Filed Under Story

1. The Mocamas and their Language

Main Parking Lot

Before you walk from the parking lot up the steps toward the visitor center, take a moment to look around. Everything you see was part of the Mocamas’ homelands. In fact, the present-day Memorial is in just a small part of their territory. The Mocamas owned, lived on, and used the coastal lands, marshes, and waters from the Altamaha River in Georgia to just north of present-day St. Augustine.

In the past, people often called the Mocamas simply Timucuas. But this is actually the term for a language spoken by many different peoples across a large part of Florida. Unfortunately, we do not know what the Indigenous people of the Fort Caroline region called themselves in the 1560s. But we do know that the particular Timucua dialect they spoke was called Mocama. This means “the sea,” an appropriate name since the Mocama lived on the Atlantic coast. This is how we are going to refer to the people, their land, and their nation.

Linguists are currently reconstructing the Timucua language, using Catholic texts which were translated from Spanish into Timucua. The main translators were actually Mocamas and other Timucuas. Although the Mocamas did not have what we think of as literacy, with written texts, they had other ways to record events and communicate information. For example, we know they used sign language, drew maps in the sand, and tattooed their bodies to commemorate important events. Because of this they learned to read and write in Spanish very quickly and used this to create their own Timucua alphabet.

We incorporate this exciting new work by introducing you to some Timucua words! To try your hand at learning Timucua, visit Hebuano: A Timucua Language Resource Guide. To look up specific Timucua words visit this web-based dictionary.

Audio

The Mocamas and their Language Audio Narration This is an audio narration for this stop on the Indigenous Fort Caroline Tour. Source: Department of History, Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT), University of North Florida Creator: Savanna Courtney-Durrett Date: 2024

Images

Timucua Language Map A map depicting the areas where specific dialects of Timucua were spoken, including Mocama, Icafui, Yufera, Oconi, Timucua, Potano, Acuera, Tucururu, Agua Dulce, and Agua Salada. Source: Center for Instructional and Research Technology (CIRT) and the UNF Archaeology Lab, University of North Florida Creator: Michael Boyles Date: 2023
Indigenous Fort Caroline Tour Map A map displaying the physical locations associated with each tour spot. You are currently at Spot 1 at the Main Parking Lot. Our path takes you from the Main Parking Lot, past the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center, overlooking the river, along the Fort Caroline Memorial Trail, to the actual replica of Fort Caroline. Source: Center for Instructional and Research Technology (CIRT), University of North Florida, and the National Park Service Creator: Michael Boyles and the National Park Service at the Fort Caroline National Memorial Date: 2023

Location

Metadata

Indigenous Florida, “1. The Mocamas and their Language,” Indigenous Florida, accessed July 17, 2024, https://indigenousflorida.domains.unf.edu/items/show/35.