ONE OF THE LONGEST CONTINUALLY OCCUPIED SITES IN FLORIDA! A National Historic Landmark, this 61-acre, six mound, pre-contact, Native American site has burial mounds, temple platform mounds, a plaza area and a substantial midden. For more than 1,900 years, this site on Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida, with access to the Gulf of Mexico, served as a ceremonial center. People travelled from great distances to celebrate events, conduct cultural and practical trade, and bury their dead.
ABOUT THE PARK AND THE MUSEUM
A primary reason for this Florida State Park site is to preserve and interpret the mound structures, burial areas and the lifeways of the coastal dwellers who used the area in ancient times. Interpretive exhibits explore the chronology of archaeological excavations which occurred at the site beginning in 1903. The visitor center museum contains exhibits displaying artifacts related to the site, and provides a few comparisons with what was occurring in other parts of the world during similar time periods.
Opened to the public in 1965, this historically significant example of mid-century modern architecture naturally leads the eye to the heavens, arousing feelings of wonder. Designed by architects David Reaves and Dan Branch, the attention to detail in the look and layout combined practicality with visions of majesty. Placed on a base of sand, the additional elevation has saved, with rare exceptions, river flooding events from entering the building. Look closely and you may be able to imagine how the design mimics the flat-topped temple mound features at the site.
Inside the museum, exhibits explain the history of the coastal dwellers who used the area in ancient times. Artifacts from pottery to projectile points found at the nearby archaeological site as well as others are all displayed here, and timelines provide comparisons with historical events occurring in other parts of the world during similar time periods. Exhibits and a video detail the history of the Crystal River archaeological site, including how it was discovered, and friendly volunteers and rangers stand ready to answer any questions you may have about the exhibits or the park.
EXPLORE BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS EXTRAORDINARY SITE AND THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT IT
About 10,000 years ago, the Crystal River area was home to small bands of nomadic hunters and gatherers called Paleoindians. Nomads, are people that travel from place to place in order to find enough food to feed their families. The groups were made up of extended family members or clan groups related by blood that were led by the wisest elder or a person who could provide the best leadership for the group. The Paleoindian pioneers came here only part of the year or perhaps seasonally. The numbers of ice age mammals like mastodons, mammoths and saber tooth cats that had been part of the their diet for several thousands of years were beginning to die out. The environment was becoming too warm for these animals to survive successfully, although it was cooler, dryer and more desert-like in Florida at that time than it is now. Most importantly and because sea level was lower, the coast was then somewhere between 60 and 100 miles further west from the present day shoreline.
This began to change as the sea levels rose when the ice covering much of the northern continents began to melt. By about 8,000 years ago, the rise in sea level and the warming climate caused a change in the coastal environment and the lifeway of the Paleoindian pioneers. The kin of Paleoindians, now called the Archaic hunting and gathering peoples, adapted to the changing landscape by creating new ways of life that met their family’s needs. These activities included small game hunting, collecting plants, fishing and shellfish harvesting.
As the sea level rise began to slow down, stable coastlines developed. Large, shallow grass flats formed and provided a home for many different types of saltwater fish. The salt water in the Gulf of Mexico mixed with the fresh water flowing from the rivers in the region. When the mix was right about 6,500 years ago - an estuary ecosystem formed making it possible for many other marine animals to live there. Oysters were a good source of plentiful food growing in the newly emerging estuary. As the estuary matured, the Native Americans continued to use the marine animals for food. They became settled fisher-folk and by about 2,500 years ago, began to live year-round near Crystal River. It is at this point that the sites along the Crystal River began to be occupied for all time.
CLICK THE IMAGES TO DISCOVER THE FOODS AND ARTIFACTS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AT CRYSTAL RIVER. LISTEN TO AN EXPERT (CENTER) TO LEARN MORE.
page information credit: Florida State Parks, 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