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30 Dec 2017
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Sanibel History

We all know and love Sanibel as a peaceful, pretty place.

A lot of us use to leave doors and windows open and cars unlocked based on the Island's exemplary record for safe living.

So it came as a bit of a shock when a local biologist uncovered a skull here. Was our tropical island once the location of some diabolical murder?

Not likely, it seems.

Long before the coming of the Spanish explorers, Sanibel and Captiva were home to the Calusa Indians. The Calusa are long gone now, swallowed up in the melting pot of cultures that became Florida, but in their day they thrived on the special bounties of the barrier islands on the Southwest shore of the peninsula.

Until the arrival of the Spanish, the Calusa developed unimpeded without outside influence. It took the Spanish awhile to tame the Calusa and diseases may have had more to do with this than guns. Ravaged, the Calusa retreated. Their remnants were scattered through out South Florida and into the Caribbean, eventually to be swallowed up in the melting pot. By the middle of the 18th Century the Calusa were gone. Some were perhaps absorbed by the Seminole, but little of their language is known.

That is why the recent (2015) discovery of the Sanibel Skull near The Sanctuary Golf Club and the 'Ding' Darling NWR Refuge recently is a big deal. Suddenly there is something new for the archaeologists and historians to study, and, more importantly, it raises the question of what else is beneath the surface in the surrounding area.

An archaeologist didn't find the skull; a biologist did while dealing with gopher tortoises ahead of any dirt being turned in the Wulfurt Point Estates subdivision. The skull was handed over and now archaeologists will take a closelook.

For now the Sanibel Skull is with the Florida Department of State and it was reported at a meeting that an exact origin of the skull hasn't been determined. The results are anxiously awaited on a lot of fronts, not the least of which is having one more clue to the lost tribe of the Calusa in hand.