The Marco Island Historical Society was founded in 1994 and is dedicated to discovery, research, acquisition and preservation of the multi-faceted history of the Marco Island-Goodland region. This museum complex gives the Society a physical place to fulfill their goal of educating and informing the community and visitors of our dynamic heritage. The museum campus uses a unique motif in its exploration of Marco Island’s history from the life of the Calusa Indians and the pioneer days of the white settlement to what it has become today.

Created through a partnership with the MIHS and Collier County Museums, the Marco Island Historical Museum brings to life a long held dream of the Marco Island Historical Society. This newest addition to the museum system explores Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians and features colorful, exciting and informative displays to bring this vanished civilization to life. One whole room is dedicated to a replica of a Calusa village and its inhabitants going about their daily lives. The grounds of the Museum complex are landscaped with ponds, waterfalls and native, tropical plantings. Within the museum is a traveling exhibits gallery, showcasing the work of artists from around the world illustrating, through various mediums, the local flora, fauna and the history of the area.

The exhibition, "Paradise Found – 6,000 Years of People On Marco Island", chronicles the oldest-known residents of Marco Island through interactive displays and artifacts. Included is a life-size diorama of a Calusa village of the period. This exhibition engages, inspires, and educates visitors about the remarkably complex Native American people who called Marco Island home for more than 6,000 years. In addition to original artwork, replicas, and research, the exhibit showcases more than 200 pre-Columbian artifacts from Marco Island and its surrounding community. These artifacts comprise a small fraction of the collections being preserved in perpetuity by the MIHS. Frank Hamilton Cushing’s 1896 discovery of wooden masks, figurines, and implements – many with original paint still visible – remain some of the most spectacular examples of pre-Columbian Native American artistry ever discovered. The objects, now at the Smithsonian Institution, Florida Museum of Natural History, and University of Pennsylvania, are so stunning that they often overshadow the fascinating people that made them.

References and Further Reading: https://themihs.info/ | https://www.trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/marcoislandmuseum


Mound House is a unique archaeological and historical site on Fort Myers Beach, located directly on Estero Bay, and offers a variety of programs for local residents, visitors and school groups.  Estero Island, known today as Fort Myers Beach, was surveyed and platted in 1876. Robert Gilbert filed his claim in 1898 to build the oldest remaining structure on the island known today at the Mound House. Built as a Tudor home with dock and cistern in 1906, it was known as the "Mound Villa", and in 1909, as the "Bungalow by the Banyan" when the brick structure was added. The mound was partially destroyed when new owners William and Florence Long purchased the property, which was then excavated to establish the "Shell Mound" subdivision. By 1995 the Town of Ft. Myers Beach incorporated, and the Mound House was obtained as its first preservation effort in saving the structure and site from being demolished and replaced by numerous villas and condos. Today this property is an archaeological and historic site.

Over two thousand years ago the Calusa Indians dominated most of the southwest region of Florida. They assembled in small villages or fishing stations. They possessed a vast knowledge of seamanship and built seaworthy canoes. They also engineered water courts with terraced mounds for higher and safer ground from high tides and hurricanes. Calusa people built shell mounds, which are called middens. One such mound is where Mound House sits today. Although eroded and altered by the human use of the last century, it is still a substantial midden, and home to the unique exhibit called "Stories Beneath Our Feet".  In the 1950s an in-ground swimming pool was installed at the house. Although destructive, it allowed for the present day large scale exhibit to be created. Archaeologists have removed the swimming pool elements, cleaned the walls of the shell mound and exposed many layers of history. Visitors to Mound House today can tour this amazing "underground room" and see first hand what a midden looks like. Artifacts, a video display, and a 44-foot-long custom-made wall mural by artist Merald Clark which depicts the life of the Calusa Indians and their site usage at Mound House over the past 1,000 years, all serve to teach visitors about the past. The "Stories Beneath Our Feet" exhibit can be viewed by itself or combined as a dual tour with the Plants & People Trail, a 400-foot winding pathway where tour volunteers show and tell about native landscape and how it was used by early pioneers and indigenous peoples.

