Safety Harbor Mound at Philippe Park

The Safety Harbor Site is an archaeological site in Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, Florida. It is a key place to learn about the people known as Tocobaga, and Safety Harbor Culture. It includes the largest remaining temple mound in the Tampa Bay area. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.


2525 Philippe Pkwy.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695



(727) 582-2100
Pinellas County Parks


7 AM to 7 PM, No Fee



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The remaining elements of the Safety Harbor Site consist of a large temple mound, one smaller burial mound and two shell middens. The temple mound is roughly circular, 150 feet in diameter and 20 feet in height, with a summit plateau measuring about 100 by 50 feet. It is built out of a series of layers, alternating shells and sand. Archaeologists have uncovered features interpreted as post holes in the summit area, suggestive that a structure once stood there, either a residence or temple structure. There are also layers of clay, which are thought to represent levels that may have also been used in some way. The site is the southernmost in Florida that exhibits the influence of Mississippian Culture. Pottery finds share characteristics with the contemporaneous Fort Walton Culture.

Descriptions of the villages by Spanish mostly agree with archaeological reconstructions. "Capitals" had a central rectangular plaza. A truncated pyramidal mound, up to 20 feet high and up to 130 feet long on each side at the base, stood on one side of the plaza. One or more buildings stood on top of the mound, and a ramp ran from the top of the mound to the plaza. A burial mound would be located off to the side. A shell mound, or midden, ran along the shore, and other middens were sometimes located on other sides of the plaza. The plaza itself was kept clear of debris. The more important residents of the town had their houses around the plaza, while the lower class lived in huts further from the plaza. The Spanish reported that the chief and his family lived on the main mound, and that a "temple" (probably a charnel house) stood on the opposite side of the plaza. Archaeological excavations suggest that the charnel houses were on the mounds. Village sites without mounds and isolated burial mounds are also known.

As was the case in much of Florida, a vast majority of the Tampa Bay area's temple mounds, burial mounds, and middens were destroyed during development as the local population grew rapidly in the early to mid 20th century. Developers sought to level land near the water, and road construction crews found that bulldozed shell mounds made for excellent road fill. State and federal laws now afford protection to sites that contain human remains or are located on public land, but preservation of other archeological sites on private land is optional and encouraged by offering tax deductions and other incentives. The Safety Harbor Site was first brought to the attention of archaeologists as early as 1880, but the first formal excavations took place only in 1929. Twentieth-century excavations, both sanctioned and illegal, resulted in the complete excavation of a burial mound which stood nearby. The county acquired the property in 1948, and has conducted investigations into the site since then.

page information credit: Pinellas County Parks, Florida Division of Historical Resources,, Wikipedia, Florida Anthropologist Journal, painting of Tocobaga by Hermann Trappman at
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors