The Indigenous peoples of Florida lived in what is now known as Florida for more than 12,000 years before the time of first contact with Europeans. However, the indigenous Floridians living east of the Apalachicola River had largely died out by the early 18th century. Some Apalachees migrated to Louisiana, where their descendants now live; some were taken to Cuba and Mexico by the Spanish in the 18th century, and a few may have been absorbed into the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.


The first people arrived in Florida before the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna. Human remains and/or artifacts have been found in association with the remains of Pleistocene animals at a number of Florida locations. A carved bone depicting a mammoth found near the site of Vero man has been dated to 13,000 to 20,000 years ago.[1][2] Artifacts recovered at the Page-Ladson site date to 12,500 to 14,500 years ago.[3] Evidence that a giant tortoise was cooked in its shell at Little Salt Spring dates to between 12,000 and 13,500 years ago.[4] Human remains and artifacts have also been found in association with remains of Pleistocene animals at Devil's Den,[5] Melbourne,[6] Warm Mineral Springs,[7] and the Cutler Fossil Site.[8] A Bison antiquus skull with an embedded projectile point has been found in the Wacissa River. Other important Paleoindian sites in Florida include Harney Flats in Hillsborough County,[9] the Nalcrest site, and Silver Springs.[10]

Florida's environment at the end of the Pleistocene was very different from that of today. Because of the enormous amount of water frozen in ice sheets during the last glacial period, sea level was at least 100 metres (330 ft) lower than now. Florida had about twice the land area. Its water table was much lower and the climate was cooler and much drier. There were few running rivers or springs in what is today's Florida. The few water sources in the interior of Florida were rain-fed lakes and water holes over relatively impervious deposits of marl, or deep sinkholes partially filled by springs.[11]

With water available only at scattered locations, animals and humans would have congregated at the water holes to drink. The concentration of animals would have attracted hunters. Many Paleoindian artifacts and animal bones showing butchering marks have been found in Florida rivers, where deep sinkholes in the river bed would have provided access to water. Sites with Paleoindian artifacts also have been found in flooded river valleys as much as 17 feet (5.2 m) under the Gulf of Mexico, and suspected sites have been identified up to 20 miles (32 km) offshore under 38 feet (12 m) of water. Half of the Paleoindian sites in Florida may now be under water in the Gulf of Mexico. Materials deposited in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene in sinkholes in the beds of rivers were covered by silt and sealed in place before the water table rose high enough to create running rivers, and those layers remained undisturbed until excavated by archaeologists. These deposits preserved organic materials, including bone, ivory, wood, and other plant remains.[12]

Archaeologists have found direct evidence that Paleoindians in Florida hunted mammoths, mastodons, Bison antiquus, and giant tortoises. The bones of other large and small animals, including ground sloths, tapirs, horses, camelids, deer, fish, turtles, shellfish, snakes, raccoons, opossums, and muskrats are associated with Paleoindian sites.[13]

Stone tools

Organic materials are not well preserved in the warm, wet climate and often acidic soils of Florida. Organic materials that can be dated through radiocarbon dating are rare at Paleoindian sites in Florida, usually found only where the material has remained under water continuously since the Paleoindian period. Stone tools are therefore often the only clues to dating prehistoric sites without ceramics in Florida.[14][15]

Projectile points (probably used on spears, the bow and arrow did not appear until much later) have distinctive forms that can be fairly reliably assigned to specific time periods. Based on stone artifacts, Bullen divided pre-Archaic Florida into four periods, Early Paleo-Indian (10000-9000 BCE), Late Paleo-Indian (9000-8000 BCE), Dalton Early (8000-7000 BCE), and Dalton Late (7000-6000 BCE).[16] Purdy defined a simpler sequence, Paleo Indian (10000-8000 BCE, equivalent to Bullen's Early and Late Paleo-Indian) and Late Paleo (8000-7000 BCE, equivalent to Bullen's Dalton Early).[17] Later discoveries have pushed the beginning of the Paleoindian period in Florida to an earlier date. The earliest well-dated material from the Paleoindian period in Florida is from the Page-Ladson site, where points resembling pre-Clovis points found at Cactus Hill have been recovered from deposits dated to 14,588 to 14,245 calibrated calendar years BP (12638-12295 BCE), about 1,500 years before the appearance of the Clovis culture.[18] Milanich places the end of the Paleoindian period at about 7500 BCE.[19] During the early Paleoindian period in Florida, before 10,000 years ago, projectile points used in Florida included Beaver Lake, Clovis, Folsom-like, Simpson, Suwannee, Tallahassee, and Santa Fe points. Simpson and Suwannee points are the most common early Paleoindian points found in Florida. In the late Paleoindian period, 9,000 to 10,000 years ago (8000-7000 BCE), Bolen, Greenbriar, Hardaway Side-Notched, Nuckolls Dalton and Marianna points were in use, with the Bolen point being the most commonly found.[16][20]

