South Gate & Archaeological Site

South Gate & Archaeological Site

The pedestrian entrance and ticket house were opened in 2014 to provide access from the neighborhood south of Bonnet House. The current entrance is just to the left of the original entrance to Bonnet House, closed off by the Bartletts when the property to the south began to be developed.

This area is the site of an important archaeological site. In 1984, archaeologist Robert S. Carr conducted a dig along this southern portion of the secondary dune. His team discovered historic and prehistoric artifacts. They determined that prehistoric oyster shells form a shell midden here.

The Tequesta were a small, peaceful, Native American tribe. These hunters and gatherers were one of the first tribes to settle in South Florida. They built many villages and relied mainly on fish, shellfish, nuts and berries for food. The Tequesta used shells and shark’s teeth for a variety of tools.  The shells of the oysters were always thrown away at the same sites. That is how the shell midden grew here.  From here, the tribe would have had access to this upland site through New River Sound to the west, access to fresh water from the coastal dune lake, and access to fish from the ocean to the east.

A pile of conch shells uncovered here are of historic origin.  Radiocarbon dating indicates that some shells were opened with the use of metal tools between 1370 and 1540 A.D. This site has been documented as the earliest known European contact site in southern Florida which supports Carr’s hypothesis that Ponce de Leon did not discover Florida. According to several historians it was John Cabot, the Venetian explorer, who sailed to the coast of North America in 1497 and claimed it for King Henry VII of England.

Now proceed down the hill towards the fountain visible at the end of the Allee.