THE MANASOTA PEOPLE
Visitors to the Mound House are offered an opportunity to learn about the Calusa culture and those who built and lived on this site so long ago. As a distinct culture, the Calusa are described as a having a well-organized and stratified society who traded extensively and collected tribute from tribes from as far away as the east coast of Florida and the Kissimmee River basin. One of the groups with whom the Calusa interacted, traded with, and may have battled, were their neighbors to the north, known by archaeologists as the “Manasota People."
Among the various groups of people to inhabit Florida, the Manasota lived along the coast just north of here. The Manasota culture extended from Sarasota County north to Tampa Bay. Like the Calusa, the Manasota culture evolved from the earlier Archaic cultures of mobile hunters and gatherers that settled along the west coast as far back as 4000 BC. Also, like their neighbors to the south, the Manasota developed an extensive array of settlements along the coast. They lived on mounds located in hammocks near the estuaries and derived their subsistence from fish and shellfish as well as hunting and gathering plants from the inland.
Early on, the Manasota did not have a hierarchical society, and leadership was based on individual ability, rather than inherited status. This is inferred due to the absence of artifacts in graves and there not being any indication of differential treatment in death suggests an egalitarian society.
Later in their history, the Manasota appear to have adopted some of the religious and ceremonial practices of other cultures to the north. Archaeological evidence of these adaptations is found in the use of sand burial mounds and the placement of ornate pottery in graves. Evidence from around 900 AD on suggests a change in political and religious practices as a result of an increasing population. At this point in history, there was a distinct change in the culture of the Manasota, perhaps as a result of the influence of other Mississippian tribes to the north, the Manasota culture as distinct entity in the historical record ceased to exist. A new culture emerged, called the Safety Harbor culture, and practices such as division of labor and the management of resources to protect against famine and warfare became established. The unequal status of people can be seen in the importance of flat topped temple mounds in which the most influential people, including political, religious and military leaders, lived atop the mounds with most of the rest of the population living below. A similar type of social structure and living conditions can also be found in the archaeological record here at Mound House.