References and Further Reading: http://www.moundhouse.org/ | https://www.trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/mound-house


Mound Key is rich in early Florida history. The island was developed over 2,000 years of the Calusa Indian civilization. The site likely began as a flat, mangrove-lined oyster bar that barely rose above the shallow waters of the Estero Bay. Located in the center of an estuary, food was easy to find. As the native population grew, the remains of their food were collected and heaped into middens. Mound Key is believed to have been the cultural center for the Calusa. They had their first encounters with Europeans in the early 1500s when the Spaniards were exploring the Caribbean and peninsula of Florida. The first recorded contact with the Calusa was in 1513 when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed in the area.

In 1566 Spain’s first Governor of Florida, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, was appointed at this site. This was also the site of the first Jesuit mission to the new world, San Antonio de Carlos. The Spanish period of the site was hard fought and short lived and was abandoned by 1569. However, with the Spaniards came diseases for which the natives had no immunity which would be the demise of their population combined with continued warfare with local tribes bringing an end to their once great society around 1750. This would not be the end of the occupation of the site. The island was frequented by pirates and fisherman and in 1891 was homesteaded by Frank Johnson. The Johnsons brought in other families to farm the site until the property was sold to the utopian Koreshans in 1905. The site on the island was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on August 12, 1970. Today most of the island is preserved as a Mound Key Archaeological State Park.

The park is accessible only by the water and is managed by Koreshan State Historic Site located at: 3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero, Florida. There are no facilities. Interpretive displays can be found along a trail that spans the width of the island. For a group, a ranger guided tour can be arranged by contacting Koreshan State Historic Site at (239) 992-0311. Guests must provide their own transportation to the site. A 0.75 mile linear hiking trail traverses the island's tropical vegetation. The trail takes you over steep shell mounds created by the Calusa Indians, the tallest being 33 feet making for some of the most extreme terrain in the area.

References and Further Reading: Florida State Parks | https://www.trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/mound-key-archaeological-state-park


The Ortona Mounds Complex is another local archaeological gem that few have visited. Located off SR 78 in Glades County at 1800 Chiaha Road it is close enough to make a nice day trip there to see the earthworks. On October 19. 2016, Nathan Lawes from the University of Florida gave a SWFAS sponsored talk on the monumental earthworks found around Lake Okeechobee. The Ortona site is one of the sites with large earthworks and canals that you can visit.

Attributed to the Belle Glade culture, or Okeechobee culture, an archaeological culture that existed from as early as 1000 BCE until about 1700 in the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee and in the Kissimmee River valley, these mound complexes may represent a significant ancient hierarchical people. Most of the pottery found at Belle Glade culture sites is undecorated (Belle Glade Plain and Glades Plain styles) and is thought to be among the earliest in Florida. Wood, bone, shell and shark tooth artifacts have been found at a few Belle Glade sites, but are too few to be used in defining the culture. Earthworks are diagnostic of the Belle Glade culture. Circular ditches appeared early in the Belle Glade culture, by 500 BCE. Habitation mounds and burial mounds also date to the earliest period.

The Ortona Site was identified by surveyors MacKay and Blake in 1839 as they mapped the Caloosahatchee River, where they found the two canals from the site that connected to the river. The canals were four feet deep and ten feet wide. Many others visited the site, including archaeologists: John Griffen 1940, John Goggin 1944, H. Steven Hale 1989 and George Luer 1989 (a SWFAS member). In 1990-1991, a major excavation of Ortona was conducted by Robert Carr, David Dickel, Marilyn Mason, Ryan Wheeler and H. Steven Hale. The results of the excavation were published by The Florida Anthropologist entitled Special Issue: The Ortona Mound Complex Volume 48, Number 4 December 1995. CLICK HERE to read this informative issue of the Florida Anthropologist.