Most projectile points associated with early Paleoindians have been found in rivers. Projectile points of the late Paleoindian period, particularly Bolen points, are often found on dry land sites, as well as in rivers.[21]

Paleoindians in Florida used a large variety of stone tools besides projectile points. These tools include blades, scrapers of various kinds, spokeshaves, gravers, gouges, and bola stones. Some of the tools, such as the Hendrix scraper of the early Paleoindian period, and the Edgefield scraper of the late Paleoindian period, are distinctive enough to aid in dating deposits.[22]

Other tools

A few underwater sites in Florida have yielded Paleoindian artifacts of ivory, bone, antler, shell, and wood. A type of artifact found in rivers in northern Florida is the ivory foreshaft. One end of a foreshaft was attached to a projectile point with pitch and sinew. The other end was pointed, and pressure-fitted into a wood shaft. The foreshafts were made from mammoth ivory, or possibly, in some cases, from mastodon ivory. A shell "trigger" may be from an atlatl (spear-thrower). Other tools include an eyed needle made from bone, double pointed bone pins, part of a mortar carved from an oak log, and a non-returning boomerang or throwing stick made from oak.[23]

Archaic period

The Archaic period in Florida lasted from 7500 or 7000 BCE until about 500 BCE. Bullen divided this period into the Dalton Late, Early Pre-ceramic Archaic, Middle Pre-ceramic Archaic, Late Pre-ceramic Archaic, Orange and Florida Transitional periods. Purdy divided it into a Preceramic Archaic period and an Early Ceramic period. Milanich refers to Early (7500-5000 BCE), Middle (5000-3000 BCE) and Late (3000-500 BCE) Archaic periods in Florida.[16][17][24]

Several cultures become distinguishable in Florida in the middle to late Archaic period. In northeast Florida, the pre-ceramic Mount Taylor period (5000-2000 BCE) was followed by the ceramic Orange culture (2300-500 BCE). The Norwood culture in the Apalachee region of Florida (2300-500 BCE), was contemporary with the very similar Orange culture. The late Archaic Elliott's Point complex, found in the Florida panhandle from the delta of the Apalachicola River westward, may have been related to the Poverty Point culture.[25] The area around Tampa Bay and southwest Florida (from Charlotte Harbor to the Ten Thousand Islands) each had as yet unnamed late Archaic regional cultures using ceramics.[26]

Post-Archaic period

Pre-historic sites and cultures in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada that followed the Archaic period are generally placed in the Woodland period (1000 BCE – 1000 CE) or the later Mississippian culture period (800 or 900–1500). The Woodland period is defined by the development of technology, including the introduction of ceramics and (late in the Woodland period) the bow and arrow, the adoption of agriculture, mound-building, and increased sedentism. These characteristics developed and spread separately. Sedentism and mound building appeared along the southwest coast of Florida (cf. Horr's Island) and in the lower Mississippi River Valley (cf. Watson Brake and Poverty Point) well before the end of the Archaic period. Ceramics appeared along the coast of the southeastern United States soon after. Agriculture spread and intensified across the Woodland area throughout the Woodland and Mississippian culture periods but appeared in north central and northeastern Florida only after about 700 and had not penetrated the middle and lower Florida peninsula at the time of first contact with Europeans.[27][28][29]

