Fort Walton Mound (Indian Temple Mound Museum)
The Fort Walton Mound is a Pensacola culture earthen mound thought to have been built circa 850 C.E. According to archaeologists, the mound was used for ceremonial purposes and as the chief's residence. The mound is 12-feet-tall and 233-feet-wide and is possibly the largest mound on the Gulf Coast. It is located on the grounds of the Indian Temple Mound Museum, which features exhibits that explore the 12,000 years of natural and human history of the area.
Backstory and Context
The Pensacola natives were an advanced, hierarchical society. According to archaeologists, the mound was used for ceremonial and political purposes. The top of the mound would have served as the location of the chief's residence was located, as evidenced by the post holes; structures on the mound were probably constructed utilizing wattle and daub. This mound features a pyramidal base with a truncated top, typical of the architectural fashion of the period. It occupied a central position in the village and its supporting agricultural lands. Village leaders were buried in the mound, and additional layers of material added over time.
The site was abandoned by 1500 C.E. and the mound was essentially forgotten until the Civil War. In 1861, Confederate soldiers established "Camp Walton" at the base of Fort Walton Mound to guard Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay. The soldiers dug into the mound and had a tent in their camp to display the artifacts they found. Several formal excavations have taken place over the years, the last one occurring in 1976. The mound was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1966. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
Also part of the Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park & Cultural Center is the adjacent city-owned and operated Indian Temple Mound Museum, which opened in 1972 at this location (it first opened in 1962 elsewhere). It houses exhibits that explore the 12,000 years of natural and human history of the area. Pre-Colombian artifacts from the mound (and other locations), European Explorers, local pirates and early settlers are on display at the museum.