Visiting the Tomoka Mounds and Middens archaeological site is a must if you truly want to grasp the history of the Daytona Beach area. Found in Ormond Beach, this fascinating complex of mounds boasts remnants of the pre-Columbian Indians who once called the region home. Many historians believe that the Tomoka Mounds and Middens date as far back as 5,500 years ago, which means that they provide insight into life during the late period of the Archaic ages. In case you are wondering what middens are, they are mounds of discarded shells and animal bones, which essentially amount to trash dumps. The early inhabitants of the Daytona Beach region ate their fair share of oysters, and as such, visitors to the Tomoka Mounds and Middens will see plenty of oyster shells.
There is some confusion as to when the Daytona Beach area was first inhabited, especially when it comes to the Tomoka Mounds and Middens. While some historians argue that they could have been built as far back as 2,500 B.C., others question that fact due to the presence of oyster shells in the middens. The earlier inhabitants of the region, which were the Timucua Indians, began arriving before oyster development occurred in the streams, so one might deduce that some of the middens came later or were added onto in latter years. In addition to oyster shells, the middens are also comprised of clam and freshwater snail shells. When you visit this Ormond Beach Native American site, you can expect to see some middens topping out at nearly 40 feet tall!
As for the Tomoka Mounds, they are burial mounds as opposed to refuse mounds. Some interesting artifacts have been found in the mounds at this Ormond Beach Native American site, and they include a collection of bannerstones, which interestingly enough, contain materials that hail from Georgia. The presence of these materials from Georgia tells historians that a significant amount of trade and nomadic activity was going in the region during the early Native American days. Some of the more renowned Tomoka Mounds are part of the Strickland Mound complex, which is widely considered to be one of the best prehistoric sites in Florida. In addition to featuring some of the oldest mounds that can be found at the Tomoka Ormond Beach Native American site, the Strickland Mound complex also features some of the oldest middens.
One of the most interesting things about the Tomoka Mounds is the construction method that was employed to build them. While the purpose is unknown to this day, the mounds were built using a sand-layering technique that some historians link to possible ethnic associations. Nine layers of sand were laid over one another in the construction of the mounds, and these layers of sand are of different colors. It is quite curious, and you can arrive at your own opinions on the matter during your visit.
Self guided tours of the Tomoka Mounds and Middens can be enjoyed during your visit to Tomoka State Park, and the small admission fee is more than worth it. A National Register of Historic Places sign offers some insight into the mounds and middens, and if you want more insight, you can consider booking a guided canoeing tour in the park. Scenic rivers pass along the Tomoka Mounds and Middens complex, and when you're not checking out the historical sites, you can enjoy the native flora and fauna.
The Tomoka Mounds and Middens archaeological site offers the most extensive collection of mounds and middens in the area, but it's not the only place to look for them. Just south of New Smyrna Beach, for example, visitors to the Canaveral National Seashore can check out Turtle Mound, which is the tallest shell midden in the country. Standing 40 feet tall, Turtle Mound is believed to have been a shell dump that was used by the Timucua Indians for more than 600 years.