The flat-topped ceremonial mound-composed of sand, shell, and village debris measures 100 by 170 feet at the base and is 20 feet in height. Archaeological excavations have disclosed at least three periods of Native American cultures, the earliest dating back 2,000 years.
The ten acre site that contains the Temple Mound and the Prine Burial Mound was deeded to the State of Florida in 1948 by Mrs. R.H. Prine of Terra Ceia and Karl A. Bickel of Sarasota. The site is named after Mr. Bickel's wife Madira. This was the first site in Florida to become a state archaeological site.
Archaeological excavations have disclosed at least three periods of Native American culture. During the first period, in which mounds were begun, life was simple. The primary interests were hunting and fishing. Kitchen middens along the shore of the bay were probably begun during this period. The second, or Weedon Island Period, extended from A.D. 700 to A.D. 1300. This period produced some of the most artistic pottery found in Florida. During the third, or Safety Harbor Period, interest in pottery declined. Villages became larger, as agriculture rose in importance. This is also the period in which the first Spanish explorers arrived.
SCHOLARS BELIEVE THE MOUND SITE TO BE OF CEREMONIAL IMPORTANCE TO THE TOCOBAGA PEOPLE OF THE SURROUNDING AREA
THE PRINE BURIAL MOUND
Also in the park are the remains of the Prine Burial Mound, which is circular, about 40 feet wide, and about two feet high at the center. It was used through the three major archaeological cultures described above, from 800-1500 AD. First discovered in the early 1900s, by 1914 much of the sand was removed for road fill; a common early 20th century practice. Montague Tallant, and later Ripley P. Bullen, excavated the mound. Bullen found twenty-seven burials and over ten thousand pottery sherds. Evidence indicates that the burial site was used during the Manasota Culture period, the Weeden Islands periods, the Safety Harbor period, and possibly after Spanish contact. Between the destruction for road fill, a roadway cut through it, and even a portion leveled for cabins, little to none of the Prine Burial Mound still exists.
Today steps have been installed by the state into the ramp curving up the northwest side of the temple mound. It is not known if any of the ramps that led to the Tocobaga temple mound were stepped, as other mounds of the Mississippian culture, but is likely they were. This mound, however, is the only one that has a curved ramp. At the top there is open area which encompasses approximately half of the top of the mound, where the cacique (chief) would have resided in his east facing home. Looking over the FL State Parks installed safety fence, one can see there is a huge pothole about twenty-five feet wide and eight feet deep. However, the general dimensions of the top of the mound can still be discerned. When C.B. Moore measured the mound in 1900, it was 99 by 169 feet at the base, stood 20 feet high, and its flat top measured 25 by 68 feet. Today, the mound is so overgrown that a basal measurement is all but impossible. The top still measures the same if the pothole were filled in.
page information credits: Manatee County Schools curriculum materials, Wikipedia, FL Department of Historical Resources, FL Museum of Natural History, Florida State Parks
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors