Saturday, December 18, 2010

After living in or near New Smyrna for over ten years, I finally visited Canaveral National Seashore. Besides being a beautiful beach, a nesting area for turtles, a natural escape for tourists and locals alike, Turtle Mound, a Native American trash midden, also lies in Canaveral National Seashore.

Timucuans who generated the mound lived in Mosquito Lagoon (what it now the area of New Smyrna and Ponce Inlet). Over a 600 year span, the Timucuans harvested nearby marine resources and discarded the shells. Standing approximately fifty feet, the accumulation of shell, charcoal, and food remains is one of the largest existing mounds along the Florida coast. Oyster shells compose most of the mound. Later Native Americans and Spanish explorers utilized the mound as a navigational landmark and a lookout throughout the eighteenth century. Turtle Mound now serves as a way for archaeologists to understand Timucuan culture based on the faunal remains and artifacts that still exist.
As I followed the boardwalk to the mound’s summit, I noticed two things: First, Beware of banana spiders!

 Second, I could understand why the Timucuans would live near Mosquito Lagoon. From the mound, I saw water all around. The area would be rich in resources; they could fish, harvest oysters, and hunt if necessary. At the top, a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and endless greenery extends until ocean meets sky. With a touch of historical imagination, I could envision native peoples launching their dugout canoes at the mound’s base, as Alvaro Mexia described in a 1605 exploration of La Florida.

Turtle Mound serves as a testament to what once was. The mound—smaller, but still intact-- is a stunning creation to see in person. Canaveral National Seashore offers a glimpse into history paired with beautiful surroundings.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Were the banana spiders out in December? Shouldn't they be hibernating in a banana?!? Great trip Sarah, and good info on the highest shell midden in the nation!

  2. I went a bit before December, so perhaps they do hibernate in bananas. If so, I'd gladly give them a peel to encourage them! Google says they're harmless, love-to-eat-insects spiders that share a web with their loved one. I'll still bring a banana for protection!

  3. Great article. Gave me a good feel for the beauty and historical significance of the mound. I must go there and experience it in person real soon!


  4. Judi van horn says:

    Banana spiders are so called because of their yellow thorax.

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