Sanchez Mound in St. Johns County is a little-known remnant of north Florida’s Native American past. Located at Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR) near Ponte Vedra, the mound must be protected from a number of elements. It has been badly looted on one side and has suffered some from wild hogs that live in the Reserve. Today it stands inside a hog fence, which keeps out both humans and feral pigs that damaged it in the past.
Moore to the mound along with two members of the GTM-NERR staff. The mound, made of sandy soil and oyster shell, stands about 3 meters high and is roughly 20 meters in diameter. We could see the results of the mound’s most recent damage. Tree stumps peppered the structure. Staff had cut down the trees in 2005 to prevent their roots from further displacing soil and artifact deposits. We could also see where people destroyed parts of it in the past by looting. The biggest threat to the mound today, though, was still present in force. Endangered gopher tortoises have burrowed there in recent years, and because they are protected they can’t be forcibly removed. The NERR plans to begin relocating the tortoises in the spring as they come out of their burrows to get some sun.
The site has never been formally excavated, but a little information exists about how and when the mound likely came to be. The mound is most likely a special-purpose structure, rather than just a midden (also known as a trash deposit). During our visit, Robin and I noted a ceramic sherd that had been pushed to the surface by a small burrowing animal. We consulted some experts on Native American pottery and learned that it is likely a piece of Crooked River Complicated Stamped. That type of pottery is typically found in northwest Florida and southwest Georgia. It dates to the Woodland Period, about 1000-2000 years ago.