Searching for the Past
The past is everywhere, if one only knows where and how to look. Nowhere in the United States is this more true than in Florida, where twelve thousand years of human history lie beneath our feet in archaeological sites. During a small portion of those twelve millennia, the period after 1513, there also are written accounts of events that occurred and the people who lived there. Archaeologists and historians study these records of the past, whether artifacts from an archaeological site in downtown Tallahassee or letters written by a sixteenth-century St. Augustine official.
The first step in our journey to early colonial Florida will be to examine the nature of these records. We will see that artifacts and documents are voices from Florida's past.
Calusa, Ocale, Apalachee--these are the names of a few of the many Florida Indian groups encountered by Spaniards in the sixteenth century. As the Spanish and the French sought to colonize the state, they would come in contact with many more native groups, adding their names to the written record. In total, the names of nearly one hundred individual groups are known. At the time of Juan Ponce de León's first voyage to Florida, in 1513, the sum of their respective populations was about 350,000: 50,000 Apalachee in the eastern panhandle, 150,000