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THE WINDOVER STORY
An exhibition of Archaic Man
THE WINDOVER PEOPLE
Windover Pond, site of one of the world's greatest archaeological finds, is in Brevard County, Florida, near Titusville. Its yield is, causing archaeologists to revise some of the long-accepted theories of early man in North America.
Discovered in 1984, the shallow bog pond was the burial ground for more than 200 Native Americans who lived in the area about 7,000 years ago, more than 2,000 years before the first pyramids were built in Egypt. The ancient pond's muck long ago turned to peat, preserving the bones, and to the archaeologists amazement, the brains of these ancient people.
Florida State University archaeologist Dr. Glen Doran, Director of the Windover Project, says that the skeletons are likely the remains of ancestors of the American Indians and descendants of Asian migrants who crossed the Bering Strait to North America between 40,000 and 20,000 B. C., reaching Florida probably 12,000 years ago.
Judging by the skeletons, the women were about 5 feet 2 inches tall and the men averaged 5 feet 6 inches, although some were as tall as 6 feet. They were robust and heavily muscled and lived a long time for that period - 65 to 70 years in some cases.
The intact brains recovered from the skulls show a brain size very similar to that of modern man. Doran says that means they were as intelligent as we. Cloning of the brain matter and investigation of the DNA may permit scientists to compare modern human genes with ancient ones. Those comparisons could be the first step in curing genetically linked and hereditary diseases such as Down's syndrome and diabetes.
THE WINDOVER LIFESTYLEScientists believe that the days were busy for the group of 25 to 30 Mans. Top priorities were hunting and food-gathering, but there was time to weave cloth and fashion tools that would make living easier. Archaeologists were excited to discover complexly woven cloth made of plant fibre, probably palm. The fronds would have been rubbed back and forth until they, became twinelike; then woven, using bone awls to pack the weave tightly. It is the oldest fabric recovered in the Western Hemisphere and possibly in the world.
While a piece of cloth may not seem very important-to lay people, to scientists it offers valuable insight into the Indians' daily lives. For example, earlier archaeologists thought that Indians from the Archaic period lived on a bare subsistence level, perhaps gathering only enough food for a day. The intricate weave of the cloth when a simpler weave might have sufficed, however, shows that time was spent on activities other than mere survival and indicates patterns of refined technology and economic stability.
The Indians' typical day probably included four hours of gathering food such as cattail roots, hickory nuts, prickly pears, mulberries, blackberries, palm heads, gourds and grapes. They hunted large animals such as dear and trapped smaller animals and fish. They gathered fresh water mussels and snails from the ponds and streams. Sharks' teeth, and salt water shells found at the site indicate, that they spent some time on trips to the ocean, which was about five miles further away then because of a lowered sea level.
Allowing four hours for preparing food or planning hunts left the rest of the day for working on tools, cloth or jewelry and for relaxation and recreation. Among the tools of daily life that have been recovered are split conch shells for dipping water, bone awls used as needles; and weaving tools, a wooden mortar and pestle used to crush and mix food, shark teeth used for wood carving and mussel shells used for scraping. Chert spear points indicate trade, since the nearest deposits of this substance am in the Tampa Bay area.
THE WINDOVER CULTUREInterpretive consideration of the Archaic culture of these early Native Americans of 7,000 years ago has revealed exciting information that may help us reevaluate our own culture. These people demonstrated their ability to adapt to a changing environment. They survived both climactic changes and salt intrusion of their water supply. And as the population of the group increased and the food supply decreased, they managed to surmount these obstacles as well.
The study of these people continues to change our view of Native Americans of that period. We have learned that they cared for and supported non-productive members of their community. This was confirmed by the discovery of the body of a young man badly crippled from birth, who suffered from spina bifida. For such a child to have survived to adulthood, he had to have received special attention. He obviously had been carried as the group moved about and was fed and clothed even though he was unable to contribute to the physical welfare of the society.
THE WINDOVER EXHIBITThe Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science has been designated as the official exhibitor of the Windover story. A simulated dig site has been constructed here that enable the visitor to become a part of these important discoveries. Here art and artifacts combine with great sensitivity to tell the story of a people who lived and died thousands of years ago. And here one can share the unique experiences of those who labored tirelessly for months, unearthing the mysteries of a simple pond and shedding new light on an important segment of Florida's fascinating past.
This webpage is extracted from a Brevard Museum brochure.
This exhibit received major support from the Florida Department of State, Department of Historical Resources through its Special Exhibit Grant-in-aid Program. Other supporting funds were provided by the Gannett , the Kristensen Foundation, Sun Bank, N.A., and the McDonnell Douglas Employee Contribution Fund. The Museum wishes to thank Dr. Glen Doran, Department of Anthropology, Florida State University, for his guidance and assistance in the production of the exhibition.
The Brevard Museum is a private not-for-profit institution and an equal opportunity employer which receives general operating support from the Florida Department of State and the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of any of the above listed governmental agencies, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by them. The BMHNS is a 501 (C)(3) Not-for-Profit.
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