The Ancient Indians

Excerpted from Submission by Richard Procyk. December 3, 2012 

The first Indians settled in Florida over 12,000 years ago. At the end of the last Ice Age, the “ancient ones” followed the large animal - mammoths, horses, and bison - into North Florida. Archaeologists call these early people “Paleo-Indian,” as these nomadic hunters stalked their prey near watering holes, sinkholes and rivers. Water in Florida was in short supply back then, and the watering holes used by the Indians also attracted animals as well. Over-hunting of these animals may have caused their disappearance – as in the case of the horse.

Florida has some of the earliest man-made artifacts in North America: scrapers; small adzes; stone knives; bone pins; bone needles; fossil shark tooth; antler points; and socketed bone handle, to name a few. These tools were used to skin, cut and generally prepare a hunter’s meal or used as needed.

At Little Salt Springs on the West Coast of Florida, archaeologists have found bones of saber-toothed cats, panthers, mastodon, and tortoises, and wooden tools that are over 12,000 years old. Searching the water at Little Salt Springs, archaeologists also found an underwater rock shelf with a well-preserved skeleton of a Paleo-Indian male and the shell of a large tortoise. The tortoise had been stabbed with a wooden spear and then baked in its shell. The Indian probably fell into the spring, became trapped under the rock overhang, and slowly starved to death. The wooden spear was carbon dated to 12,080 years ago, making it one of the oldest relics in North America.

A treasure-trove of history, Florida contains sites from the first European contact with the New World and a string of early Spanish missions that stretch across the state in North Florida. Florida can also claim battlefields from three Seminole Wars and one from the Civil War. Here in Jupiter, there are two battlefields from the second Seminole War, and the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was built during the third Seminole War – all part of our rich history and heritage. Florida truly contains a wealth of history and archaeology spanning thousands of years.