Historic and archaeological sites such as ours here at Mound House use timelines to give visitors a sense of “when” they are visiting. It is a common misconception among visitors and residents alike that human history here on Estero Island is relatively brief. In reality, this is a very ancient place.
Estero Island is a Barrier island. By their very nature, barrier islands form and reform, changing shape in a near constant adjustment to the unstoppable and eternal forces of nature. Like the island itself, the people who inhabit Estero Island have changed dramatically as well. In geologic terms, Estero Island is very young indeed. Our island formed only about 6,000 years ago. Emerging from the gulf after the last ice age, modern sea levels were established as we know them today.
The first people to inhabit Florida were the Paleo Indians who moved south into our state some 14,000 years ago, and going back about 4,000 years, archaic Indians with a maritime based culture lived throughout Florida and including our region. Later, the Calusa became what archaeologists recognize as a distinct culture about 2,500 years back. Our site here at Mound House is about 2,000 years old and was essentially abandoned for over 400 years before the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first encountered the Calusa in 1513. Abandoned even though the capital of the Calusa kingdom was a scant 3 miles away. At that time, there were perhaps tens of thousands of Calusa living in the region and they were at the height of their culture civilization and power.
However, by 1700 Estero Island was very nearly devoid of humans until the arrival of Cuban fishermen, some of whom used Mound Key as a seasonal fishing camp or “rancho”. This in turn ended in the 1830s as federal troops evicted the Cuban fishermen. Pioneer settlers have inhabited Estero Island since the 1870s, and traffic has gotten steadily worse ever since.
12,000 BC : Initial human presence in Florida, the paleo Indians
2,000-1,200 BC : Late archaic period
500 BC : Early Calusa period
1500 AD : European Contact with the Calusa
1700 AD : End of Calusa, Florida depopulated
1921 AD : The first bridge to Estero Island is built
2010 AD : Mound House underground exhibit Stories Beneath our Feet opens to the public
- submitted by Parke Lewis