Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

What can we learn about Tampa Bay based on its ancient history?

I like to watch mullet. When I was a boy I sometimes saw what seemed to be 1-acre schools jumping out of the water when something big and hungry, perhaps a tarpon or a snook, swam hungrily beneath them. I'm talking about an explosion of mullet, thousands of terrified mullet, leaping in unison for their lives.

When I watch mullet now I also look for blue crabs, which scuttle over the rocks waving their pinchers like pugnacious prizefighters, and I am especially thrilled when I see a leopard ray flapping over the bottom like something prehistoric. I feel as if I am a witness to the first day of creation.

We Homo sapiens are so full of it. We often think the world began on the day we were born. In the arc of history, we're gnats on an elephant's behind.

Humans first tiptoed into Florida about 12,000 years ago. When the Spaniards first arrived on our coast they encountered the Tocobagas, the native people who had dwelled along the shores of what we now call Tampa Bay for about seven centuries.

They were probably something like us except with more tattoos. They fought and bled and loved and danced and occasionally must have felt superior to the Tocobagas living on the opposite side of the bay. They must have watched mullet and blue crabs and sheepshead and the occasional leopard ray.

Stand on the shore of Tampa Bay and you are astride their bones.

Jeff Klinkenberg writes about Real Florida for the Times.

What can we learn about Tampa Bay based on its ancient history? 12/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 12:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Bruno Mars' charisma glitters like gold at Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Nothing in this world should be as easy as Bruno Mars makes it look. Not singing, not dancing, and certainly not playfully seducing more than 17,500 starry-eyed Tampa fans with one of pop music’s best bands at your back.

    Bruno Mars performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Oct. 19, 2017.
  2. Mikhail Sergachev scores twice as Lightning shuts out Blue Jackets (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev said he blacked out for a few seconds after his first NHL goal Thursday night, a rocket slap shot from the point.

    Mikhail Sergachev, front, looks like he’s very in the moment with teammate Dan Girardi after scoring his first NHL goal, though he says he blacked out for a bit. He scores again in the second.
  3. Dodgers rout Cubs 11-1 to win pennant, head to World Series for first time since '88


    CHICAGO — Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

    The Dodgers celebrate their Game 5 victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, putting Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time since 1988.
  4. Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights


    TAMPA — Police were investigating what they were calling a suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night, near the location of two fatal shootings last week.

    Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan addresses reporters about the latest suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL | Times]
  5. Duke tops preseason coaches' basketball poll; Gators No. 7


    Duke has been tabbed basketball's preseason No. 1 for the second straight season in the coaches' poll, released Thursday.

    Florida point guard Chris Chiozza launches the shot of last season’s NCAA Tournament, a winning 3
against Wisconsin that put the Gators into the Elite Eight. Chiozza returns to lead a UF team that’s getting its share of preseason attention, including a No. 7 ranking in the coaches’ poll.