The Face in the Stone: Crystal River Archaeological State Park

Date Visited: 12/9/2019

Our next stop was one of those places were you want to visit and learn as much as you can, but you also feel as if you are trespassing on hallowed ground.

This 61 acre Pre-Columbian site consist of six mounds dispersed around the property. There are burial mounds, temple/platform mounds, plazas and middens. Although a good number of artifacts recovered from previous excavations reside in the on-site museum, other artifacts reside at the Smithsonian making this site a significant source for the preservation of humanities historical record.

There are approximately 1200-1500 people buried here of the unknown numbers of those who lived here over the span of 1600 years. Although the site was abandoned roughly 500 years ago, this long span of habitation makes this one of the longest continually occupied sites on record.

Temple A, as impressive as it is with it’s 51 steps to the top, is only a small portion of what was once a 182′ x 100′ temple at its base. There was also a 80′ long ramp that took you to the top 30′ above ground level. Unfortunately much of the mound was destroyed by the previous owner who used it for fill elsewhere on the property.

A climb to the top of the stairs gives you a great view of the surrounding Tidal Creeks. It’s understandable why this location lasted so long with the invaluable resources no doubt provided by these water.

The carved face in the stone below seems to be a great mystery and we found it both haunting and fascinating.

From the Florida Parks website:

In 1964, as the site was prepared for the addition of trails and construction of the museum building, two large lime rock stones of significant size were discovered. These stones were believed by archaeologist Ripley Bullen to be stelae, carved or inscribed stone slabs or pillars used by ancient peoples for commemorative purposes. Bullen believed the first stele was a ceremonial stone and purposely erected for ceremonial and celestial purposes. 

…Located 75 yards east of the main burial complex, it dates to approximately 440 A.D. Bullen believed that the human form carved into the stone was of great significance and was not unlike other carved stones found at pre-Columbian sites in Mexico and Central and South America.

The site goes on to say that evidence of offerings being made to the dead were discovered at one of the two Stelea, giving the mysterious face in the stone a somewhat intimate connection to the past by those who visit the site today. Although hard to see at first, a plaque next to the site gives you an idea of what to look for. Once you spot the figure the face in the stone draws you into a hypnotic gaze.

Crystal River Archaeological State Park 
3400 N Museum Pt. 
Crystal River, FL 34428

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