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Ornament celebrates Calusa Day at Historical Museum

By Staff | Feb 15, 2013

Luc Century with the Calusa Day ornament designed exclusively for the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village.

Luc Century will be on hand at the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village on Friday, Feb. 22, when the museum celebrates Calusa Day. The village is joining the state of Florida in its FLORIDA 500 efforts to commemorate the Spanish landing on Florida shores in 1513.

Juan Ponce de Leon landed in the general area of Sanibel and made contact with the indigenous people, the Calusa.

Century will be at the village in the morning to sign the boxes containing his new ornament etched with a “Calusa dolphin.” The ornament was designed exclusively for the village and is available only at the museum’s gift shop.

“For as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve traveled, I have always been intrigued by the area’s indigenous cultures,” Century said. “I have always tried to seek out the crafts that reflect their ancestry. It’s very inspiring to the degree that I have always wanted to do facsimiles of the Calusa’s drawings in glass.”

The Calusa and their origins are not well understood, even today. Estimates of their population at the time of the Spanish landing range from 10,000 to several times that number. The Calusa have been dubbed “The Shell People” and huge mounded waste piles of seashells, known as middens, can be found on the sites they inhabited throughout coastal Southwest Florida.

“I used to spend weekends in Pine Island piddling on the mounds,” Century said. “There was a natural lifestyle of the Calusa that I tried on for size. That brought me closer to those mounds and their people.”

“Our museum is fortunate to have Calusa artifacts discovered at the Wightman Dig on Captiva,” said museum manager Emilie Alfino. “These are on display in the Rutland House, and we have many more Calusa artifacts that are stored because we don’t yet have enough room to display them.”

On Calusa Day, Calusa artifacts are displayed to enable visitors to touch them and pick them up.

“Bringing the Calusa to the forefront like this gives us the opportunity to feel them a little better,” Century said.

In the afternoon Karen Nelson of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, a Calusa enthusiast and board member of the Southwest Florida Archeological Society, will speak about Calusa mound exploration.

Calusa Day at the museum also will include tour guides discussing the Calusa culture as well as showings of Domain of the Calusa, the University of Florida DVD from Dr. William Marquardt. The ornament, DVD, and other Calusa and Spanish explorer related items are available in the museum gift shop.

The museum, 950 Dunlop Road, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday. Full guided tours are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.

Admission is $5 for adults (18 and over). Members and children are free. For more information, call 472-4648.