Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stories from the new History of Jackson County, Florida


Beginning today, I will start sharing some excerpts from my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One.
If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or online directly from the printer at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox.
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Excerpt from Chapter One (Pages 5-6)
(Copyright 2008 by Dale Cox)
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The new people, called the Mississippians because they spread east from the Mississippi River Valley, brought with them new techniques, new styles of pottery and a new religion. Archaeologists and anthropologists debate today whether their eastward movement was due to military conquest or religious fervor, but one thing is clear: they were a powerful, militaristic society.

The Mississippians were the ancestors of most of the Native American nations we recognize today. The Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people can all trace their history to the Mississippian culture. Some older groups such as the Yuchi and Hitchiti are believed to have descended from the earlier people already living in the region when the Mississippians arrived.
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From A.D. 900 until A.D. 1540, the Mississippians were the absolute masters of the Southeast. In Jackson County, the largest known early Mississippian settlement was the Curlee Site near Sneads. This site was occupied by around A.D. 1000 and consisted of a large village and mound on the banks of the Apalachicola River near where the U.S. 90 Bridge crosses between Chattahoochee and Sneads. Paired with a large seven mound ceremonial center across the river at Chattahoochee Landing, where the remains of a large platform mound can still be seen, the Curlee village was an important center supported by vast fields and a trading network that made use of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.
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Although it has now been largely washed away by the river, the Curlee Site is one of the best researched Native American sites in Jackson County. Prior to the destruction of the site by erosion, archaeologists conducted numerous seasons of fieldwork at the site and learned a great deal about the lives of its inhabitants. They ground grain and baked bread, grew squash, melons and other crops, made both ceremonial and utility pottery, used tiny triangular points to tip their arrows and made tools from stone, wood and bone. They even made bone fishhooks for use in harvesting food from the Apalachicola River.
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One of the most stunning aspects of the Curlee inhabitants, however, is that they seem to have developed the capability to perform brain surgery. A skull from the site and now in the possession of a private collector in Chattahoochee had a rectangular hole that had apparently been cut using stone tools. Most surprising, however, is the fact that the bone surrounding the hole had begun to refuse, confirming to anthropologists that the unfortunate individual had survived his primitive surgery.
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Although scientists have speculated as to why inhabitants of Curlee would conduct brain surgery on a resident of their village, the best they can do is guess. Some have suggested that the individual may have suffered from migraine headaches or somehow been injured, but we may never know.
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At some point around 1250-1350 A.D., Curlee and other Mississippian sites along the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers in Jackson County were suddenly abandoned. No one is quite sure why. At the same time, however, a new Mississippian society suddenly appeared between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek in western Jackson County. We know more about this society than any of the ones before it because these people were still living in the area when Spanish explorers penetrated the area west of the Apalachicola River.
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Watch over the coming days for more excerpts from the new book!

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