OUR ANCIENT HISTORY
The history of the Deering Estate at Cutler encompasses many cultures inhabiting the land over thousands of years. Paleo-Indians, Tekestas, Seminoles, Afro-Bahamians, and Anglo-Americans have at different times, lived here, each new group literally following in the footsteps of the preceding group. The evidence that these people left behind recounts the evolutions of human housing on the Miami Rock Ridge, from karst cave dwelling to Mediterranean Revival Mansion. The archaeological records found at the Deering Estate represent a comprehensive record of human habitation in South Florida. The Estate grounds are part of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, which has a rich history dating back 100,000 years. The Cutler Fossil site, located on the Estate, contains the fossilized remains from now extinct animals including peccaries, mammoths, sloths, dire wolves, and saber-toothed cats. This site also contains fossilized remains of early inhabitants found at the Deering Estate. These date back approximately 10,000 years. Prior to the discovery of the Cutler Fossil Site, most scientists thought human habitation in Florida dated back only 4,000 years, making the Cutler Fossil one of the most archaeologically significant sites in the Eastern United States. Most of these sensitive artifacts were carefully excavated in 1986 and are part of archive collections at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
The Tekesta, (also spelled Tequesta), inhabited this area known as “The Hunting Grounds” from about 500 A.D. to the 1500’s. From bones and relics found in our midden, we are able to determine that the Tekesta were a canoeing culture and able to sustain their families and communities from life contained in Biscayne Bay. The did not farm the land, but rather lived off of turtle, manatee, fish, shellfish, some game, and palmetto berries and sugar berries present in the natural habitats. a 350 year old oak tree grows atop a Tequesta Indian Burial Mound on the Estate. The tree’s age, unfortunately, corresponds to the demise of the Tekesta culture in South Florida. The Cutler Fossil Site, the Midden, and the Cutler Burial Mound are all located in protected natural areas on the Estate and are only accessible to the public by a Deering Estate Naturalist lead tour.