The Alachua culture is defined as a Late Woodland Southeast period archaeological culture in north-central Florida, dating from around 600 to 1700. It is found in an area roughly corresponding to present-day Alachua County, the northern half of Marion County and the western part of Putnam County. It was preceded by the Cades Pond culture, which inhabited approximately the same area.
The archeologist Jerald Milanich suggests that the people of the Alachua culture were immigrants from what is now Georgia. Early Alachua culture pottery resembled that of the Ocmulgee culture found along the Ocmulgee River. The Ocmulgee immigrants were either already practicing agriculture or adopted it shortly after arriving, and settled in upland areas suitable for agriculture. These areas had been little used by the Cades Pond people, who had occupied areas in wetlands. The Cades Pond people disappeared soon after the arrival of the Alachua culture people.
The precolumbian part of the Alachua culture period has been divided into the Hickory Pond period (600 to 1250) and the Alachua period (1250-1539). At the time of first contact with Spanish explorers, the Alachua culture area was occupied by the historical Potano Indians, a branch of the Timucua. They spoke the Potano dialect of the Timucua language.
The sub-periods in the Alachua culture period are defined by the relative prevalence of different pottery types. The most common type of pottery during the Hickory Pond period was the Prairie Cord Marked style. The Alachua Cob Marked style became more prevalent in the Alachua sub-period. Other styles of pottery occurred throughout the Alachua culture period.
The period after 1539 was characterized by the introduction of European artifacts and of pottery styles from other cultures. The Potano II period was marked by the almost complete replacement of traditional pottery styles by Leon Jefferson pottery styles (associated with the Apalachee). Stone and bone tools show little variation over the course of the period.
The Alachua-culture people occupied hardwood hammocks, with village sites on high ground, near streams or sinkholes. The village sites are often in clusters, which may have resulted from periodic relocation of a village in a small area. The village clusters tend to fall along lines, which may represent the lines of the hammocks, or the paths of trails.
The presence of Cob Marked pottery throughout the period indicates that the people of the Alachua culture grew maize. A more detailed analysis of the food resources used by the Alachua culture people has not been made. Burial mounds are found in the area, but have not been extensively excavated. Storage pits and indications of other structures, including a circular house at one site, have been found in villages.
- Milanich 1994: 333-36
- Milanich 1994: 338
- Milanich 1994: 337-38
- Milanich, Jerald T. (1994). Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1273-2.
- Milanich, Jerald T. (1995). Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1360-7
- Milanich, Jerald T. (1998). Florida's Indians from Ancient Times to the Present. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1599-5