Estero Bay: The Ancient Home of Calusa Indians
As part of the Florida State Park, Estero Bay and its pristine waters are a popular tourist destination and known for the Mound Key Archeological state park that manages the 113 acres of the island. Though the site offers bird and wildlife sightings, the main reason for visiting the park is to experience the shell mounds on Mound Key that lie more than 30 feet above the Estero Bay. Considered the highest elevation for miles around, the island has been created entirely by human activity from nearly 2,000 years. It was once inhabited by prehistoric Native Americans, also known as the Calusa, meaning "fierce people" belonging to the Everglades region. As one goes hiking up the enormous shell mounds, one cannot help but get curious about the ancient history of the Calusa Kingdom.
Origins: Though there is a debate over the origins of Calusa Indians, archeological evidence seems to indicate that the125-acre site was first inhabited around 100 A.D. Over a period of 1,400 years, as the kingdom grew in stature and power, a series of three mounds were built. One was the home of the Calusa king, the second served as the courtyard, whereas the third held the Calusa temple and was large enough to hold the entire village under its thatched roof.
Civilization: Part of the most powerful tribe, the Calusa Indians were nonagricultural hunt gatherers and preferred living in harmony with their surroundings that was rich in marine food resources. As the population grew, the natives used the food waste heaped into the middens to form the island. The Mounds were constructed using shells, fish and animal bone, and artifacts such as pottery. The elevation of the mounds was essential for surviving tropical storms and as a preventive measure from biting insects and also assisted in keeping a watch on any threat heading towards them. The mounds also served as the ceremonial center of their kingdom, which apparently spanned from Tampa Bay eastward to Lake Okeechobee and southward to the Ten Thousand Islands.
End: According to historians, the Mound Key was originally the capital city called Stababa, from the kingdom of Escampaba. It was ruled by the native Caalus (Calusa) of Southwest Florida for many centuries before European explorers intruded into their ancient world. The Spanish established their settlement on the island in 1566, but the Calusa preferred leaving the Mound Key over surrendering to an unknown religion. Unfortunately, due to their lack of immunity to European diseases, the Calusa tribe was wiped out by 1750.
The author is a history enthusiast and likes to write blogs about his travel experiences to ancient ruins or historical places. His visit to the Mound key Archaeological state park was mainly due to his fascination with the history of the Calusa Indians.