The story of people and plants provides a continuous thread from the Calusa to early Estero Island settlers, and to the present and future generations. With all the great advances in science and technology, people still rely on natural resources to provide food, medicine, rules, building materials, textiles, and dyes.
Plants Fuel a Society
Fire is important to the development of cultures. The Calusa used fire to cook, and to help carve out logs to create canoes. Archaeologists who studied this shell mound gathered sample of the soil to be tested for botanicals. The test yielded 19,340 botanical items - 90% of which were charred wood. The most common was mangroves (77%), followed by pine or oak (21%). In addition to wood, researchers identified nut shells and nut meat, seeds and grass stems.
The Calusa diet was centered on aquatic foods, yet research shows they also gathered seasonal nuts, seeds, and fruit. Nuts found during the excavation were primarily high protein acorns and 91% of seeds collected were saw palmetto seeds. Many of these seeds were found together indicating the Calusa gathered the seeds when seasonally available.
Whether it was the Calusa, or the Cuban fisherman who set up ranchos or coastal fishing camps, or the late 19th century settlers-everyone needed shelter. They survived by using natural materials to create protective structures. Palm fronds and tree trunks could be assembled together with twine made from Spanish moss. Perhaps their "houses" were similar to this circa 1910 palm shack. Records indicate that the first homesteader, Robert Gilbert, built a thatched structure on the mound site.