References and Further Reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Glade_culture | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Center | http://floridahikes.com/ortonamounds | https://www.news-press.com/story/life/2016/01/20/glades-ortona-indian-mounds-cane-grinding-festival/78864642/


Otter Mound is located at 1831 Addison Court, Marco Island. The 2.45-acre preserve is located in southwestern Collier County in a residential area of Marco Island, known locally as the Indian Hills section. The preserve is maintained by Collier County. The preserve is named for a previous resident, Ernest Otter a one-time owner who had occupied the property until 1997. Otter is credited for the unique whelk shell terraces that define the preserve's signature man-made feature. The initial preserve was established with a 1.77-acre purchase in 2004 followed by an additional acquisition of .68 acres in 2007.

Otter Mound and the property surrounding it was a home site for early settlers in the Caxambas Village who worked in the Marco Island clamming industry. The "Mound" on which Otter Mound Preserve sits was constructed by the Calusa native inhabitants from oyster, southern surf clam, lightning whelk, and other shellfish species and dates between 700 AD – 1200 AD.

Otter Mound is a man-made tropical hardwood hammock formed by the Shell mound created by the Calusa natives, this raised area produced an environment that resulted in a tropical hardwood hammock community. This plant community also occurs naturally in South Florida and is a common site in the Everglades. Hammocks primarily occur on the highest elevations (e.g., shell mounds) where flooding rarely occurs and are, therefore, prime areas for human habitation.

This preserve is representative of a tropical hardwood hammock, fifty-seven species of birds and one hundred and twenty-seven plant species have been recorded at Otter Mound Preserve. Other wildlife observed includes opossum, armadillo, raccoon, grey squirrel and even the occasional bobcat.

Public Facilities
There is a small parking area and a bike rack located at the entrance along Addison Court. A nature surface trail with benches and interpretive signs loops through the preserve allowing views of the historic whelk terracing along its path. The path is not handicap accessible and there are no comfort facilities available.

References and Further Reading: http://www.marcoislandliving.com/wordpress/ottermound/ | http://www.colliergov.net/Index.aspx?page=2888 | Paper Otter Mound brochure | Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Otter_mound&oldid=597514623"


The Pineland site complex is located in coastal Lee County, Northwest of Fort Myers. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is a designated County Historical Resource. The Calusa Heritage Trail is a 0.7 mile interpretive walkway that leads visitors through the mounds, canals, and other features of the Pineland archaeological site. On the Calusa Heritage Trail, visitors can tour an internationally significant site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. Museum-quality interpretive signs along the Trail provide visitors with detailed information regarding the Calusa Indians who inhabited the Pineland site, their culture and environment, and the history of Southwest Florida after the Calusa left. The trail also features observation platforms atop the site's tallest shell mound, in addition to benches and a boardwalk and bridge over low-lying areas.

The Calusa Heritage Trail was sponsored by Dwight and Susan Sipprelle and funded in part by a Special Category Grant from the Florida Department of State, Office of Cultural and Historical Programs, Division of Historical Resources, and through in-kind services and the efforts of many volunteers. In 2001, the Friends of the Randell Research Center was created as a giving society to support the programs and activities of the RRC through its endowment and operating funds. The Friends organization provides an important component of the financial stability of the Randell Research Cente

The Randell Research Center (RRC) is a program of the Florida Museum of Natural History, which has conducted research and education programs in Southwest Florida since 1983. The RRC has existed since 1996 when Donald and Patricia Randell gifted more than 53 acres of the Pineland archaeological site to the University of Florida Foundation. This property is now state-owned. The RRC leases an additional 8½ acres from Lee County. The County property contains environmentally and archaeologically significant resources, as well as the Pineland Post Office and the RRC headquarters in the historic 1920s Ruby Gill House. The Florida Museum of Natural History has undertaken archaeological and ecological field research at Pineland since 1988.

