Shell Mound Archaeological Site
Shell Mound, on the Levy County side of the Lower Suwannee NWR, attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some come to fish from the pier. Others put in their kayaks and small boats at the tide-dependent launch area. Some walk the one-mile Dennis Creek Trail through marshes and hammocks.For many, the highlight of the visit is the walk on the self-guided, less than a half-mile Shell Mound archaeological trail.Despite its unassuming name, Shell Mound (8LV42), is a large shell-bearing archaeological site that was once the location of special gatherings for Native American groups across the broader region. The site rose to prominence as a ritual center at about A.D. 400 and continued through A.D. 650. Archaeologists refer to places such as this as “civic-ceremonial centers,” locations of both residence and ritual activity. Like other civic-ceremonial centers in the region, Shell Mound drew its significance from a nearby cemetery, the hallowed ground of ancestors from far and wide. The site features mounds of marine shell (predominantly oyster) measuring 20 feet high surrounding a large central plaza. Excavations by archaeologists from the University of Florida have discovered the remains of large feasts that took place in the summer – likely celebrating the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Today, Shell Mound is part of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and thus under the stewardship of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the help of community groups such as the Friends of the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuges. Come tour this incredible site and learn more about Shell Mound and its inhabitants by taking the self-guided walking tour.