Turtle Mound was originally founded and occupied by the Timucua people, a large group of Native American chiefdoms. The Timucua reached the coast of Florida between 800 AD-1400 AD in search for new land where they could find the basic necessities to survive and to expand their chiefdoms. The first mapping of this site was in 1605 by Spanish explorer Alvaro Mexia, who was also the first person to give the people a name, “Surruque,” which is said to have emerged from the French definition of a large Florida lake that they knew as Sorrochos. Considering that the Timucua are known for being a sedentary tribe and also mainly relaying on marine life as their food source, the explored Florida’s coast and found this area to be an appropriate location to progress their life. The tribe survived by hunting small reptiles, mammals and also took much pride in their fishing and oyster diving. During their quest for a food sources, the tribe used their natural resources to full extend and began creating hand-made tools such as, fishing hooks, knives and arrows from bones and oyster shells and making fishing nets out of reed- a long, string-like type of grass and palm trunk fiber, this helped the tribe become much more effective when it came to hunting. As the site they habit is coastal, they had an option of transporting by sea or by what came to be known as the Indian River, because of this big transporting opportunity the Timucua hollowed out many pine and cypress trees to make canoes.
The initial use and creation of the mound was a way of disposing trash like clam or oyster shells, bones and other human waste. With time, most mounds would eventually reach a level where it was no longer was safe to continue to use as a way of disposing trash and ultimately would become a lookout post for the tribe and also as a high ground refugee for the tribe during Florida’s hurricane weather.
The Timucua no longer occupied Florida after 1763. The remaining Timucua left with the Spanish evacuation. After this, Seminole tribes began to spread throughout Florida. After the site and left over mounds were worn out from the 18th century Native Americans and explorers, the mound began developing into a new form. In 1877 the land was being converted for agriculture, shipping, and used as pit stop for the steamboats that were passing by the Mosquito Lagoon. After many decades, in 1970 this land was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places and became very well protected to the remembrance and preservation of the Timucuan Indian Tribe. Learning from the many mounds and middens in the area has helped uncover prehistoric information about Florida before any European contact or Spanish troops who would eventually settle inland, it also helps give us information on events that may have occurred since then, some events which may have altered or added to the growing society in Florida.
Through archaeological excavation, the mound has been used as a way of learning and obtaining the most accurate information to date about the lives of the Timucua people. We are able to examine things such as the foods they ate and the exposure of different items, such as tools or clothing that they utilized. The largest, most used mound formerly reached up to 75 feet high and was estimated to be made up of approximately 1.5 million bushels of oyster shells, bones and other wastes but due to the fast pacing shell rock mining in the 19th and 20th century the mound decreased in size but also because of the fast progression of roads and railroads for transporting goods.