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Tampering at mounds discovered

Shafts have been sunk into two Indian mounds near Hidden Lake; a screen used for sifting dirt is found.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2000


MOON LAKE -- Few people know what's hidden near Hidden Acres and Hidden Lake Estates:

Ancient Indian mounds, at least five of them, all apparently laced with artifacts coveted by local collectors.

But the recent discovery that someone has sunk shafts into the sides of at least two mounds near Hidden Lake has alarmed members of the West Pasco Historical Society and the American Indian Movement.

Local history buff Terry Kline noticed the tampering during an April fishing expedition to the lake, north of Ridge Road, between Little and Moon Lake roads.

If the discovery of the 3-foot-wide shafts weren't proof enough, Kline found a wood-frame screen used by relic hunters to sift artifacts from the dirt.

Kline, 51, has known about the mounds since he was a boy. Some of his friends own stone points and pottery shards unearthed in the area.

Normally, relic hunters are intimidated by the swamps around Hidden Lake, Kline said. But much of the swamp has retreated from lack of rain.

"I sort of consider myself the keeper of the mounds," Kline said. "If whoever these people are keep digging, there won't be anything left of the mounds."

He called Peno Hardesty, a local supporter of the American Indian Movement. Hardesty summoned the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, thinking the sites might contain prehistoric human remains.

A sheriff's deputy dispatched to investigate last week found no proof of burials and agreed to shift the case to the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

Kline believes human bones lie encased in the swampy muck under the base of the mounds. Such a scenario is not far-fetched.

In the 1980s, the Dobry family, which owned thousands of acres that became Hidden Lake Estates and other subdivisions, kept in their home a skeleton found on their land.

Builders detected an Indian site 30 years ago during construction of Hidden Acres. One of the neighborhood streets retains the name Indian Mound Drive.

Kline believes the mounds could date from about 3,000 years ago. He points to the discovery of fiber-tempered pottery, plant-strengthened clay utensils used by Indians from about 500 B.C.

These and other finds have left American Indian activists like Hardesty wondering if relics are buried on the site of Indian Lake Ranch, an 1,100-home subdivision planned for about 700 acres east of Hidden Lake.

Developer Henry Blanton expects to start construction in about a year on homes costing as much as $1-million. The county is expected to require an archaeological survey before Blanton can break ground.

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