• Fort Matanzas

    Fort Matanzas

    National Monument Florida

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The Early People

An Indian woman uses a carved paddle to decorate a pot.

Some of the earliest pottery in North America was made in Florida.

The Early People

Archaeological research tells us that at least 12,000 years ago, long before Europeans came to Florida, wandering hunter-gatherer people arrived. They lived a simple life, following the great herds of mammoths and other mega-fauna and gathering the wild grains, nuts, and berries they found in their seasonal wanderings. No one knows what these people called themselves, but to archaeologists, they are known as Paleo-Indians, the oldest Indians.

As the large prey died out, these people began to exploit the vast water resources. Fish, shellfish, turtles, and alligators became a major part of their diet. Hollowed out log canoes enabled them to travel the many rivers. About 4000 years ago they invented a soft, porous pottery with an orange color, This pottery was tempered with Spanish moss that burned away as the pottery was fired. Because of the orange color of this pottery, these people are known as a the "Orange Period" culture.

About 2500 years ago, as the various groups of archaic people began to become more settled in one place, each group began to develop a distinct regional culture while maintaining several customs in common. The people who lived along the St. Johns River in east-central and northeast Florida were known as the Timucuan. Today, only the shell middens (trash heaps) of these early people remain.

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Did You Know?

Spanish moss hanging from Live Oak trees

"Spanish Moss" (Tillandsia usneoides) is not a moss and is actually a cousin of the pineapple! Its name derives from Native Americans who joked that it looked very much like the beards of the Spanish settlers. Ft Matanzas National Monument, Florida