Little Salt Spring
North Port’s most pristine cultural treasure
Submitted by Bill Goetz
Little Salt Spring is a mildly secluded ecological wonder, full of pristine habitats for native plants and animals including life forms unique to the site. The geological and hydrological wonders alone would be worth further study of Little Salt Spring. But the main function of the site is as an archeological, paleoanthropological and paleontological time capsule. It contains some of the oldest known examples of art and culture in North America. The Mortuary Pond People lived in the North Port area 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, They wove textiles with a fine weave that was produced in six-foot-wide swathe. They would wrap their dead in this cloth and pin them down with wooden stakes in the peat bottoms of standing bodies of water. This form of burial is only known to be practiced in peninsular Florida and has been found at other wet sites in the state. This practice sets them apart from all other known cultures of the world.
The finds of the site are unparalleled given that the world’s oldest intact preserved human brain was found inside of a seven-year-old child’s skull who lived between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago. The brain was still pliable and even had retained its shape and discernable details. The only thing that had changed through the millennia was its size, as it had shrunken considerably in the Spring’s natural preservation process.
A stone pendant was found in strata that dates it back to 8,000 years ago by archeologist Steve Koski. The green stone that it is made from has no local source and came from at least 600 miles away in the Appellations. It was shaped, polished and drilled with a precision that is staggering when the age of the artifact is taken into account.
The potential finds of Little Salt Spring are where the real excitement lays. The surface has just been scratched due to lack of funding available for excavations. The oldest artifact found here is a wooden stake used to kill a giant extinct tortoise over 12,000 years ago. There are potentially burials here that predate the oldest intentional burial in North America found at Warm Mineral Springs less than two miles away. The burials at Little Salt Spring are being protected by the University of Miami and excavations are focused on areas that don’t disturb them.
There are many one of a kind artifacts that have been retrieved from Little Salt Spring, including the world’s oldest wooden art (a carving of a bird on a block of wood), the world’s oldest burial shroud, and 9000 year-old boomerangs. Little Salt Spring is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. World famous explorer Jacques Cousteau visited the site in 1971. The site was featured on the front cover of the The New York Times in 1979. Through all of this notoriety the Spring has still remained widely unknown to the residents of North Port. The Friends of Little Salt Spring hope to further awareness about the site and gain community support for North Port’s most pristine cultural treasure.
University of Miami underwater archeologist Steve Koski is the site manager of Little Salt Spring and works with director of research Dr. John Gifford, who is associate professor at the University of Miami/Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Gifford and Koski have been responsible for a vast majority of the significant finds at Little Salt Spring in recent years. They are interested in discovering the life-ways of North Port’s first residents and preserving the area’s fresh water resources.
The site has many needs to be able to continue further studies at Little Salt Spring. We could spend the next hundred years studying this place and still have only scratched the surface of available findings about humanities’ past in our area. The University of Miami is on a one-million dollar fundraising campaign for a research and education center building on site to facilitate the continuation of unprecedented research and provide exhibit and classroom space for student and adult educational programs.
The Friends of Little Salt Spring are looking to make a difference by facilitating the study and preservation of this pristine national treasure. We share common interests with the Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Springs Archeological Society who have been active in pursuing, preserving, and sharing anthropological information.
We differ from the Archeological Society in that we actively pursue and facilitate funding and volunteers for various projects at Little Salt Spring. When discussing the City of North Port, site volunteer Anita Kubasiewicz stated, “Most people are not aware of how interesting this place is. Of course, I think Little Salt Spring is truly the crown jewel.” Friends Of Little Salt Spring membership is $10 a year. Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/
FriendsOfLittleSaltSpring. Steve Koski has offered to give limited site tours for those interested. Please send email to: SiteVisitors@yahoo.com.