In Ages Past
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This extinct relative of today’s sand dollars and sea urchins represents the Eocene age, some 30-million years ago, when Florida was submerged beneath the sea.
Great White Shark’s Tooth
Saber-toothed Cat Skull
This extinct Smilodon, is one of many early Florida mammals that made their homes here 10,000 to 2-million years ago.
The mastodon was a prehistoric elephant found in Florida. Its large bones and tusks provide evidence of stone age hunting and butchering.
Bison Antiquus Skull
(Pronounced at-ul-lat-uls) These two types of hand-held slings made from wood or bone were used to propel spears or darts at prey.
Early Stone Tool
This early Paleoindian spear point or knife is approximately 8,000 years old. It is made of chert, a flint-like rock composed of silica-replaced limestone.
Originally part of a supporting post for a burial platform, this pine carving was found by a cattleman who saw the eagles head partially exposed in a muddy area.
Impressions left on the underside of early pottery lead historians to believe that woven mats were commonly used as early flooring.
Connecting past and present, these wading birds are still common along much of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Deer hide was often used for clothing and sometimes elaborately decorated as described by early explorers.
This tool from around 100 A.D. is evidence that some tribes traded with others outside the area. The workable greenstone, not native to Florida, was possibly traded for shells, pearls, or sharks’ teeth.
Pottery of Weeden Island Culture
Ceramic vessels made for burials have often been found upside down on skeletons with a hole broken through their bottoms. It is believed that this would allow the spirit to escape.
Key Marco Mask
The mask is based on one discovered by Frank Cushing in 1896. Clues to the colors painted on these ancient Calusa masks came from watercolors painted by Wells Sawyer. Soon after the masks were exhumed from the mud, their colors swiftly faded.
Safety Harbor Incised Pottery
This ceramic pot found in Desoto County has a beautiful, complex design.
The shell of a large snapping turtle makes a fine bowl.
Key Marco Deer
This Calusa artifact from the famous Key Marco site has become one of the icons of Florida’s ancient culture. It was carved from wood and painted. The shape of its large eye was used as a subtle design in the center of the painting.
Bone Artifact with Fingernail Design
Hairpins, needles, and other tools were made from antler and bone. This piece points out of the painting.
Carved from a marine shell. This item is thought to have been used for personal decoration.
Whelk Digging Tool
The whelk was not only an important food source, but also used for tools. In this painting it represents an evolution into farming.
Sharks Tooth Tool
A good, sharp tool used for carving.
Barracuda Jaw Saw
Many parts of animals and fish were used as tools or decoration.
The hollow bones of birds were used to control burning in the carving process by blowing air through them.
Kneeling Feline Figure
This well-known figure from the Key Marco site is shown in the painting as it might have looked as it was being carved-possibly using tools from the three previous descriptions.
Some early ornaments or pieces of jewelry were made from copper brought into Florida through exchanges with other cultures. Gold and silver were sometimes retrieved from shipwrecks and might also be pounded or filed into piece of native design.
Hand-propelled spears gave way to long bows which were used for hunting and in warfare.
Natural fibers were woven into nets. Shells were used as weights, and gourds or wooden pegs served as floats.
These fish were found abundantly in rivers leading into the gulf-productive places to net and trap fish.
Blue crab is still a popular Florida delicacy. This crab, in a defensive position, shows a strong fighting spirit admired by the native women.
A drinking vessel often used to drink a tea made from holly berries (Black Tea) in a native ritual. This ceremony may have been conducted before battle.
Timucua Woman with Fish Basket
The woman’s dress and tattoo were based on an early watercolor by John White. This artist painted many pictures of Native Americans, believed to be based on the works of Jacques Le Moyne, the French artist/explorer.
Large Logs were burned and carved to create these long boats.
Man with Fish Trap
A man points to a ship on the horizon. He holds a fish strap made from reeds and vines. This trap was stacked in place and baited to attract fish, crabs, eels, and snails. The basket was then lifted up to trap the creatures inside. These traps could be up to ten feet in length.
Men Fishing with Nets
Daily refuse and the remains of shellfish were dumped into piles called middens. This midden material was sometimes used to elevate areas in a village for such things as the home of a chief, a temple, or great hall. Some villages were encircled with tall poles. Others were merely groups of thatched huts.
A raised are might indicate a burial site. They were generally made of sand and sometimes in the center of a midden.
The smoking of fish by Timucua Indians was depicted in this way in an engraving by Jacques Le Moyne.
The Nina (of Christopher Columbus fame) was used as a reference for this ship-typical of Spanish ships of the 1500s.
Small Seated Human Figure
This interesting figure carved of Brazilwood was recovered from Early Historic period contexts.
Live Oak with Resurrection Ferns, Orchids, and Bromeliads
Jacques Le Moyne, the French artist and explorer who helped found the short-lived colony at Fort Caroline, created this map in 1564 showing the locations of tribes discovered in Florida. Many place names were based on hearsay, so the map offers a schematic representation rather than a geographically correct one.
Mullet, Puffer Fish, and Jack Cravalle
Wood Storks in Flight
These large wading birds used to nest in huge colonies of up to 10,000 pairs but have had endangered species status since 1984 due to habitat destruction.
The molding is from the John and Mable Ringling Museum and appears on all of the murals. The Ringling Museum is the official State Art Museum of Florida.
In Ages Past by Christopher M. Still
Water Oak has the privilege to have a copy of the masterpiece by Christopher M. Still, “In Ages Past”, which was commissioned for the Florida House of Representatives. Still hoped that through this painting the viewer would be inspired to have a strong connection to-and a deep respect for-the ancient world of Florida, its beautiful native landscape, and its first inhabitants who undoubtedly admired the same spectacular sunsets we do today.
Christopher M. Still says “there is an intentional theme in the painting of eyes that are looking out to watch the viewer in the room. The shape of the opening between the oak tree and artifacts, down to the fish, creates a pattern based on the eye of the Key Marco deer head, which helps represent the eye of nature.”
In ages past, when water covered most of what is today called Safety Harbor, our area was heavily lined with water oak trees. Before the Tampa Bay Area became America’s number 1 beach going destination in the United States, members of the Timucua and the Tocobaga tribe settled and developed cherished cultures and systems.
These early inhabitants of our land would proudly gather under these massive oak trees after each day of hunting, fishing and farming. They would seek refuge from the hot Florida sun, share meals, and gather their children to tell stories, teach them the ways of the land, and create years of lasting legends – under these massive oaks. A massive oak, known as the Baranoff, is said to be 500 years old and is steps from our restaurant.
Our family settled in Florida during the Great Depression, right here in Tampa Bay, and learned what bounty the local waters and land had to offer. To us, our area is the best among areas to visit or raise families and to gather for great meals. We hope to offer a glimpse back in time when you visit Water Oak, Hog Island Fish Camp, and Olde Bay Café.
— Walt Wickman —