Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

From the SLA newsletter: Spanish Colonists and Native Americans in Western North Carolina

October 7th, 2016

By Chris Rodning from the School of Liberal Arts Newsletter

After marching with his men from the Spanish colony of Santa Elena, in coastal South Carolina, to the southern Appalachians, Captain Juan Pardo formed an alliance with the Native American community of Joara, in western North Carolina, in 1566. He founded a colonial town at the edge of Joara, and he named it Cuenca, after his hometown near Seville, Spain. He and his men built a fort, known as Fort San Juan, and Pardo and his men built five other forts in the Carolinas and eastern Tennessee in 1567 and early 1568. During the late spring of 1568, news reached Santa Elena that Native American warriors had sacked Fort San Juan and Pardo’s other forts, and only one of Pardo’s men is known to have survived the attacks. Fort San Juan and other Spanish colonial outposts in the northern borderlands of La Florida were abandoned, and the focus of Spanish colonialism in the American South shifted from exploration and military installation to missionization and trade. What did the fort look like? What did the colonial town look like? How did natives and newcomers at Cuenca, Fort San Juan, and Joara relate to each other and interact with each other? What happened to the town of Joara after the conquest of Cuenca and Fort San Juan? Archaeology at the Berry site, in western North Carolina, is unearthing clues about early encounters and entanglements between Spanish colonists and Native Americans in the southern Appalachians, in the northern borderlands of the Spanish colonial province of La Florida.

The site is located in a field in a rural setting near the town of Morganton, North Carolina, where field crews live while excavating during the summer months each year. We dig with shovels and handheld tools like sharpened masonry trowels, and we sift the dirt through hardware mesh cloth in search of artifacts. We transport sifted dirt from excavation squares and screens to heaps of “backdirt” that become large mounds during the course of our excavation seasons, and excavated areas are “backfilled” after we have dug them and documented them. It is not often that archaeologists have an opportunity to excavate as much area as we have at the Berry site, and there is much more area that we would like to dig. It takes much more time and effort to analyze archaeological finds than to dig them up, and we anticipate years of further study at Berry and other sites nearby.

Read the full article here

Spain + People
Thomas F. Reese
SCLAS Executive Director. Professor - Art History