(Source of picture: Florida State Archives)
This lovely Timucua lady was drawn by a European during the 1590s. From head to foot, she's covered with tattoos. They probably told everyone at a glance that she belonged to a high social & political class.
Most likely, the woman was poked a number of times with shark's teeth or bone needles. Timucua tattoo artists probably wielded these types of pain makers when plying their craft. The artist would stab tiny holes in the skin and then rub in wood ashes mixed with berry juice.
Tattooing sometimes made the Timucua ill, but the Indians proved impressive in appearance. The Europeans were fascinated by how tall & athletic the Timucua men and women looked.
CLICK HERE FOR INFO ABOUT AN ARTIST WHO DREW THE TIMUCUA
NOT MANY PEOPLE -- With well over 16 million people, Florida ranks as the 4th largest state in population. It falls behind only California, New York, and Texas. Florida is filling up. Five hundred years ago, though, there was plenty of elbow room. Florida's native population may have totaled just 350,000 when Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513. That would be less than 1/2 the population of Jacksonville today.
The Timucua Indians numbered only 150,000, enough to fill Alltel Stadium twice. The Timucua inhabited the northern part of the state, including the First Coast. They settled from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and into the central part of Florida. Some also lived in Southeastern Georgia.
THE LAND OF THE GIANTS? -- The Spanish conquistadors stood in awe of the Timucua physique. From a distance, the powerfully-built Indian men seemed like giants, standing at least three or four inches taller than most of the Spanish. The native women could have also looked down on European females.
In actuality, skeletal remains show that Timucua six-footers were rare. Height-wise, they would be comparable to some high school basketball teams today. These Indians seemed more lofty back then, though. The Spanish were shorter than Europeans & Americans are today, partly because their food was not as nutritious. Some Timucua men also wore their long hair in a bun on top of their heads. This made them look even taller.
PHYSICALLY FIT -- According to a French explorer, the Timucua women proved athletic, just like the men. The women could climb a tall tree, and they could swim across a wide river while holding a baby above the water with one hand.
NATIVE APPEARANCES -- Both men & women in Timucua society had light brown or dark skin. Its appearance came from exposure to the sun & from its anointment with oil for ceremonies. Their hair was black or very dark brown.
Males wore deerskin loincloths. These were painted yellow, brownish yellow, or red & black. Females sometimes dressed in deerskins, but their attire usually consisted of elaborate garments made from Spanish moss. They probably boiled or smoked the moss to kill any bugs in it.
Both sexes adorned themselves with ornaments. These were often created from shells or other materials, such as copper. Jewelry included beads, pendants, bracelets, and breastplates.
Both men & women also featured tattoos. They cut their skin in elaborate patterns and rubbed in soot & other pigments. Older children would begin to get body decorations when they started to assume adult responsibilities. Strength & bravery could also earn someone tattoos. In addition, tattoos showed the clan (family) to which an individual belonged, and they indicated a person's role in society. Not surprisingly, higher-ranking people boasted the most body decorations.
A DIFFERENT LOOK -- Some Timucua men painted their faces & fluffed out their hair. Why did they do this? If a man didn't want to become a warrior, he had to assume the role of a woman. According to the French, the Timucua society contained a large number of berdaches, males who functioned as females.
Among the Timucua, the berdaches received the most demanding & unpleasant responsibilities. These included hauling provisions for men going to war, tending to people with contagious diseases, and preparing dead bodies for burial. To make themselves look as revolting as possible, Timucua berdaches painted their faces & fluffed out their hair.
Berdaches functioned in other Native American societies too. However, they usually possessed a higher social, economic, and/or spiritual status than berdaches in Timucua cultures.