The Windover Archeological Site is an Early Archaic (6000 to 5000 BC) archaeological site and National Historic Landmark in Brevard County near Titusville, Florida, USA, on the central east coast of the state. Windover Pond has proved to be one of the most important and productive "wet" archaeological sites in the history of the nation. Scientists from around the world have taken part in the study, preservation, and analysis of materials taken from the pond.
The site was discovered in 1982 when work began on building a road across the pond in a new housing development. A man named Steve Vanderjagt, was operating the backhoe, and stopped his work when he encountered what was first thought to be large rocks. He knew the area wasn't known for having boulders and rocks. They turned out to be human bones. Work was halted while authorities were called to determine the age and circumstances of the remains. Archaeological staff from Florida State University visited the site and recovered bones of several individuals from the construction spoil banks. Normally, bone deteriorates in about 500 to 600 years due to the high acid level of Florida's soil and water. Because of the state of preservation of the Windover bones, it was first thought they were only a few hundred years old.
The subdivision developers paid for radiocarbon dating on the two bones taken from the site. The first piece showed an age of 7,330 years, plus or minus 100 years, and the second showed an age of 7,210 years, plus or minus 100 years. [Subsequent radiocarbon dating over the three seasons of excavation indicated ages ranging from 6,990 years to 8,120 years, plus or minus 70 years.] The developers changed their project's plans in order to leave the pond intact and donated $60,000 worth of pumping equipment to drain the pond for excavation.
In 1984, with the aid of a grant from the State of Florida, excavation began. A lot of plumbing engineering was implemented in order to drain the pond to allow the excavation, but also to keep the peat layers wet enough to preserve the remains and artifacts. The buried bones were 6 feet or deeper beneath the surface of the peat at the bottom of the pond, under 3 to 10 feet of water. A network of 160 wells were dug around the pond to lower the water table enough to permit excavation of the peat. Workers used shovels and hand tools to remove the peat until the level of the burials was reached. Only half of the pond was excavated, with the remainder left undisturbed for future investigation. From the first day of excavation new skeletal materials were uncovered. It soon became obvious that this was one of the most intact cemeteries of 6,000 B.C. that had ever been discovered.
An unexpected find was an atlatl "hook" made from deer antler. The atlatl is a wooden launching device which increases the velocity and the distance a spear can be thrown. The rear end of the spear is nested in the "hook." The atlatl was in use in North and South America for thousands of years before the invention of the bow and arrow, and is still used by hunters in some parts of the world.
ALSO AT THE BREVARD MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND NATURAL SCIENCE
Besides the immersive and interpretive "The Windover Pond Story" exhibit, the museum has an extensive collection of other Native American artifacts. Some tell the story of the first inhabitants of Florida and the later Seminole people. There are also displays of large animals that were extinct before Windover Pond inhabitants lived in the area. These include Woolly Mammoths and Sabre Tooth Tiger. Regional history and natural science, the story of the Canaveral Lighthouse, and travelling and temporary exhibits are also provided.
THE NATURE TRAIL is a hidden gem. Bounded by the Clearlake on one side and the museum on the other the trail takes you through marsh and a subtropical Florida. Over a mile of trails, including a wetland boardwalk, bring you in contact with the same flora and fauna the Native Americans would have encountered.
Caution: This museum exhibits "true-life casts" of skeletal remains in a realistic display to educate people about the Windover site's unique place in history. Some people may find this disturbing. No real human remains are on exhibit.
page information credit: Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science, University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History, Florida Department of Historical Resources, Wikipedia, and previous Trail website content
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors