Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Archaeology of De Soto's Route
The exact route taken by de Soto's men remains highly controversial. As you can see from the map above, attempts to equate every feature in the expedition narratives with some spot on a modern map result in convoluted routes, which seem implausible to some historians. In recent years there have been several claims of archaeological evidence for de Soto's men, in the form of 16th-century Spanish artifacts. However, most of these claims are disputed. After all, de Soto traded beads and other goods to Indians along the route, and no doubt his men lost or discarded other objects. The most solid archaeological evidence of the expedition comes from a site in modern Tallahassee that has produced Spanish coins and beads of the right period. De Soto made his first winter camp at the Apalachee village of Anhaica, and some historians think the Tallahassee site is Anhaica.
possible site is an Indian village on the Ocmulgee River in Georgia, where finds include nine trade beads of the right period and several small iron objects. Others area a small fort in western North Carolina and a large Indian site in Arkansas.
has been made for another site in north Florida, near Orange Lake in Marion County. The finds here include Spanish coins and blue glass beads (above).
The finding of all these Spanish artifacts, a real needle in a haystack problem, testifies to how much archaeology has now been done in North America, and how many people are fascinated the great problem of working out de Soto's route. According to some interpretations, the expedition may actually have been one of the most important events in North American history. By the 1680s, the Indian population of the southeastern US had fallen by at least 75%, and diseases introduced by de Soto may have been responsible.