Lost Spanish settlement discovered in Florida Panhandle
|Sherds of Spanish lead glazed coarse earthenware' are revealed in this image |
[Credit: University of West Florida]
"There it was, artifacts from the 16th century lying on the ground," said Garner, a history buff whose discovery has made him a celebrity in archaeological circles.
Experts have confirmed the find as the site of the long-lost land settlement of a doomed 1559 Spanish expedition to the Gulf Coast led by Tristan de Luna. The discovery bolsters Pensacola's claim as the first European settlement in the modern-day United States, six years before the Spanish reached St. Augustine on Florida's Atlantic seaboard. The expedition was scuttled by a hurricane in September 1559, shortly after the fleet arrived in Pensacola. Five ships sank.
|According to the University of West Florida, this photo shows 'Sherds of Columbia |
Plain majolica'. It is among the artifacts found on the land where Tom Garner
began searching [Credit: University of West Florida]
Many believed Luna's fleeting settlement had washed away in storms or was entombed beneath centuries of development.
Archaeologists from the University of West Florida are now digging in the quaint, waterfront neighborhood of homes and businesses.
"This gives us a whole new window on early Spanish colonialism here in the United States," he said.
Luna's mandate from the Spanish king was to construct a village that would include a church, government house, town plaza and residential site. The archaeologists hope to find out how far the work progressed.
|These iron nails were discovered at the early Spanish settlement site, |
according to the university [Credit: University of West Florida]
A lasting Spanish foothold in the Panhandle could have checked later French influence on the region, he said.
Spaniard Pedro Menendez founded the first successful Spanish settlement at St. Augustine in 1565.
Cal Halbirt , city archaeologist for St. Augustine, said the discovery should add new understanding to Florida's colonial past.
"Having actual, tangible remains from the Tristan de Luna site is very important," he said. "I think, from a level of wow factor, it ranks right up there."
Meanwhile, St. Augustine proudly maintains its claim as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement city in the present-day U.S. "There is definitely community pride because of that," he said.
Author: Melissa Nelson-Gabriel | Source: The Associated Press [February 17, 2016]