Blog Description

Mound House Happenings shares the latest in ongoing projects, site improvements, scheduled programs and events, plus interesting facts and photos on our unique archaeology, history and ecology.

Mound House

Mound House
October 15, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Creature Feature 22 - Sheepshead

SHEEPSHEAD (Archosargus probatocephalus)

If you were to spend the day here at Mound House, fishing our rocky, historic shoreline with shrimp or crabs for bait, there’s a very good chance that you would wind up with several of these tasty fish on your stringer. Winter is the time when sheepshead congregate in our cold inshore waters feeding on oysters ,crabs and other crustaceans around the rocks and pilings of the back bay.

The prisoner stripes are a dead giveaway, and the sheepshead’s unique, stubby teeth, made for crushing shells give this fish its name. While they may grow to over 15 pounds, most sheepshead found in our waters are between 2 and 5 pounds.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Plants in Profile #22 - Nickerbean

 #22 NICKERBEAN (Caesalpinta bonduc) 

One of the most interesting facets of exploring the mangrove coastlines of Southwest Florida is the dramatic change in vegetation that occurs with only the slightest change in topography. What would constitute a barely noticeable rise in elevation in northern habitats, will abruptly provide a completely different ecosystem in our own back bay here on Estero Island. Among the islands and along the landward of the edge of the mangrove forests , you will often find a  narrow shell ridge, perhaps only a foot or two higher than  the surrounding muck. These shell ridges are formed by wave action depositing shell onto the shore. And here on Estero Bay, sometimes the higher ground is manmade, the result of mound building activity by the Calusa centuries ago. Either way, this high ground is often guarded by thickets of the formidable nickerbean. A vine like tropical shrub covered in sharp thorns, clothes tearing, skin ripping, miserable thorns. Even the seed pods are covered in thorns.
On the plus side, the smooth grey seeds inside the pod are brilliantly shiny and waterproof. Often they can be found floating or washed up on the shore. These attractive and unusual seeds are popular in the Caribbean where they are formed into necklaces. In addition, nickerbean has historically been used to treat malaria and the shoots and young leaves can be chewed to treat toothaches, so, there’s that.      

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Historically, the Calusa have been referred to as the “Shell People” for centuries. Their extensive use of ,and trade, in shells , crafting them into tools, utensils ,weapons, ornaments and even building material is well documented in the archaeological record and in abundant evidence here at Mound House. Shell is a readily available resource on the southern Gulf coast of Florida, but “chert” commonly known as flint, suitable for making edged cutting tools or weapons is almost non existent this far down the peninsula.  However, the Calusa were an organized and prosperous people who maintained extensive  trade networks with other indigenous people and as such, limestone chert from as far as the panhandle of Florida and even Georgia can be found at Calusa sites. When carefully struck from their naturally occurring nodules, flint forms a razor sharp edged flake that can even be notched into an even sharper serrated edge. Examples of flint being utilized by humans for tens of thousands of years is in evidence at archaeological sites throughout the world.    

The photo above shows several examples of flint spear and arrow points, as well as cutting tools made from limestone chert. These artifacts were recovered in north central Florida and  are on loan from the Silver River Museum in Ocala. These beautiful  examples of pre historic technology will be included as teaching implements in our educational programs here at Mound House.