Post-Archaic cultures in Florida

Defined culture Time range Geographic range
Belle Glade culture 1050 BCE – Historic Lake Okeechobee basin and Kissimmee River valley
Glades culture 550 BCE – Historic Everglades, southeast Florida and Florida Keys
Manasota culture 550 BCE – 800 CE central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida
St. Johns culture 550 BCE – Historic east and central Florida
Caloosahatchee culture 500 BCE – Historic Charlotte Harbor to Ten Thousand Islands
Deptford culture – Gulf region 500 BCE–150/250 CE Gulf coast from Florida/Alabama border to Charlotte Harbor, southwest Georgia, southeast Alabama
Deptford culture – Atlantic region 500 BCE–700 CE Atlantic coast from mouth of St. Johns River, Florida to Cape Fear, North Carolina
Swift Creek culture 150–350 eastern Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia
Santa Rosa-Swift Creek culture 150–350 western Florida Panhandle
Weeden Island cultures
100–1000 CE
Weeden Island I, including 100–700 Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast in Florida, interior north Florida, and southwest Georgia
Cades Pond culture 200–750 north-central Florida
McKeithen Weeden Island culture 200–700 north Florida
Weeden Island II, including 750–1000 Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast in Florida, and southwest Georgia
– Wakulla culture 750–1000 Florida Panhandle
Alachua culture 700 – Historic north central Florida
Suwannee Valley culture 750 – Historic north Florida
Safety Harbor culture 800 – Historic central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida
Fort Walton culture – a Mississippian culture 1000 – Historic Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia
Pensacola culture – a Mississippian culture 1250 – Historic western part of Florida Panhandle, southern Alabama and southern Mississippi

Early modern period

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Indigenous peoples of Florida" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (November 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

European colonists encountered numerous groups of indigenous peoples in Florida. Recorded information on various groups ranges from numerous detailed reports to the mere mention of a name. Some of the indigenous peoples were taken into the system of Spanish missions in Florida, others had sporadic contact with the Spanish without being brought into the mission system, but many of the peoples are known only from mention of their names in historical accounts. All of these peoples were essentially extinct in Florida by the end of the 18th century.[citation needed]

Most died from exposure to Eurasian infectious diseases, such as smallpox and measles, to which they had no immunity; others died from conflict with European colonists in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. During the initial period of Spanish colonization, groups of conquistadors came into conflict with Florida Indians, which combined with Spanish-introduced diseases devastated their population. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English colonists from the Province of Carolina and the Indian allies carried out several raids against the Spanish mission system, further devastating the indigenous population of Florida. The few survivors migrated out of Florida, mainly to Cuba and New Spain with the Spanish when they ceded Florida to Great Britain in 1763 following the Seven Years' War, although a few Apalachee reached Louisiana, where their descendants still live.[citation needed]

Indigenous peoples encountered by Europeans

A map of indigenous people of Florida at the time of contact.
A map of indigenous people of Florida at the time of contact.

This section includes the names of tribes, chiefdoms and towns encountered by Europeans in what is now the state of Florida and adjacent parts of Alabama and Georgia in the 16th and 17th centuries:

18th and 19th centuries

From the beginning of the 18th century, various groups of Native Americans, primarily Muscogee people (called Creeks by the English) from north of present-day Florida, moved into what is now the state. The Creek migrants included Hitchiti and Mikasuki speakers. There were also some non-Creek Yamasee and Yuchi migrants. They merged to form the new Seminole ethnicity.

Groups known to have been in Florida in the latter half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century include:

A series of wars with the United States resulted in the death or removal to what is now Oklahoma of most of the above peoples and the merging of the remainder by ethnogenesis into the current Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida.

20th and 21st century

The only federally recognized tribes in Florida are:

The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creek from what are now northern Muscogee.


