Projects - Mount Royal Indian Mound

Portion of a copper breast-plate recovered from Mount Royal

Portion of a copper breast-plate recovered from Mount Royal by C.B. Moore - image from Certain Sand Mounds of the St. Johns River, Florida, Parts I and II. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1894.

The Mount Royal Indian Mound site (8PU35) is located on the eastern bank of the St. Johns River in Putnam county, about 40 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida. The site has been continuously occupied by different cultures from AD 1200 through the present. The area was historically used as a trail crossing point for the Spanish, British and subsequent groups, and served as a landing site for vessels. B. Calvin Jones directed volunteers during excavations sponsored by the Bureau of Archaeological Research in 1983, 1994 and 1995.

Early Investigations of Native American Life at Mount Royal

John Bartram first named the two Indian mounds "Mount Royal" after visiting the area in 1766. Over one hundred years later, Jeffries Wyman revisited the site and expanded upon Bartram's original descriptions in 1872. In 1894 Clarence B. Moore excavated the larger mound and recorded its dimensions as 16 feet in height with a circumference of 555 feet. He also excavated a smaller mound measuring 3 feet in height with a circumference of 195 feet. He recorded numerous burials and high status artifacts including decorated copper and spatulate celts.

In 1952 John Goggin began a survey of the Mount Royal site. He noted a similarity between the artifact assemblages of Mount Royal and the Spiro Mound site in Oklahoma, suggesting that both were associated with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. He later suggested that the Native Americans living in the area were of the Eastern Timucua cultural group that was centered near St. Augustine at the time of Spanish settlement. Mount Royal may have been a distribution site for high status foreign goods and likely represented a significant regional center along the upper St. Johns River from AD 1200-1550.

The Spanish document a mission at Mount Royal

Both the Spanish and the French explored this region of the St. Johns River, in search of an inland route to the Calusa Indians in southwest Florida. At the same time, missionaries began setting up communities among the native populations. The Jesuits were the first group to establish missions, but by 1572 had left Florida. The Fransicans arrived in 1573, and a 1587 list of Franciscan missions places a mission named Anacape in the same area as the Mount Royal site. This mission was listed again in 1602. In 1614 Fray Luís de Gerónimo de Oré made an official visit to missions throughout Spanish Florida, including one in which he traveled by canoe up the St. Johns River some 20 leagues to his first stop at San Antonio de Enacape. This mission was last mentioned in historical documents in 1699, and British raids of the area from 1701-1704 probably disrupted life at the mission.

Results from the 1983, 1994 and 1995 Excavations.

The artifact assemblage from the combined 1983, 1994 and 1995 excavation seasons includes over 38,186 identified artifacts and numerous other plant and animal remains. Over 90% of the artifacts were of Native American origin, 3% were of Spanish origin, 3% were of British origin, and the remaining artifacts were associated with 19th and 20th century Anglo-American occupation of the site. Artifacts include Spanish majolica ceramics, glass and mottled-silver beads, window and bottle glass fragments, lead sprue and shot, metal fasteners, Jesuit religious medallions, coarse earthenware fragments, and Native American pottery sherds. Features include cooking hearths, and postholes indicative of residences or structures. These artifacts support the idea that Jesuit and Fransican friars established a mission in the late 1500s on the site used as a settlement and burial complex by the Timucua circa AD 1200 - 1550.