Indian Temple Mound Museum

"Fort Walton Culture" is a term for a late prehistoric Native American people that flourished in southeastern North America from approximately 1200-1500 CE.


The Fort Walton Culture was named by archaeologist Gordon Willey, based on his work at the Fort Walton Mound site near the Indian Temple Museum in the 1930s. Archaeologists have now come to believe the Fort Walton site was actually built and used by people of the contemporaneous Pensacola Culture. The peoples of the Fort Walton Culture used mostly sand, grit, grog, or combinations of these materials as tempering agents in their pottery, whereas the Pensacola Culture peoples used the more typical Mississippian Culture shell tempering for their pottery. 

From 1,000 to 1,200 CE, Weeden Island Culture people adopted maize agriculture, the building of platform mounds for ceremonial, political and religious purposes, and the making a new variety of ceramics.  These cultural changes may have been influenced by contact with the Mississippian Culture centers to the north and west. This was the beginning of the Fort Walton Culture (1200 - 1500 CE). Fort Walton sites are similar to other Mississippian sites, with the exception of those in the Tallahassee Hills area, which because of the local geography, are located around lakes and swamps instead of along rivers. Settlement types include single family homesteads, multi family hamlets, small single-mound centers, and large multi-mound centers. The hierarchical settlement patterns suggests the area may have had one or more paramount chiefdoms. 

By the Late Fort Walton period, increased contact with peoples from central Georgia saw another change in styles of decoration and manufacture of ceramics. This new phase is known as the Leon-Jefferson Culture. This period sees the collapse of the chiefdoms as aboriginal populations declined following contact with European explorers and colonizers. The Fort Walton and later Leon-Jefferson peoples are the direct ancestors of the Apalachee peoples, a tribe still in existence today.

Listed in the Florida Master Site File as Fort Walton Mound (8OK6), and also called "Indian Temple Mound", this archaeological site is located in present-day Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The large platform mound was built between 800-1400 CE by the Pensacola Culture, a localized form of the better known, Mississippian Period Culture.  Because of its significance, the mound was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. This is one of three surviving mound complexes in the panhandle, the others being Letchworth-Love Mounds and Lake Jackson Mounds, both are Florida State Parks. 

Despite the hundreds of years of erosion, the massive mound is still 12 feet high and 223 feet wide at the base. An estimated 200,000 basket loads of earth were used to create this earthen structure. 8OK6 is an example of a complex mound-building culture, engineered by a hierarchical society whose leaders planned and organized the labor of many workers for such construction. The mound likely served ceremonial, political and religious purposes. At the center of the village and its supporting agricultural lands, the mound also served as the platform for the temple and residence of the chief. Successive leaders were buried in the mound and additional layers were added over time. Archaeological evidence suggests that several buildings once stood on top of the mound, perhaps at different times throughout its use. These buildings were likely wooden plank, or wattle and daub construction, common among Southeastern Native American groups. 

After the Fort Walton Culture abandoned it in the mid to late 1500s, the mound lay dormant. During the Civil War, in 1861, Confederate soldiers of the Walton Guard encamped on and around the mound to guard the waterway known as “The Narrows”. The soldiers displayed "curiosities" taken from the mound in a small museum tent. Unfortunately, the tent was burned down by enemy troops, destroying the artifacts. In 1883 the mound was examined by the Smithsonian Institution and has since been excavated nine times. Today's museum houses thousands of artifacts of stone, bone, clay and shell, as well as one of the finest collections of prehistoric ceramics in the Southeastern United States. A reproduction structure sits atop the mound which is accessible via a paved walkway and wooden boardwalk. 

Heritage Park & Cultural Center includes the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, Garnier Post Office Museum, Fort Walton Temple Mound, and the Civil War Exhibit Building. It is an educational and cultural institution of long standing traditions, with a mission to preserve, interpret and present the prehistory and history of the Fort Walton Beach community and the Northwest Florida area from 14,000 B.C. through the 1950’s. Admission for all museums in the complex will be taken at the Indian Temple Mound Museum building. All other museums are located within a one minute walk around the base of the mound.

In 1962 the Indian Temple Mound Museum opened as the first municipally owned and operated museum in the State of Florida. The current museum building opened to the public in 1972 and is located on Highway 98 in the heart of historic downtown Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The museum houses interpretative exhibits depicting more than 12,000 years of Native American occupation. Thousands of artifacts of stone, bone, clay and shell are here, as well as one of the finest collections of prehistoric ceramics in the Southeastern United States. Exhibits also include artifacts from the European Explorers, local pirates, and early settlers.

A Museum Store offers visitors unique objects for purchase including museum quality replicas of artifacts on display. Items are of good quality and reflect the craft, culture and history of Native Americans and the museum industry. Many of these items are purchased from North, South and Central America. Items for sale include: Pottery, Beadwork, Shell Carvings, Jewelry, Baskets, Gourd Work, T-Shirts, Finely Woven Textiles, Heartwood Creations Secret Boxes, DVDs and CDs, Books, Handcrafted Native American Art, Jewelry, Children’s Toys, and much more. Every purchase supports the museum and its educational programs.

Dr. Nancy White talks about the Fort Walton Culture and Indian Temple Mound

Shell tempered pottery vessels of the Mississippian household were much more efficient containers for cooking, particularly the increasing amounts of maize being grown, and thus sustaining larger and healthier populations. Around 800 CE, shell tempered pottery spread widely and rapidly from the middle Mississippi River valley to become an integral part of the expanding Mississippian culture.

Maize cob fragments were found in the middens near Fort Walton. By the fourteenth century the Fort Walton site housed a large agricultural village. The land was fertile and rich, as it lay in a floodplain, however, fishing and seafood utilization continued to play a major role in the economy.


139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE
Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548
PHONE: (850) 833-9595
HOURS: Indian Temple Mound Museum
Monday-Friday: 12:00pm -4:30pm
Saturday: 10:00am-4:30pm

page information credit: City of Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center, Indian Temple Mound Museum, Wikipedia, Dr. Rochelle A. Marrinan, Dr. Nancy Marie White, Gordon Willey, and previous Trail web content
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors