Lost Spanish colony in Melanesia may be found

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Three years after St. Augustine was founded, Alvara de Mendana, nephew of the governor of Peru, set out with two ships and 150 soldiers and sailed west to find gold and a new trade route to China.

Mendana's 1568 voyage found nothing, so he returned to Peru.

But a relentless lust for gold pushed the Spanish to dispatch more colonizing fleets. And one founded a colony somewhere in the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia.

No one knows its exact location or why the colony disappeared, but Martin Gibbs of the University of Sydney's Department of Archaeology has done extensive research and thinks he has a few clues. He came to St. Augustine last week to look for some clues in possible similar objects....

Gibbs said, "The (Melanesians) were initially welcoming, but constant and increasingly aggressive Spanish demands for food, women and (religious) converts wore this out, while the Spanish tired of thefts in the camp."...

Even more brutally, Mendana began to execute dissenters, fearing revolt.

Then 47 colonists died of malaria and typhus in two months, Mendana included, with many others falling ill.

The weakened colonists finally left, but the remaining accounts by survivors don't tell its exact location.

Initial archeological work in the Solomons was started in the 1970s by professors Roger Green and Jim Allen, who suggested possible colony sites, but none were excavated.

Gibbs came to St. Augustine last week to compare pottery fragments found at one possible site with pottery made in St. Augustine during the 1500s.

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