Defining Characters and Environment
The St. Johns culture is defined in terms of pottery styles. Plain chalky ware was the dominant St. Johns ceramic type. ("Chalky" ware was made from clay taken from fresh water sources, which contained spicules from fresh water sponges. The spicules in the clay helped strengthen the pottery, and created a "chalky" surface, soft enough to be scratched with a fingernail.) "Exotic" ceramic ware is common, especially in ceremonial contexts. These "exotic" ceramics represent types from the Deptford, Glades, Belle Glade, Swift Creek, Weeden Island, Savannah, Safety Harbor, and Fort Walton cultures. There was a transitional area from the mouth of the St. Johns River extending into southeastern Georgia where St. Johns ware overlapped with Savannah ware, and another transitional area, the Indian River region (southern Brevard County, and Indian River and St. Lucie counties), where St. Johns ware overlapped with Belle Glade and Glades ware.
The St. Johns culture was based on the exploitation of marine and fresh water resources. Villages and camps were located close to rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal lagoons and estuaries. During the 2000 years of the St. Johns culture, large middens of shell and other debris, sometimes covering several acres and often up to 25 feet (7.6 m) high, accumulated throughout the region (Turtle Mound, near New Smyrna Beach, Florida, was estimated to be 75 feet (23 m) high before it was reduced by shellrock mining in the 19th and 20th centuries). Some existing mounds extend for as long as a half-mile along the banks of the St. Johns River.
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