Calusa Architecture

Over the years, we have been trying to figure out just how the Calusa and Tocobaga people built their homes. The evidence seems to point to large communal dwellings. Spaniards who visited them noted that there were buildings that could hold up to 300 people (Narváez 1528) and as many as 2000 (Menéndez 1566). They complained that the Calusa building was damp, as if it were raining inside. What would cause this kind of condensation inside a building?

Natural Air-conditioning?

If the people of Florida were indeed constructing buildings as large as the Spaniards reported, then they most likely had very high roofs. If built on platforms over water with a hole in the roof to draw out smoke from a cooking fire, it would cause condensation. This flow of air would lower temperatures in the building by several degrees!


Once while touring Mound Key in Charlotte Harbor, one of the visitors asked our archaeologist guide an interesting question. “Where did they go to the bathroom?” asked the woman quite innocently. The archaeologists was obviously flummoxed and managed to steer the subject in another direction. But it does beg the question, where did 2,000 people do their business? It got us thinking and we came up with a theory that was not received well with the people doing research on the island. So here it is – take it or leave it.

Archaeologists have long claimed there to be a “grand canal” cutting through the key where the Calusa could hold ceremonial canoe processions. We found there is a small problem with this. The canal runs up hill at one point. On the other hand, flying in the face of common belief, we speculate it might have served as the city’s sewer system. (Are you beginning to see where this might not be a popular theory?) Anyway, if indeed the Calusa had buildings with high peeked roofs, located over ramps, could they not have functioned as a flushing system for waste? Just saying.

Fish Courts?

Another theory we have struggled with is the idea of “fish courts” located on Mound Key. There are two large bermed-in areas where it is thought that fishermen stored living fish, kind of as a pantry. But in the heat of summer these shallow courts would get so hot the fish would suffocate creating a pretty disgusting smell. On the other hand, we think these courts may have been the footprint of large buildings above.

PLAYING TAG by Hermann Trappman

So many things to think about!