See also


  1. ^ In the 17th century the Spanish in Florida used cimaron to refer to Christianized natives who had left their mission villages to live "wild" in the woods.[52] Some of the Hitchiti- or Mikasukee-speakers who had settled in Florida identified themselves to the British as "cimallon" (Muskogean languages have no "r" sound, replacing it with "l"). The British wrote the name as "Semallone", later "Seminole". The use of "cimallon" by bands in Florida to describe themselves may have been intended to distinguish themselves from the primarily Muscogee-speakers of the Upper Towns of the Muscogee Confederacy (called the "Creek Confederacy" by the British). The term "Seminole" was first applied to Ahaya's band in Alachua. After 1763, when they took over Florida from the Spanish, the British called all natives living in Florida "Seminoles", "Creeks", or "Seminole-Creeks".[53]


  1. ^ Viegas 2011.
  2. ^ The Associated Press (June 22, 2011). "Ancient mammoth or mastodon image found on bone in Vero Beach". Gainesville Sun. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  3. ^ Halligan, Waters & Perrotti 2016.
  4. ^ Purdy 2008, pp. 84–90.
  5. ^ Purdy 2008, pp. 65–68.
  6. ^ Purdy 2008, pp. 23–29.
  7. ^ Cockrell 1990, pp. 74–76.
  8. ^ Carr 1986, pp. 231–232.
  9. ^ Daniel, Wisenbaker & Ballo 1986.
  10. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 43, 46, 47, 58.
  11. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 38–40.
  12. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 40–46.
  13. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 47–48.
  14. ^ Milanich 1994, p. 46.
  15. ^ Purdy 1981, p. 6.
  16. ^ a b c Bullen 1975, p. 6.
  17. ^ a b Purdy 1981, p. 8.
  18. ^ Dunbar, James S. "The pre-Clovis occupation of Florida: The Page-Ladson and Wakulla Springs Lodge Data". Archived from the original on 12 October 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  19. ^ Milanich 1994, p. 58.
  20. ^ Purdy 1981, pp. 8–9, 24.
  21. ^ Purdy 1981, pp. 25–26.
  22. ^ Purdy 1981, pp. 12–32.
  23. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 48–53.
  24. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 63, 75, 85, 104.
  25. ^ White & Estabrook 1994.
  26. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 85–104.
  27. ^ "The Woodland Period (ca. 2000 B.C. - A.D. 1000)". U. S. National Park Service. Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  28. ^ Milanich 1994, pp. 108–09.
  29. ^ Milanich 1998, p. 103.
  30. ^ Hann 2006, pp. 22–24.
  31. ^ a b c Milanich 1995, p. 96.
  32. ^ a b Geiger 1940, p. 130.
  33. ^ Hann 2003, p. 36.
  34. ^ Hann 2003, pp. 133–4.
  35. ^ Hann 2006, pp. 20–21.
  36. ^ Hann 2006, pp. 24–26.
  37. ^ Hann 1988, p. 402.
  38. ^ Hann 2003, pp. 60–1.
  39. ^ Hann 2003, p. 62.
  40. ^ a b c d Milanich 2004, p. 215.
  41. ^ Hann 2003, pp. 132–3.
  42. ^ Hann 2003, pp. 62, 64.
  43. ^ Milanich 2004, p. 213.
  44. ^ Swanton 1952, pp. 134, 160.
  45. ^ Hann 2006, pp. 20–22, 27.
  46. ^ Swanton 1922, pp. 130, 140.
  47. ^ Milanich 1995, p. 156.
  48. ^ Swanton 1922, pp. 165–167.
  49. ^ Hann 1996, pp. 7, 12.
  50. ^ Boyd 1951, p. 9.
  51. ^ Covington 1968, pp. 347, 350.
  52. ^ Hann 1992, p. 451 Note 2.
  53. ^ Wright 1986, pp. 4–5, 104–105.
  54. ^ Patrick 1954, pp. 184–212, 230–236.
  55. ^ Mahon 1985, pp. 10, 28.
  56. ^ Sturtevant 1953, p. 39, 56.
  57. ^ Mahon 1985, pp. 3, 5, 28, 43, 62.
  58. ^ Swanton 1952, pp. 125–128.
  59. ^ Hammond 1973, pp. 357, 362–363.
  60. ^ Sturtevant 1953, pp. 37–41, 43–45, 47–48, 50, 52, 54–56, 64.
  61. ^ Tebeau 1968, pp. 45, 64–67.
  62. ^ Mahon 1985, pp. 5, 43, 62, 318.