America’s Spanish origins confirmed

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tags: archaeology, Pensacola Bay, Luna Colony

On August 14, 1559, a fleet commanded by the Spanish nobleman Tristán de Luna y Arellano sailed into what is today Pensacola Bay. Luna, an experienced explorer, had orders from the Spanish viceroy of New Spain, now Mexico, to establish a permanent colony and to use it as a base of operations to thwart French efforts to settle Santa Elena—currently Parris Island, South Carolina. The plan was to establish a stronghold that could connect, via a land route, the southern Atlantic Coast with Mexico. Luna’s fleet of eleven ships carried about fifteen hundred people—Spanish soldiers and families, African slaves, Aztec warriors and craftsmen, priests—and food enough to sustain them for many months….

Now, with [Tom] Garner’s discovery of Luna’s outpost, archeologists hope they will be able to fill in some elemental but elusive details: how the settlers adapted, what they ate, what their daily life was like, how they interacted with Native Americans and with one another. Having shipwrecks and a related land settlement in close proximity could permit the researchers to see what the settlers brought and how they used some of those items—and made do without those lost to the bottom of the bay. “The Spanish wrote everything down, but, as was often the case then, they were not necessarily looking at the everyday lives of the women and children and craftsmen who came,” Margo Stringfield, an archeologist at the University of Western Florida, said. “It is really going to flesh out the story that the archival records would never be able to.”

The story that comes to life could help shift the current national narrative, in which American Colonial history largely begins with the British. The earlier chapters of the settlement of the United States are “minimized in American history,” John Worth, the lead archeologist at the site, said. Worth has traced Luna’s story, as well as that of the fateful hurricane, through myriad archives. “Hopefully this will enrich the broader understanding of this only lightly covered period of early American history.” Worth’s view is widely shared. Dennis Blanton, an archeologist at James Madison University, said, “I hope we can loosen up the national narrative about the founding of the country, and of the events that represent the prologue of the later history.”

Read entire article at The New Yorker

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