Sixteenth Century European Artifacts from the Confirmed 8MR03538 De Soto Encampment Site with X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis
Florida Department of State, Bureau of Archaeological Research, Master Site File MR03538, 2017
124 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2017
Date Written: January 7, 2017
The 8MR03538 White Ranch/De Soto site is one of the most thoroughly vetted and scientifically dated archaeological sites in recent history. It has been confirmed as a contact site of the 1539 entrada by conquistador Hernando de Soto and his army. This site identified to have multiple occupations was the location of one of Hernando de Soto’s early camps in the sixteenth century and was in later use during the seventeenth century Spanish mission and ranching period. This important First Spanish Cultural Period site is located between Ocala and Gainesville, Florida on the wetlands of Orange Lake. Based on historical documentation, the site would be located east of the Aucilla River within the Timucuan Province.
This investigation contains a systemic analysis of the artifacts from site 8MR03538 recovered between 2005 and 2015 with additional X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis (pXFR) of material artifacts compared to current museum databases for date range and confirmed elemental composition consistent with western European artifacts manufactured in the late 15th to early 16th centuries. Bioarchaeological studies of the animal remains reveal the one-sigma calibrated calendrical date range is AD 1529 ± 11 years: the 95% confidence level age range is AD 1518–1540. The date calibrated from the 2 sigma 95.4% confidence interval centered at the year 1540.
Detailed field notes, ground truth studies performed with penetrating radar, magnetic detection and geographic information systems were used to record and analyze the excavation site and its geospatial relationships.
This analysis reconfirms at the highest threshold the conclusions and documentation confirming that site 8MR03538 is where Hernando de Soto came to the area of Potano on August 12th 1539. His army began camping just to the south of this location from August 11th to August 22nd and then marched north through Potano to join him on the entrada at Aguacaleyquen. The ceramic, coin and material cultural artifact assemblages from 8MR03538 strongly prove the visitation by De Soto and the later location for the sixteenth century mission visita known as Apula. The original mission constructed at the 8MR03538 site was burned by Spanish soldiers in 1584 and in 1601 the Potano chiefdom received permission to relocate the town of Potano closer to Orange Lake. In 1608 a new Franciscan mission San Buenaventura de Potano was built in the relocated town. The 8MR03538 site was reoccupied during the seventeenth century Spanish ranching period.
Keywords: Hernando de Soto, Potano, Archaeology, San Buenaventura de Potano, Franciscan Mission, Florida, Conquistador
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