English history, especially of the 19th century, is my first love, else I wouldn’t be in the business I’m in. But if there’s a museum in the vicinity—any vicinity—resistance is futile. All kinds of subjects can arouse my my innate nerdiness. Years ago, working on some audio programs for the Orange County Regional History Center in Florida got me interested in its past, as mentioned here and here.
Naturally, when I heard about the old railway station in Fort Myers, Florida, which houses the Southwest Florida Museum of History, I had to make a field trip.
You will rarely see me entranced with dinosaurs and prehistoric people. But this vignette caught my attention, perhaps because of my addiction to Ancient Egypt, and the burial customs that have allowed us to learn so much about their world. Without the mummies, ancient papyri, and other artifacts found mainly in tombs, we wouldn't know a fraction as much as we do. Likewise, thanks to this New World burial custom, archaeologists have been able to study the DNA of a very ancient people, with surprising results.
“By the early Archaic period (about 7000 years ago), complex cultures existed among the early Florida peoples. One such group in Southwest Florida practiced unusual burial rituals.
“When a member of the group died, they wrapped the body in cloth or hide and staked the wrappings into a shallow grave at the bottom of a pond These burials took place within a day or two of death. The muck at the bottom of the pond quickly covered the body, not unlike the process of fossilization, preserving it for future archaeological study.”
Among other things, scientists have learned that the 7,000 year old Floridians and today’s Native Americans are not genetically related.
Which raises the questions, Where did they come from? To whom are they related?