Prehistoric Native People
The first people to enter the Florida peninsula around 12,000 years ago were not explorers, adventurers, or settlers,but nomads following the big game animals upon which their survival depended. Sea level was lower and rainfall less plentiful than today. Mastodons, camels, mammoths, bison, and horses roamed vast grasslands in search of food and fresh water. Native Americans spread throughout the peninsula and into the Keys. Big game animals gradually became extinct, probably as a result of a wetter climate with forests replacing grasslands and overexploitation by human hunters.
Food sources shifted to small game and shellfish. Populations increased and some groups moved inland to are as more suitable for growing corn, beans, squash, and other crops. Different styles of pottery decoration became unique to certain regions. Some groups began burying their dead alongwith elaborate pottery and other goods in earthen mounds. By A.D. 1000 the Mississippian culture, originating farther north and eventually including much of the Southeast, extended into Florida. Today the only evidence of these first Floridians is contained in those remaining archeological sites that represent dozens of distinctive Indian cultures.