The Natural World
The Apalachees used the natural resources available to them in many ways. Although most plants and animals were viewed as sources of food, they were also utilized as tools, fuel, instruments and ceremonial objects.
Turtle shells could serve a variety of functions from cups to rattles. Deer antlers were often used for flintknapping, while deer bones, particularly metapodials, made sturdy awls and other tools. Once corn was eaten, the cobs were burned in smudge pits to control insects in Apalachee buildings.
"Little flies, which they call maringons, annoy them [Florida Indians] often; to get rid of these vermin, they make small fires in their houses--especially under their beds. They say these flies sting cruelly, and those parts that are stung look like the flesh of lepers."
Nicolas Le Challeux 1565
Animal Used at Mission San Luis
The study of plant and animals from sites (ethnobotany and zooarchaeology, respectively) is one of the most illuminating aspects of archaeological research. It can reveal details about past environments, resources, settlement patterns, agricultural practices, architecture, social life, and diet unavailable from other types of data.
Since plant remains are so fragile and often difficult to see, we have limited their display to a static exhibit case format (see "Apalachee Life"). However, we have selected some animal bones found at Mission San Luis, along with comparative skeletal materials (Drawers 17-26), to give to a sense of the challenges faced by those researchers who identify, analyze, and interpret these materials.
We have supplemented the skeletal materials with archaeological and documentary information about the use of these animals in Spanish Florida and at Mission San Luis.