References and Further Reading: https://www.trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/calusa_heritage_trail | https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/rrc/about/


Take a stroll along the Shell Mound Trail located inside J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Shell Mound Trail provides a peek into the ancient history of Sanibel Island, with a boardwalk circling around mounds left behind by the Calusa who once populated these barrier islands. This 0.4-mile loop is entirely wheelchair accessible. To visit, go to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and pay the fee for Wildlife Drive, which is a one-way driving trail through the refuge. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset daily except Fridays.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence that humans have inhabited Sanibel Island for nearly 3,500 years. The Calusa were one of the first Florida peoples that Spanish Explorers established communication with, though not much passed between the time communication was made and the decimation of the Calusa population. Prior to contact with the Spaniards, it is estimated that this area’s thriving ecological system supported the growth of this culture with a population around 20,000 members and a political influence that reached distant parts of northern Florida.

It is believed that Calusa fishing villages like those on Sanibel were were constructed of long, sturdy pilings, jettisoned down into the sea bottom at the base of shell mounds. Conchs and large surf clams were used to line sidewalls, ramps and causeways. Platforms were fastened to the pilings and on the platforms thatched homes were erected. While on the Shell Mound trail, you will see the remnants of ancient Calusa homes. By studying the mounds and artifacts located from within the mounds, archaeologists have discovered that the Calusa had a highly evolved, stratified social structure, rich in religion and ritual.

References and Further Reading: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/JN_Ding_Darling/ |  http://pelicansroost.com/sanibel-shell-mounds/ | http://floridahikes.com/dingdarlingshellmound |


Useppa Island is an island located near the northern end of Pine Island Sound in Lee County, Florida, United States. On May 21, 1996, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, due to its archaeological significance. Today Useppa is a private island accessible only by water or sea plane and home to over a hundred families and the Barbara Sumwalt Museum, managed by the Useppa Island Historical Society.

The island is 1 mile long north to south, and up to 1⁄2 mile wide. A ridge, up to 18 feet high, runs along much of the eastern edge of the island. A ridge up to 40 feet high is in the middle of the island along the western side. A 30-foot tall conical shell midden with ramps is located on the west side of the island towards the southern end. The island was part of the Florida mainland during the last glacial period, when the sea level around Florida was 330 feet or more lower than today. Useppa Island is high ground that became separated from the mainland by a rising sea level around 4500 BCE. This high ground is believed to be stabilized sand dunes formed during a high sea level episode prior to the last glacial episode. During the period from 4500 BCE to 3000 BCE barrier islands formed to the west of Useppa Island, creating Pine Island Sound and protecting Useppa Island from the open Gulf of Mexico.

Before Useppa Island separated from the mainland, the area was visited by Paleo-Indians, who were present in Florida by at least 10,000-8,000 BCE. Soon after the sea level had risen enough to separate the island from the mainland, around 4500 BCE, Indians of the Archaic period began living on the island for part of the year, primarily during the spring and summer. Oyster shells were deposited in middens from this time. Tools made from seashells during the period from 4500 BCE to 3000 BCE show a cultural affinity with Horr's Island to the south. Steatite stone vessels and fiber-tempered pottery came into use on the island after 2000 BCE. Sand-tempered pottery appeared after 1200 BCE. Seasonal occupation of the island continued through the end of the Archaic period (c. 500 BCE) and into the Caloosahatchee culture period, until about 1200. While the island may have been used occasionally as a fishing camp after that date, there is no known sustained occupation of the island until after 1700.

While some archaeologists passed by or visited Useppa Island in the 19th century, the first scientific excavation on the island was by John Griffin and Hale Smith, who collected ceramics from a disturbed midden in 1947. Jerald Milanich and Jefferson Chapman conducted more extensive excavations on Collier Mound and adjacent middens in 1979 and 1980, using a backhoe to dig trenches in mound and middens. William Marquardt and Michael Hansinger conducted an excavation on Collier Ridge in 1985. Marquardt and Corbett Torrence excavated several locations on the island in 1989. Marquardt excavated a burial on a lot scheduled for construction in 1994. Volunteers associated with the Randell Research Society, the University of California Los Angeles, and the Useppa Island Historical Society excavated a shell axe workshop on the island in 2006.

References and Further Reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useppa_Island | Useppa Island Historical Society, http://www.useppahs.org/ | https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/files/5313/9360/6564/RRC_Vol6_No1.pdf

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