Before the Spanish arrived, Florida was already home to many Native American tribes including the Ais (or Ays), Apalachee, Seminole, Timucua and others. There is evidence to support that survivors of the 1715 Fleet disaster interacted with the Ais whose territory included coastal areas and islands from approximately Cape Canaveral to the Indian River. It is not surprising then, that the remains of native peoples would be discovered while searching for Spanish treasure from the 1715 Fleet. One such occurrence was documented in the summer of 1966.
Newspaper accounts at the time reported that three boys searching for artifacts near Sebastian picked up a blackened bone and ran down the beach signaling divers of the Real Eight Company who were working a A place where one of the ships from the 1715 Fleet wrecked. Includes the beach and the water in the vicinity of the wreck., likely the Cabin Wreck, which is located in that area. When the Real Eight crew put ashore they were equally excited. The crew contacted Homer Cato, a local amateur archaeologist, to investigate the site.
The remains, along with bits of orange tempered shards, were found in river mud that shows up on the ocean side. The area where the remains were found was identified as an ancient inlet by University of Florida geologist Dr. Kelly Brooks. Dr. Brooks theorized that the remains were placed there at a time when the beach line extended much further offshore. While the age of the ancient remains was not determined at the time they were found it was surmised that they may date to the time when hairy mammoths wandered the area.
Cato labeled the remains “Sebastian Man”. The area now covered by Brevard and Indian River Counties has been the site of other such discoveries. “Vero Man” and other remains found west of Melbourne prove that indigenous peoples occupied the area from a very early date. It was anticipated that once the remains of “Sebastian Man”were dated and the artifacts analyzed, they would be exhibited at the McClarty Museum.
For more information about the Cato Site and other such recoveries see The Florida Anthropologist, “The Cato Site Near Sebastian Inlet, Florida”, Vol. 21, #1, (March, 1968).