Florida history in the Tampa Bay area begins with the Tocobaga Indians. The Tampa Bay area of Florida is rich in history, and its native “settlers” weren’t its first inhabitants. The first were the Tocobaga Indians. They had a rich and simple life.
The Tocobaga Indians were the original inhabitants of Tampa Bay. They lived in small villages at the northern end of Tampa Bay for about 500-600 years until the 16th century. Each village was situated around a public area that was used as a meeting place. Their houses were round. They were built with wooden poles and palm thatch roofs. Each village also had a mound, made of a large pile of earth, shells, or stones that was built to house the chief’s home and the tribe’s temple. There were also burial mounds outside the main village area to bury the dead.
Some mounds were garbage heaps. The women of the Tocobaga tribes had middens, or garbage heaps located next to their kitchen. Middens were made up of the shells from the shellfish they ate. The midden consisted of a mound of shells that had grown and packed together throughout the years as shells were discarded after every meal. The Tocobaga also ate manatee, deer, rabbits, armadillo, and squirrels. Their diet was well rounded and included wild berries, nuts, corn, and fruit to supplement their diet. The midden mounds that have been excavated had a wealth of information about what they ate. It also gave clues to the fact that they had to be good hunters. Other mounds and excavations of villages showed the tools they made and used to hunt, and survive.
In the early sixteenth century, Spanish explorers discovered the Tampa Bay. With them came disease and violence. The tribe died out by the early seventeenth century. Phillipe Park has the last remaining Tocobaga mounds and a wealth of questions from them for researchers to dig through. Learning about the Tocobaga Indians is learning Florida history.
Having been around quite a while ourselves, we love to learn about Florida history! Find out about the history of the Safety Harbor Historic Resort and Spa too…