Book review: Archaeological Encounters with Georgia’s Spanish Period, 1526-1700

Submitted by Kelly Woodard (kelly@thesga.org)

Recently, members of the SGA received Archaeological Encounters in Georgia’s Spanish Period, 1526-1700: New Findings and Perspectives, edited by Dennis B. Blanton and Robert A. DeVillar, a joint publication of the Society for Georgia Archaeology, Special Publication Number 2 and the Institute for Global Initiatives’ Journal of Global Initiative, Volume 5, Number 1. The Society for Georgia Archaeology used the book to raise awareness of special topics in Georgia archaeology as well as reward its members with the opportunity to receive special publications. Currently, all available copies have been distributed to the SGA membership and institutional members of SGA, such as libraries. If you are looking for this particular book, these libraries should have an available copy.

The editors, Dennis Blanton of Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Robert A. DeViller of Kennesaw State University, hosted a five–day event, funded by Spain’s Ministry of Education, to introduce their Spanish colleagues to the Georgia landscape and current Spanish related research occurring throughout the southeast region. The meeting allowed both Georgian and Spanish scholars interested in Spanish colonization in the New World to collaborate their research and findings.

The scholars involved in the meetings, including the SGA’s 2008 Spring Meeting (held in conjunction with Archaeology Month 2008), Archaeological Encounter in Georgia’s Spanish Period, would eventually create this publication to remind Georgians of their rich Spanish heritage and also that European settlement did not start with Oglethorpe’s English colony in 1733, but rather, as Blanton and DeVillar discuss in the introduction, that Georgia was a melting pot before the concept was even imagined.

Beginning in the sixteenth-century, relationships begin to form between Native American Indians and Europeans from Spain, France, and England. This publication is a window into the scholarship and research being conducted throughout the Georgia area. The articles in this publication are presented chronologically beginning with the discussion of Spanish contact events that occurred during the sixteenth century, specifically Hernando de Soto and those that follow, including the Spanish mission period.

Spanish colleagues Isabel Simó Rodrίguez, Fernando Amores Carredano and Julián Ruiz Rivera touch on memory and its importance in fusing the ‘transgenerational-transcultural’ union through revisiting the deeds of the sixteenth and seventeenth century figures seen in the Southeast. For these Spanish scholars, the physical experience of visiting Georgia allowed them to reconnect with a part of their history on the other side of the world. They were intrigued by the view of unusually tall pines and the participation of a boat crossing to the wharf on St. Catherines Island, surrounded by thick fog. These scholars could not help but juxtapose their crossing with the crossing of the Franciscan missionaries that detailed their experience in the New World three centuries prior in the same manner the Spanish scholars were experiencing.

Archaeological Encounters with Georgia’s Spanish Period, 1526-1700 consists of seven essays focusing on Spanish occupation in early Georgia. The articles presented include tables, illustrations and photographs which clearly present findings, arguments and research. The information presented in this publication is a rich review of archaeological work occurring in the southeast that is meant to pioneer future research regarding Spanish occupation throughout the Southeast.

“New Evidence of Early Spanish Activity on the Lower Ocmulgee River,” by Dennis B. Blanton and Frankie Snow, reviews the updated archaeological record of Spanish activity along the lower Ocmulgee dating between AD 1450-1650. R. Jeannine Windham’s article, “Exploitation and Feasting at the Glass Site (9TF145),” focuses on late prehistoric feasting, and details the finding of the Glass Site assemblage as a means to understand social spheres of Lamar life at the site.

Mark William’s essay moves the publication to the Oconee Valley through the discussion of the importance to revisit archaeological sites, as he shows by example to allow better understanding of late prehistoric native societies in Georgia, and how they were altered by Spanish contact. Next, David Hally and Marvin T. Smith discuss the importance of European artifacts found on Native American archaeological sites which include Spanish trading beads, iron chisels, and candlesticks, found not only in elite burials but also in non-elite graves.

The remaining essays “Recent Investigations of Mission Period Activity on Sapelo Island, Georgia, The San Pedro Mission Village on Cumberland Island, Georigia” (authors: Richard W. Jeffries and Christopher R. Moore) and “Indian Agency in Spanish Florida: Some New Finding from Mission Santa Catalina de Guale” (author: David Hurst Thomas) take the reader’s focus to the mission period along the Southeastern coast.

This book is a prized compilation of research focusing on Spanish contact with Native Americans in the Southeast, especially focusing on activities in Georgia whose goal is to bring an active interest in the Spanish colonial period. This publication is meant to reminded scholars, archaeologists and the public about the importance of the Spanish colonial period that occurred in Georgian history. Readers should use this source as a valuable resource to understand the Spanish period occupation throughout the Southeast and its importance in Georgia history.

Access a PDF of the book’s front matter, including the table of contents, by clicking here. Read more about the SGA’s Archaeology Month 2008 award-winning poster, illustrating this article, by clicking here.