Indian Temple Mound

Indian Temple Mound
In the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach, Florida lies a magnificent hill of earth
created by prehistoric Native Americans as a political and religious center. Built about 1,400
AD, this structure of earth is known today as The Indian Temple Mound. This temple mound
represents one of the most outstanding artifacts left by the early inhabitants of the area. Not only
is it thought to be the largest mound located on saltwater, but also it could possibly be one of the
largest prehistoric earthworks on the Gulf Coast. Many events that took place so long ago in the
past have been discovered due to the objects found in this mound. In 1961, The Indian Temple
Mound Museum was built. This museum was the first municipally owned museum in the State
of Florida. Today the museum has a two-dollar charge to enter, yet it has become one of leading
recreational factors in which draws people from around the world to the area of Fort Walton
Beach, Florida. The museum houses interpretive exhibits depicting 10,000 years of Native
American occupation. Over 6,000 artifacts of bone, stone, clay, and shell are found within this
museum, as well as the largest collection of Fort Walton Period ceramics in the Southeastern
United States. Although every artifact present in The Indian Temple Mound Museum offers
clear evidence of cultural sophistication and artistic skill, the more interesting artifacts I
encountered were the Ware Human Effigy Urn, the Buck Burial Mound Urn, and the Pump Drill.

In 1971, the Ware family found pieces of a clay vessel at a small mound, possibly a
domiciliary or a house mound, about four miles west of The Indian Temple Mound Museum.
The pieces were made of light brown to tan colored clay, coiled into a rough shape with features
molded on the outside. When the clay fragments were carefully placed together, an Effigy
(made to look like) of a human male was formed. Although it is unknown, the figure was
probably made to resemble a specific individual. Like a portrait, this figure shows details of
clothing and decoration. The hair is worn pulled back and a decorative band resembling a crown
surrounds the head. The eyes are closed, suggesting a man already dead. The ears contain a set
of decorative earrings that dangle. The body is naked, but bracelets can be seen on the wrists and
a lip ornament is worn in the pierced bottom lip. The use of this bowl is still unknown today. It
would seem to have been a jar for holding liquid in a ritual situation, yet the back has two
pierced holes as if the figure was made to be suspended. Perhaps it was secured to a support for
display. Maybe one day in the future, the mystery use of this item will be revealed.

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The Buck Burial Mound Urn is one of the more unique artifacts made by the Prehistoric
People. Found at a cemetery mound of the Woodland Time Period, this urn is thought to have
held the cremated remains of an important individual. The urn is colored in black, white, and
red- colors of the earth and sacred to the Prehistoric People who made this vessel. Unlike many
other vessels, this was made from clay using two methods. The body was created using coils of
clay placed atop one another. The legs were made of slabs molded from the outside leaving the
center of the legs square. The head has a topknot hairstyle and ears which are pierced. The face
is blackened to resemble a ritual mask, while the body is covered by a red and white design
which is thought to resemble a feathered cape. The figure has clearly human hands and feet, but
it also has two projections much like stumps. These are thought to represent a two legged stool.

The coloring and style suggest a cultural contact with Central or South America, but this artifact
is most closely related to the Mississippi River Valley regions.

An ancient handy tool used for cutting holes into wood, stone, bone, leather, shell,
and clay is called the pump drill. This drill is not an Indian invention, however it was brought to


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