In the Florida Everglades, there once lived an ancient civilization of Native Americans known as the Calusa. The Calusa were unique in that they had a hierarchy of established leadership among several different villages. There was a “King” of sorts who held meetings with other “noble” people and close advisors to rule over the villages in the area. Each village had their own leader, who would then answer to the “King.” They would bring offerings and sacrifices to please their ruler.
The Calusa were a violent people, they did not make peace easily and it often came to war. What they knew was to fight for what they had, and the strong survive. They were also big on human sacrifice and believed that their leaders were supernaturally powerful. Human sacrifice is a dark form of worship and the people who believed in the gods who required it, often gave their lives willingly to appease them.
In the 1500’s when the Spaniards invaded their territory, it was the Calusa who killed Ponce de Leon. Later, a Spaniard by the name of Escalonte de Fontaneda, was captured by the Calusa and held prisoner for 17 years. They did have peace in their hearts though, because they let him go back to his people. When he returned he told stories of a giant lake with many villages around it and though he had never seen it himself, he had heard them talk of it.
The lake he was most likely talking about is the Okeechobee. It’s the nation’s second largest body of fresh water. It’s also a vast 730 square miles. When the lake was finally discovered it was almost 300 years later and human bones could still be found near the lake. Just inches under the surface, 50 human skeletons were uncovered. Many more were discovered, so many just kept turning up as the settlers kept exploring. One stated that there were so many skulls that, “during low water it looked like a pumpkin patch.”
It’s unclear whether the remains are from some catastrophic event that took the lives of so many all at once or if they are all that remains of the humans who were sacrificed. So little is known about the Calusa culture. Perhaps it was the sick and dying who were sacrificed to end their suffering. Maybe, that was how they dealt with criminals. Only the remains of an ancient people are left to tell the story. Along with a few relics they left behind.