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Calusa Backwater Adventures With Calusa John - May 2009

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On: Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 2:51PM | By: John Paeno

South Florida is no stranger to the destructive force and power of hurricanes. After Charley hit the Sound, I went out with several friends, archeologists, and scholars to inspect damage to the assorted ancient sites, and we noticed some interesting things. Large amounts of sand and shell were gone in places, and in other places it was deposited in large amounts. I noticed in one place an old shell mound at least 20' high had been ripped open and large conch shells had spilled out into the water. The end of Cayo Costa had disappeared and a new pass was created in Upper Captiva. I also saw pot shards on the beach along the Captiva pass end of Cayo Costa. Imagine, if you will, the time is about 600AD and you live on Pine Island Sound at Pineland. You have your family, maybe 5 to 15 people, living with you, and your home is on a sand ridge along the waterfront, where you can gather all the seafood you want. Life is good and food is abundant.

The little community has constructed a communal house on the beach with drying/cooking racks around fires. Then, one day, you notice the wildlife has disappeared, and it seems so quiet you know something bad is going happen — you can feel it in the air. The wind and rain start and you try to take shelter in the grass stick house, but soon the wind destroys it. As vegetation starts blowing away and the waters start to rise, everyone heads inland. But at this time in history, Pineland is an island of its own and separate from Pine Island. So you flee into the swampy interior, huddle up, and wait for the end to come. The islands were swept and a large deposit of sand was left at the Pineland site. Then after the people regrouped and survivors banded together, some point along this path they decided to have a central government, and a leader was chosen or came forth to lead them. They started public works projects like building canals and mounds, and, by 1513, a great civilization was here and the Calusa city of Tanpa was where today’s Pineland is.

An estimate of this city population was 750 to 1000 people at first contact with the Spanish. They developed a sophisticated religion and military. They believed we all are born with three souls, but only one went on after death and that one would go into a smaller animal, and when that animal died it went into a smaller one still, until finally they just disappeared. Note: John Worth, Former Assistant Director of Randell Research Center, conducted research revealing that, indeed, a small community was living at Pineland around 600AD when a 12-16 inch layer of sand covered all signs of human habitation; and it was 50 to 100 years before the Calusas had returned to the island. Join me on a Calusa Ghost Tour and find out where the village was. John Paeno is owner/operator of Calusa Ghost Tours and co-owner of Calusa Backwater Adventures. He also is a staff writer for the Nautical Mile Magazine of Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties. search Calusa John 239-541-2532


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