’ll find the Oelsner Temple Mound. An historical marker identifies the site. I measured the mound base at 60 by 139 feet and its height at nine feet. It was probably occupied for a few hundred years beginning around AD 800. Walk the steps to the top. The nearby burial mound was destroyed during the building of the neighborhood.

Crystal River State Archaeological Site

Be sure not to miss Crystal River State Archaeological Site on US 19 just north of Crystal River. It, along with Spanish Point is the best preserved complex (many mounds) in Florida. At the museum you will find a movie, a three-dimensional display of the six-mound site, and displays of pottery, points, maps, and tool artifacts. Then follow the path to two midden mounds that were built by the earliest inhabitants around 200 BC. Listen to the recorded messages along the path and climb to the top of the forty foot temple mound overlooking the river ( photo.) It was built around AD 1300. Then follow the path along the top of the midden ridge to one of two mysterious stone monuments left by the Indians around AD 440. In the middle of the 14-acre compound stands a complex burial mound investigated by archaeologists at the turn of the century. It has been estimated that 1000 burials were placed there originally. Still farther along the path you’ll find a perfectly preserved temple mound complete with ramp and a nearby second burial mound. No one knows why, after 1600 years of habitation, this site was abandoned a couple hundred years before the Spaniards arrived.

In Cedar Key, there are a number of mounds you can visit. This historic and quaint fishing community has been occupied by Florida Indians for hundreds of years. First, visit the well-preserved Lion's Club Burial Mound that sits in the meeting hall parking lot at sixth and F Streets. It is about 10 feet tall and 60 feet wide and was built about 1400 years ago.

Shell Mound

A block to the northwest along the shore you’ll see the Whitman Burial Mound This mound stands about 15 feet above the beach and is protected from erosion by a tall wall. Then drive a couple of miles out of town on route 24 and take the left fork onto 347. Look for the sign to turn left to the Shell Mound. At the dead end by the water you can follow a foot trail that winds back and forth across the midden ( photo) and a sign that reads:  ". . . the largest pre-historic shell midden on the central Gulf Coast, covering five acres and rising 28 feet above mean sea level." The site was built and used for 3500 years starting in 2500 BC. While in Cedar Key, be sure you visit both the state and local historical museums. Each has a display and info about the early inhabitants of Cedar Key.

While north of Tampa, don’t miss the finest display of Florida aboriginal life in the state. It’s at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Exhibition and Educational facility at the University of Florida in Gainesville. An extraordinary exhibit called People of the Estuary: Six Thousand Years in South Florida is open at Powell Hall.

For a thorough description of 165 mound sites on Florida’s west coast and information about what archaeologists found during their investigations, who lived at the sites, when they lived there, and where the sites are today, be sure to ask your book dealer for Indian Mounds You Can Visit by I. Mac Perry.

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