ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Florida
Mound A at Crystal River
A massive platform or temple mound, this huge
earthwork at Crystal River Archaeological State Park
provides a stunning view of the site.
Mystery of Crystal River
Archaeologists found two of
these limestone monuments
or stele in alignment with the
mounds at Crystal River.
Mound at Crystal River
The Crystal River site is made
up of platform (temple), burial
and midden (refuse) mounds.
An interpretive trail leads
visitors through the site.
Crystal River Mounds
Some researchers believe
the mounds were oriented to
form a giant astronomical
observatory.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park - Crystal River, Florida
Prehistory on the Crystal River
Stairs up Mound A
Surprisingly, only about 1/4 of
the huge platform mound still
exists. The rest was dug away
for use in road construction
decades ago.
Overlooking Florida's Crystal River in the city
that bears the river's name can be found one
of the most impressive archaeological sites
in the South.

Now preserved as the Crystal River
Archaeological State Park, the famed Crystal
River mounds have been studied for more
than one hundred years and yet still remain
shrouded in mystery. The prehistoric site is
thousands of years old and includes features
not found anywhere else in North America.

Archaeologists have determined that the
Crystal River site was first settled around
2,500 years ago. As their community matured
and grew, the Native American inhabitants
undertook massive public works projects
resulting in the stunning mounds that can be
seen today.

The Crystal River itself played a role in the
building of some of the mounds. Excavations
have revealed that Mounds J and K are
actually midden or refuse mounds. As the
Indians who lived at the site ate their meals,
they cast away their refuse into piles on the
edge of the village. These piles eventually
grew into mounds and contain the shells of
millions of shellfish collected from the river
and other nearby waters.

In the century or two before the birth of Christ,
the inhabitants of the site began building a
burial complex. Consisting of primary burial
mound surrounded by a ring formed of shell
and earth that was once seven feet high, the
main burial complex grew over time with the
addition of other burial mounds. It is thought
that the remains of between 1,200 and 1,500
people rest in the earth of these unique
structures.

The oldest graves, which date back as far as
250 B.C., contained a variety of unique
artifacts including tools and other items
made of copper. Since copper does not
occur naturally in Florida, it had to have been
obtained - most likely through trade - from
other groups that lived hundreds of miles
away.

The most visually impressive features of the
Crystal River site, however, are the two great
platform mounds. Labeled A and H, these
mounds were built at different phases of the
site's history, but appear to be part of a
planned alignment that allowed the various
mounds of the site to be used as a giant
astronomical observatory. It is thought that
the placement of the mounts could be used
to track the seasons by the way they aligned
with the sun and other stars at different times
of the year.

This feature can also be seen at a number of
other prehistoric mound complexes.
The largest of the platform mounds, Mound
A, was built around 1,400 years ago (ca. 600
A.D.). Although its magnificent size is quite
impressive, it is even more remarkable when
it is noted that only around 1/4 of the original
mound still survives. The rest was carried
away and used as road fill decades ago.

It is thought that high status individuals such
as chiefs or priests lived atop these mounds,
which were flat-topped to allow the building
of wooden structures on top. They basically
served the same function as the stone Mayan
and Aztec pyramids in Central and South
America.

Of particular interest at Crystal River are to
mysterious stone stele or monuments. They
align with the mounds and one even features
a faded carving of a human face. Scientists
do not know their purpose.

The grounds of Crystal River Archaeological
State Park are open from 8 a.m. until sunset,
365 days a year. The museum is open from
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Thursday through
Monday. The cost of admission is $3 per
vehicle of $2 per pedestrian or bicyclist. The
park is located at 3400 North Museum Point
in Crystal River, Florida.
Please click here to
visit the official state park website for more
information.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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