The End of Time
Although direct documentary evidence is lacking, it is certain that disease epidemics had an impact on the Florida native Indians prior to the late 1590s, when missions were established. Bioanthropological evidence from Tatham Mound, a site in eastern Citrus County near the route of Hernando de Soto, supports the contention that epidemics began almost as soon as the first Spaniard stepped ashore.1 The mound contained good evidence for an outbreak that killed as many as seventy people, probably Ocale Indians, who were buried in the mound together.
More certain is the fact that the native people who lived at the Spanish missions in Florida suffered the ravages of diseases brought from Europe. Epidemics mentioned in Spanish documents tell of the devastating effects of smallpox, measles, and other afflictions.
In the past, scholars have thought that as the indigenous population of the Timucuan missions declined in the second half of the seventeenth century, native people from elsewhere were moved to those missions to repopulate them. When they came, these outsiders brought their own styles of pottery and other artifacts, accounting for the presence of the nonlocal types of native ceramics found at late seventeenth-centurymission sites. One of the major groups involved in this repopulation was thought to be the Apalachee. This model helped to explain the archaeological evidence found at Timucuan