The brick ruins of a sugar mill outside the visitor’s center at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville give visitors a rough sketch of life when the town was a getaway for wealthy New Orleanians and the park was a plantation.
But hidden in the forests and bayous of the park, the shells hint at something even older.
Some 2,500 years before there were New Orleanians in top hats or hoop skirts walking through Fontainebleau, Native Americans called the area home. The Tchefuncte Culture existed across the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coast from around 1,000 B.C. to A.D. 200, occupying the areas now known as Fontainebleau from around 890 B.C. to A.D. 1.
“‘Tchefuncte’ is not just a river,” says Grayhawk Perkins, an interpretive ranger at Fontainebleau State Park. “It was a people.”