But before going in to view the collection, I took a closer look at the Mound itself. Here, just opposite the Museum entrance, is a wide flight of steps leading to the flattened top. You can see the roof of a structure erected on the top of the mound just visible above the steps.
This is the building at the top of the Mound. A recreation, of course, done some time ago. But one based upon the best archeological evidence available at the time. Including size, shape, and construction materials. The top of the mound now is closed to the public. Only opened for very special events, and maintenance.
Here you can see that the sides of this mound are covered with trees and other vegetation. Though when in use as a ceremonial site the sides probably were smooth and of a color meaningful to the surrounding society.
Tony, the friend mentioned in the last post who lived in Fort Walton Beach during his middle school years, tells of climbing with his family to the top of the Mound some time in the late 1950s. There to find an old discarded refrigerator! Quite a come-down from the Mound’s past glories.
Gail Lynn Meyer is the recently appointed Museum Manager for the City of Fort Walton Beach’s Heritage Park and Cultural Center. She knows a lot about the Mound and Museum, though. Since as an archeologist she’s been involved in museum work at the Fort Walton Beach Center for over twenty years.
The Mound and associated Museum are part of the City’s Heritage Park and Cultural Center. Ms. Meyer agreed to sit down for a taped interview in the afternoon. So, we’ll have her expert commentary in this and the next post. An excellent addition to our program.
I first asked Ms. Meyer to describe the Mound itself. Above is a shot of the flat surface of the Mound she describes. The top of the “truncated pyramid,” as she called it. The City has installed flood lights here and there, which must make it an interesting sight at night. No refrigerators now. Used or new!
As already noted, the Mound has had its ups and downs over the years. Including the years of European habitation. The City of Fort Walton Beach actually grew up around this mound. But, as late as the early 1960s some doubt remained about its authenticity. Ms. Meyer describes that here.
By the time the FSU archeologists had completed their work it was obvious that this Mound was no pile of sand or beach debris. That as valuable as this central piece of town was for real estate development, it had greater value as an important historical site. (More on the persistent efforts of Fort Walton Beach residents to assure its preservation in the next post.)
The Fort Walton Beach Mound in its heyday, and certainly now, is much smaller than the other mounds visited on this tour. Still, its construction and maintenance would have required a lot of work. Prolonged effort by at least hundreds of people.
Such projects don’t just happen. They require fairly large and concentrated populations. And effective, probably hierarchical, political organization. So I asked Ms. Meyer to tell us what we know about the size of the population that built this Mound, and about their relationships with surrounding communities.
So, here in Fort Walton Beach we have a relatively small mound that is quite different from the other mounds that have been preserved around the Eastern United States. Not only smaller. But made primarily of sand and sea shell material. That perhaps reflects a culture quite different in important ways. I asked Ms. Meyer about that.
In the next post we’ll take a closer look at the Museum and its remarkable collection. So stay tuned!