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State agrees to purchase, protect Pillsbury Mound

MANATEE — A historically significant Native American mound in northwest Bradenton finally has safe passage.

The pre-Columbian cremation and burial mound of a now-extinct Florida culture has, for years, brushed against destruction by development, but formal action by the state Wednesday announced completion of the journey from benefactor to South Florida Museum (July 26, 1974) to the state of Florida (June 30, 2009).

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet approved purchasing the nearly one acre Pillsbury Temple Mound containing the ancient ceremonial grounds from the Bradenton museum with an agreement that Manatee County would maintain and manage it.

The sale is final June 30.

The purchase is the last of 66 Florida Forever “A” list projects, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard said.

“This acquisition ensures that the archaeological value of the site is preserved for future generations,” Ballard said.

Appraised at $170,000 for the state, Florida agreed to pay $145,000 to the museum. Last year, developer William Manfull, of Bradenton, offered the museum $200,000 with the plan of building 14 houses around the mound.

He petitioned the county Planning Commission for its approval.

Reaching the hidden and unceremonious hill now requires a walk across private property, and to legally visit it requires permission from the museum and the neighbor.

Not much will change about access.

Manatee County, as managing agency, will add a fence around it, informational signs telling about it and limited access to see it, according to terms of an state’s option agreement.

For years, museum officers have sought to pass the title to someone who would continue to protect it, saying the mound, which invited an archeological dig in 1963, no longer fit its charter.

Today, the remains of 147 humans unearthed in the area of the mound rest in the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Studies show the site contains other human remains.

The mound is believed to have been one of several ceremonial sites in the vicinity that made up a settlement of Lake Weeden Island and Safety Harbor cultures that existed from about AD 800 to 1700, according to county spokesman Nicholas Azzara.

“The site is considered by many contemporary Native Americans to be sacred,” said Mike Wisenbaker with the Department of State Division of Historical Resources. “It is an outstanding historical resource that will be preserved in perpetuity, and that was Mr. Pillsbury’s intent all along.”

The site was first recorded in 1929 during a survey by the Smithsonian Institution.

The Pillsbury Mound is thought to be the only area mound to survive development.