The Windover Archeological site discovered in 1982 was purely by accident. While building a road over a pond for the new housing development, Windover Farms in Titusville, Florida, a backhoe operator noticed several skulls in the bucket of his machine. Examinations were done by the sheriff and medical examiner of Brevard County, both determined that the burials were not recent, and subsequently called in a forensic expert. Upon his examination, he determined the remains were modern Caucasian.
Construction on the project was stopped and the developers called in archaeologists. Using radiocarbon dating on two bones found in the backhoe, yielded dates of 7,210 years and 7,320 years Before Present. With the importance of this find, the developers changed their overall plans to preserve the pond and then donated $60,000 worth of pumping equipment to drain the pond for excavation.
What was discovered
When the excavation was completed, 168 individuals had been found that included both males and females. Ages spanned from infants to about 60 years old. About half of the remains were children. There were indications that there was a high value placed on children and teenagers, as they were buried with more grave goods.
Adult males had an average height of 5 feet 9 inches. In the skeletons, they found the effects of disease and healed wounds. In older females, osteoporosis was found, and in both sexes, adults showed high evidence of osteoarthritis. One skeleton discovered was a male about 15 years old who had spina bifida. One foot was missing, and the stump of his lower leg had healed. From the condition of his spine, the archaeologists were certain that he was paralyzed from the waist down. This was another important discovery in assessing the society’s commitment to the boy’s survival for 15 years in a hunter-gather community.
The archaeologists were able to recover a total of 86 pieces of fabric from 37 graves. The fabrics included different textile weaves, which appeared to have been used for clothing, bags, matting, and maybe blankets and ponchos. The people of Windover hunted animals, fished and gathered plants. Using bottle gourds for storage, showed the earliest evidence of vegetable container storage discovered in North America. From the bones and shells found in the graves, they indicate they ate white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, birds, fish, and shellfish.
History of the Windover Archeological Site
Windover is an Early Archaic (6000 to 5000 BC) archaeological site and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Characteristics of the peat at the bottom of the muck pond kept the skeletons well preserved. Also, DNA from the well-preserved brain tissue has been sequenced. This discovery is the largest that has been found from the Archaic Period and considered one of the most important sites ever excavated.
Jerald T. Milanich states, “Windover has provided ‘unprecedented and dramatic’ information about the early Archaic people in Florida.”