Sneak peek at Neal Preserve
Shells like this one at Neal Preserve date back 2,000 years.
The property features both shell mounds, used for trash
disposal, and a reconstructed burial mound.
Neal Preserve, just east of Anna Maria Island on Manatee Avenue, isn’t scheduled to open until later this year after boardwalks are installed, but an intrepid group turned up on Saturday morning to hike over damp, uneven ground in chilly weather just to be among the first to see it.
If the prehistoric people who once lived there had a tribal name, it died with them, but the aboriginal people lived, hunted, fished and buried their dead there.
In the mid-20th century, a Civil Works Administration project on the site uncovered the remains of about 230 people in a burial mound dating from 200-300 B.C., whose remains were taken to the Smithsonian Institution. In the 1970s, a developer used burial mound material as fill for the road bed for Manatee Avenue, according to the county. A reconstructed mound has been built on the site of the original.
Historians think the area was a temporary campsite used when the inhabitants were fishing; they likely paddled out to uninhabited Anna Maria Island to fish.