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One of Florida's most historically significant state parks remains a seldom seen site

Monticello Mounds.jpg
Tom Flanigan
Curious young "researchers" carefully sift through soil excavated from near the park's burial mounds in hopes of finding ancient artifacts.

One of Florida’s most obscure state parks is also its most important when it comes to ancient history. Park officials and others connected with that history conducted a very public “open house” on Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Letchworth-Love Mounds State Park near Monticello.
The park is at the end of a narrow road off of Highway 90, very close to Lake Miccosukkee. And Archeology Graduate Student Marty Menz said that’s why the mounds were built by ancient peoples in that location over 1,000 years ago.

“So these people are hunter/gatherers. And living around Lake Miccosukee, it’s like having a Publix in your backyard basically.”

There are 5 burial mounds in the complex, the largest as tall as a 4-story building.

“This is Mound One," Menz said, indicating a massive dome of earth, covered with vegetation. "It’s a 50-foot platform mound. We’ve got a big platform in the middle and then these flanks that come off to the side. Importantly, those flanks and the ramp are oriented to the cardinal directions, indicating that not only is this mound a huge feat of engineering and labor, but there is also religious symbolism built into the mound.”

Mound One.jpg
Tom Flanigan
The impressive mass of Mound One dwarfs visitors to the Letchworth Love Mounds State Park

For the most part, they are undisturbed. And Menz said that’s because they are off the beaten path.

“There are a lot of archeologists who don’t even know that this site is out here. Or if they did, they didn’t know that much about it because not that much work had been conducted out here. It makes me happy that we have just published the first peer reviewed archeological article on this site recently and I’m looking forward to getting the word out about how important this site is. And I really hope more people around the area will come out and visit.”

Which was the goal of Saturday’s event, where visitors could chat with researchers like Menz and even do some archeological exploration themselves.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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