The Stone Age in West-Central Florida

Florida’s first people began living in this area at least 14,500 years ago. They survived by using our local resources, and most importantly they used stone materials like Chert and flint. Chert and flint is a cryptocrystalline siliceous quartz mineral found in marl clay and limestone. Flint nodules occur as fine particle solution saturating fissured sediment, usually translucent and free of impurities. Chert contains impurities like micro sponge spicules, diatoms and coral structures. Chert is occasionally found in surface out crops of limestone. Rock exposed here locally are part of the Ocala and Suwanee Formation. These sediments were laid down as marine deposits and date between thirty to forty million years ago. It is also frequently exposed in sink hole sites in northern Hillsborough, east Pasco and central Hernando County. Flint when fractured produces extremely razor sharp edges ideal for use as a cutting blade, knife or point. Artifact collectors today covet prehistoric projectile points made of translucent fossil Chert of excellent color. Fossil Chert may range in color from gray, cream, ocher, black and tan. The silica that forms in limestone and marl will usually absorb any elements that happen chance to be In close contact to it. This absorption allows exotic colored elements to bond within it and enhance its color. Flint and Chert nodules are still collected today by rock collectors at the Vulcan Mine on CMEX property in north central Hernando County. 

The first people inhabiting North America are believed to have originated from Asia. It is believed that they entered by the Beringia Land Bridge. Recently Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Museum has advanced a new theory. He believes that Solutrean Upper Paleolithic sea mammal hunters ferried westward  from northern Spain to North America along sea ice shelves. Stanford’s theory, called “ The Solutrean Hypotheses’”, is controversial, however recently discovered eastern USA artifact sites have produced artifacts similar to Solutrean projectile points. Several of these sites have been C14 dated from organic associated material to 17,000 years ago. Numerous artifact types have been encountered in Hernando County by artifact collectors. These artifacts represent the few remaining pieces of evidence we have  of the early human inhabitants that were utilizing natural stone material of local origin. The earliest of these stone age cultures described by archaeologists in Florida is the Page-Ladson Point makers. These points are believed to be manufactured around 14,550 years ago. They were first discovered in the Aucilla River by local artifact collectors and excavated by University of Florida archeologists and paleontologists during an under water research project. These projectile points were associated with a mastodon tusk cut by flint tools and radio carbon dated. These artifacts are believed to be earlier than the Clovis Paleo-Indian phase dated at 13,000 years ago. Fluted Clovis Points were first discovered from a Mammoth kill site in New Mexico. A Clovis point was found in a sinkhole just south of Springhill and less than one mile south-east of the US19 and County Line Road intersection about 25 years ago. A possible Middle Paleo-Indian Period artifact called a Simpson Point is believed to have been made approximately  11,000 years ago. The Harney Flats Site, producing Simpson Points, was discovered during the construction of I75 in north-east Hillsborough County. Scientist believe this site was occupied near a local Chert source. This enabled Simpson hunters to manufacture their tool kits and projectile points for hunting and food processing at the end of the last ice age. Simpson projectile points have been recovered from the Withlacoochee River over the last fifty years by local divers. 

At the end of the Pleistocene Period North America’s glaciers melted and sea levels rose. Our climate became warmer and the large Ice Age animals disappeared. Around 9,000 years ago climate change ushered in the Early Archaic Period of human habitation of Florida. Bolen points dating from this time period have been found many times here in Hernando County and throughout Florida. These side notched points tend to be smaller than the earlier style projectile points. One of my students on a cave expedition at the bottom of Dames Cave in the Withlacoochee State Forest found a perfect example of a Bolen Point in 2002. Our climate, soon after this period, continued to become warmer, allowing a population increase in central Florida. By Middle Archaic times around 7,000 to 3,000 years ago  Newnan and Levy Stemmed Points became common and have been found in large numbers in west-central Florida. These large points occur frequently around the numerous springs and lakes in our area. I collected many stemmed points around Tooke Lake in the 1970s.

During the Early Woodland Period from around 2400 to approximately 1700 years ago triangular basally notched points such as Hernando & Citrus Points are found. They may occur on Gulf of Mexico islands and near our coastal areas. As sea levels continued to rise, these early inhabitants of Hernando County began depending more on marine animal resources. Hernando points have been found in the Weeki Wachee River and the surrounding area. By Mound Builder times, stone artifacts become scarce as more tools and points were fashioned from shell and bone. By Spanish Contact times Florida’s indigenous people began using some metal from trade.

All these wonderful artifacts may be found right under our very feet. Carefully record your artifact finds. It is extremely helpful to date and record the location of your find. Accurate records enhance an artifacts scientific and historical value. Placing specimens in zip lock bags will also reduce accidental damage to delicate artifact points during storage. Discovery of human remains must be reported to authorities immediately.

LEGAL NOTE: Artifact collecting is illegal on Federal, Florida State and County owned public land and parks. Rivers are considered State of Florida property and coast lines are subject to Federal Law. All burial mounds, their artifacts and human remains are illegal to collect. All Native American mounds are protected by law. Artifacts may be collected on private property with land owners permission.

RESOURCES:

Florida’s First People, Robin C. Brown, Pineapple Press 

https//floridamuseum.ufl.edu/aucilla river prehistory project

A Guide to the Identification of Florida Projectile Types, by Ripley P. Bullen 1968 Florida State Museum, 

https//www.ufdc.ufl.edu/stonetooltechnology by Dr. Barbara A. Purdy

The Clovis Site at Blackwater Draw & the Dent Site: found in “Ancient Man in North America” by H.M. Wormington 1957   

The North American Ice-Edge Corridor- A Possible Paleolithic Route to the New World by Bradley and Stanford, 2004, World Archeology 

IDENTIFICATION OF FINDS: Artifact finds may be identified by contacting the Hernando Historic Preservation Society, The Florida Public Archeological Network and the Withlacoochee Rock Hound Society of Brooksville

Written by: David P. Letasi