Madira Bickel Temple Mound Site
The Madira Bickel Temple Mound is located on the first land south of Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Island. It can be found off of Bayshore Drive near Terra Ceia Bay. It is identified by a sign reading, Madira Bickel Mound - State Archaeology Site.
The ten acre site that contains the temple mound and the Prine Burial Mound was deeded to the State of Florida by Mrs. R.H. Prine of Terra Ceia and Karl A. Bickel of Sarasota. It was the first archaeological site to become a state monument.
The acreage is important for two reasons. Being a temple mound, it was the home site of the chief and the seat of authority for one of the fifteen or twenty towns that made up the Tocobaga Indians who lived in this area when Hernando DeSoto landed close by.
Secondly, the Prine Burial Mound is located here. Today, the burial mound is circular, about 40 feet wide, and about two feet high at the center. A small sign reads, The burial mound to your right was used from about 500 to 1200 years ago. The large temple mound to the left was built 500 to 700 years ago.
The Prine Mound has a history of disturbance. Many of the artifacts and bones were taken by potholers and grave robbers. What remained now resides in museums. Analysis o these remains by archaeologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists have given us a picture of what life was like in Florida 500 to 2500 years ago. Many treasures potholed out by moon light will be lost forever.
Today steps having been cut by the state into the ramp curving up the northwest side of the temple mound. It is not known if any of the ramps that led to the Tocobaga temple mound were stepped, as other mounds of the Mississippian culture, but is likely they were. This mound, however, is the only one that has a curved ramp.
At the top there is a four-foot corral. It encloses approximately half of the top of the mound, where the cacique (chief) would have resided in his east facing home. Looking over the fence on the other side is a huge pothole about twenty-five feet wide and eight feet deep. However, the general dimensions of the top of the mound can still be discerned.
When C.B. Moore measured the mound in 1900, it was 99 by 169 feet at the base, stood 20 feet high, and its flat top measured 25 by 68 feet. Today, the mound is so overgrown that a basal measurement is all but impossible. The top still measures the same if the pothole were filled in.
Ripley Bullen of the Florida State Museum (now the Florida Museum of Natural History) dug excavated the mound is 1951, and determined that the mound was composed of alternating layers of sand and shell. The shell had been taken from an older midden mound to the west by the Tocobagas. The large plaza where ceremonial games and dances took place was west-northwest of the mound.
Bullen dug a test pit four feet square and four feet deep in the middle of the pothole that existed. He found only a few sherds, small animal bones, and charcoal. A careful search along the edge of the steps will yield what these people ate - oyster, quahog clam, calico scallop, lightning whelk, and pear whelk.
The other mound on this site, the Prine Burial Mound, was first discovered in the early 1900s by Mrs. James W. Kissick, when she found several bones on the top. She said that the mound was 100 feet long from north to south, and a little less from east to west.
In 1914, much of the sand was removed for road fill. Ripley Bullen reported, A workman who was present said that many human bones were found in the upper part at that time. At a later date, a road was built at the eastern edge of the mound destroying more of the mound. In the 1930s Montague Tallant of Manatee dug into the top of the mound and found a small amount of pottery. In the late thirties or forties it was leveled and cabins were built on the site. Still later, William C. Chadeayne, dug into the mound and surrendered his sherds to the Florida Park Service, In the fifties, Ripley Bullen made a authoritative investigation. Little remains of the original mound.
Bullen found twenty-seven burials and over ten thousand pottery sherds. Evidence indicates that the burial site was used during the Manasota Culture period, the Weeden Islands periods, the Safety Harbor period, and possibly after Spanish contact.
For more information on temple, burial, or midden mounds please consult Indian Mounds You Can Visit by I. Mac Perry.