Historical Museum of Southern Florida
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Adapting to the Tropics
Mid - Late Archaic Periods
5000 B.C. - 500 B.C.

Sea levels began to rise over 9000 years ago, as northern ice sheets melted and the last of the Ice Ages ended. Higher sea levels and a warmer and wetter climate transformed the southern Florida region into a sub-tropical environment with lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes by 5000 B.C. By around 3000 B.C., the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee formed. The hundreds of small tree islands that dotted the Everglades, along with the coastal ridge, provided dry ground for Archaic Indians and offered small mammals and plants for food. The diet of Archaic peoples also included aquatic animals, such as clams, conch, turtles, and sharks.

Increased food resources and the introduction of pottery led to new methods of preparing food. Archaic Indians first strengthened their pottery by tempering it with fibers or plant materials. They also manufactured axes and adzes from conch shells for working with wood. The production and exchange of shell tools was unique to southern Florida cultures.

With an abundance of food resources, Archaic Indians become more numerous than their ancestors and, eventually, developed permanent villages. Archaeological evidence indicates 5000 years of human settlement in the Everglades.