Beware!!! Archaeology is discussed ahead!!!!! You might want to turn back!
Playing in the Sand on Ormond Beach!
Tom and I have been exploring plantation ruins along the Eastern Coast of Florida. Recently we stopped by the Dummett Sugar plantation off Old Dixie Highway on our way to a mound in Ormond Beach.
Here’s the Mystery Mound! or is it Mounds?
I had read about a mound that was discovered in 1982 (thereabouts) next to the Halifax river. We found the very small indigenous burial mound where it is reported that over 100 people were buried.
I thought that it had to have been diminished in size based upon our visit to Cahokia, Etowah, and Crystal River mounds. Something didn’t seem “right” about the mound! I kept reading about it and all the sites said virtually the same thing about it. Was it a fake or a joke?
Finally, I found a report about a 1934 excavation of the Ormond Burial Mound that was published in the 1950’s. (They ran out of Federal recovery funds in the 1930’s and did not publish the findings of the mound that was excavated. Of course!) Here is a link to the report.
The report was informative but left out important data about the skeletons and how the people died. The more I read, the more I thought that the mound we visited was a fraud. In the report the archaeologists said that the mound was “obliterated” and used for fill dirt, so a house could be built upon it. Huh? And the mound seemed so much larger in the archaeological report than the one next to the river that we had visited. The report also suggested that the mound was on the Eastern not the Western side of the river and about 1.3 miles south of the bridge. The small mound was only 1000 feet or less from the bridge.
I decided to contact the Ormond Beach Historical Society. Gratefully, they clued me in on the mystery. There were at least two mounds named “Ormond.” The 1934 report was not about the small mound next to the river. In addition, they sent loads of information that helped me to put both mounds into perspective.
There is even a timely video that explores the mounds, in much the same way we did, and they discovered the same information. How interesting! The older guy at the end of the video walks 1.3 miles from the bridge and concludes that the original mound was in that vicinity. But, notice, the houses are newer. They were not built in 1934. So the mystery continues. See: A Tale of Two Mounds created by some retired folks. It is fun to watch.
Small Mystery Mound-To the West of Halifax River
To me the mound is still a mystery. Researchers don’t know who was buried here. The burials could have begun about 1200 years ago and ended around the 16th century. Only a small area of the mound was excavated with bones seemingly placed in a semi-circle and perhaps bundled together.
What is most interesting about this site is that a community effort saved it from becoming a foundation for a home. Two young boys found bits of bones and pottery in the trenches being dug in the street for utilities. After several months, the city bought the property and volunteers began to excavate the site. As I understand it, they could not find a trained archaeologist who had time to lead the dig full-time. A short report was filed about the site. I wonder if the mound was originally much longer and wider. We will never know because the sand is gone.
Mound Two. The missing Mound. East of the Halifax river or on the Peninsula. The 1934 Report!
This is a more interesting mound to study because the archaeologists analyzed several levels/strata of sand and shells. While several pits had been dug in the mound by fortune-hunters, the burials remained below those pits. They were untouched. The slide above might help you to locate Ormond.
If you have never read archaeological reports, the following slides might seem very odd to you. They capture one slice of the mound or a stratum. Archaeologists take off one level of dirt/shell at a time.
Mounds like this one dot the shorelines all along the Eastern coast of Florida. One of the members of the Ormond Historical Society sent a presentation to me that demonstrates that there were at least ten mounds north of the Ormond mound sites. This means that there were thriving communities of people living along the shores for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Florida locals dug away the shell mounds and used them for their roads and as foundations for their homes. Some say it was good fertilizer. So, they quickly began to melt away. You wonder what happened to the skeletons in the burial mounds.
I have read that the Timucuan indigenous peoples, who lived in the Ormond area, created circular fenced villages. They also socialized and performed rituals in a circle. I thought it was a bit shocking to see skeletons arranged in circles with heads facing out and toes pointing toward the middle of the circle. (You have to look really close in the image above to see the skeletons.) Were they dancing or socializing in the next life? You begin to wonder.
What caused all of the people to die at the same time? Were they killed in a war? Was there a pandemic? Were they sacrificed? Did a hurricane kill them? Some archaeologists suggest that the bones were stored and buried long after people died. But they do not speculate about the circle.
Another interesting issue in this mound were the skulls. Several were found without their bodies/skeletons. Why? Were they decapitated? Were they spoils of war? Were their skeletons stolen or lost? Did someone misplace their bones? We will never know because the answers are hidden under a home somewhere on the beach. And I am guessing that the remains are under a high-rise hotel today?
John D. Rockefeller Loved Ormond Beach
When you hear the name Rockefeller, you think of money. You think of mining. You think of gas. You think of the Standard Oil Company. You think of charitable giving. We came across some of his businesses in Montana a few years ago.
And while he amassed wealth beyond our imagination, he chose to spend his winters at Ormond Beach at an unassuming home called the Casements.
Right across the river from the Casements is the Eastern mystery mound and a gorgeous boardwalk that takes you under the Granada/Rockefeller Memorial Bridge and out into the Halifax River. What a treat!
Our Pals Keep Us Sane!
This is the end of our little jaunt to Ormond Beach. Since then we have visited Okeechobee, explored a lake on an airboat, and discovered very creative people at TGO where we live.
Below is a pic of the Addison Canal that crosses TGO. Hundreds of gorgeous white birds are spending their winter with us. It is always a welcome sight!
Be safe and take care of each other.
As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge
Many thanks to the Ormond Beach Historical Society. They responded to me quickly with great help!