(1000BC - 1700AD)
By David J. Castello

Pottery shard with markings recovered by David J Castello from Indian mound 100 yards south of Boynton Beach Inlet
The largest cluster of Native American Indian mounds in Palm Beach County is located just west of Boynton Beach in an area of the Agricultural Reserve across from Faith Farm Ministries. Labeled by the state as site #8PB56, the twelve mounds are spread over an area of approximately ten acres and range in size from a few yards circular to a mammoth rectangular one measuring 200 X 100 feet.

They are probably the remains of a sub-group of the Jeaga tribe. The Jeagas at their peak numbered about 2,000 and were spread across much of what is now Palm Beach County. Their neighbors were the Ais to the north and the Tequesta to the south.

South Florida was the last portion of the state to be occupied by her indigenous Indians. And they took their time getting down here. The northern and panhandle parts were first settled around 12OOOBC (an excavation site by the Aucilla River revealed a mastodon). Major occupation of present-day Palm Beach County didn't occur until 1OOOBC. And for good reason. These were not the most hospitable places to set up a wig-wam (which for Florida Indians consisted of a framework of bent poles covered with palmetto fronds). To give you an idea of the hardship, there is a colonial report of a mule actually dying after being attacked by a swarm of mosquitos.

Carbon-14 dating of artifacts recovered at the Boynton site date to 600BC according to Jim Wamke, former Boynton Beach mayor and member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society. "Curiously, the burial mound is covered with a very white sugar sand," said Warnke. "That sand is not found anywhere else in the area."

Hunters and gatherers, the Jeagas railed heavily on marine resources and very little on agriculture. There is a large-sized mound just south of the Boynton Inlet on the east side of AIA. Unfortunately, it is now covered by a condominium complex (hopefully the inland site will not endure a similar fate). Limited excavation at the Inlet mound revealed turtle shells, large marine vertebrate and pottery. Warnke theorizes that the same group may have been responsible for both sites. "They probably periodically trekked to the shore for food and carried it back to the main encampment."

The Jeagas foraged for coco plums, sea grapes and palm berries, They also drank a frothy, ceremonial tea made from the roasted leaves of the cassina plant. Known as the "black drink", it was high in caffeine and obviously made quite an impression on the Europeans. They gave it the lovely botanical name "Ilex Vomitoria."

Enslavement (particularly by the Spainards for their Caribbean outposts), disease and the introduction of alcohol quickly decimated the original Florida Indians. By the early 1700's they were gone, soon to be replaced by a tribe that migrated down from Georgia in 1716 and has since come to symbolize the Florida Indian - the Seminole.

David J Castello


NATHAN S. BOYNTON (1837-1911)


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