Past and Present," Explore Magazine, 3:2
The Mayaca, Jororo, and Surruque existed by fishing,
gathering shellfish and native plants, and by hunting wildlife. Fish, shellfish, turtle,
and whitetail deer were among their mainstays.
Some Timucuan people combined
hunting activities with farming--primarily in the northern third of Florida.
| They used
acorns and hickory nuts to produce cooking oil and a kind of flour. An aquatic root called
ache (harvested with great difficulty from the swamps) yielded a starch that was important
in the Timucuan diet. People regularly consumed palm berries and blueberries.
used a rack (called barbacoa in Spanish writings) in some of their cooking to smoke and
dry meat and other foods. In fact, they roasted or cured a whole range of game--alligator,
eel, raccoon, rabbit, bear, skunk, squirrel, and more.
Theodore de Bry,
Brevis Narratio, Frankfort 1591
As for river people, Spanish
accounts make it clear that some streamside dwellers were not great farmers... and perhaps
did not have to be. A 17th Century priest wrote of the Mayaca and Jororo, "On the
whole [they] do not work at plantings. They are able to sustain themselves solely with the
abundance of fish they catch and some wild fruits." But not every European seemed
impressed. To one Spanish governor, the St. Johns River people were "a poor and
miserable people who sustain themselves with nothing but fish and roots from the swamps
and woods." Because of that, he added, they never paid the Spanish Crown any tribute.
A Timucuan village
Timucuan people lived in settlements with circular huts and special houses for the chief.
There were council buildings, food-handling sites, and charnel houses to prepare the dead
for burial. The huts were built of wood driven into the ground and roofed with palm
fronds, and they were said to be strong enough to last many years. A doorway less than
three-feet high was the only opening, and a low frame of reed bars covered with a bearskin
served as a seat and bed. The chief's home was larger, often with three or four rooms and
extra food stores.
of the Council House from
the San Luis Mission
excavations of one Timucuan village have revealed ordinary round and oval houses about 20
feet across and 75 feet apart. They had bed platforms along the inside walls, smudge pots
to smoke out insects, and central fire pits for cooking.
By contrast, the huge council houses could hold as many as two or three
thousand people. Spanish friars reported that they were used for assembling, dancing, and
drinking cacina. Lined with reed seats that doubled as compartments or niches, these
buildings had large cooking pits, sometimes open to the sky. According to a Franciscan
priest writing in 1630, people ate once a day after sundown - men in the council house,
women at home.
Comments or Questions?
VolusiaHistory.com is a partnership between the
Volusia County Historic Preservation Board
and the Volusia County Government