New World Treasures – Artifacts from Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s 1539 Expedition
Editor(s): Fred White
The Appleton Museum of Art
New World Treasures Exhibition
Artifacts from Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s 1539 Expedition and the Lost Mission of San Buenaventura De Potano
A team of international historians and archaeologists have been thoroughly investigating this De Soto site and the lost Franciscan Mission of San Buenaventura since its discovery in 2005. The archaeologists credited with the discovery and honored by the United States Congress are University of Florida professors, Dr. Fred A. White and Dr. Michele C. White, and University of Florida Anderson Scholar and History Honors Graduate, Ethan A. White.
The site in central Florida is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the early history and exploration of the United States.
The archaeological discovery has unearthed rare Spanish artifacts dating more than 500 years old. This Potano Indian village site lies between Ocala and Gainesville, Florida and has been officially recorded as the MR03538 site, by the Bureaus of Archaeological Research and Historical Preservation within the Florida Department of State. Historical evidence confirms Spanish missionary activity began at this Native Indian site as early as 1580 when Spanish missionaries returned to the town of Potano visited by Hernando de Soto in 1539.
Artifacts from the discovery are unique among other ancient Florida locations considered to be from the First Spanish Period. The numbers of medieval coins found at the clandestine site appear to be more than all of the coins found at all of the mission sites in the American mainland thus far. A few types of these rare maravedis coins were also discovered at the La Isabel settlement in the Dominican Republic founded by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The ancient coins found at the site display the names of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, the monarchs that united the largest kingdoms of Spain by marrying in 1469 and ruling equally, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s efforts were crucial to the discovery of America.
This newly discovered archaeological site is the oldest confirmed New World contact site in the United States.
Acknowledgment for confirmation and identification of the artifacts goes to a large and diverse group of scholars throughout the country, Dr. Alan M. Stahl, Curator of Numismatics, Princeton University, Dr. Jerald T. Milanich, Curator Emeritus in Archaeology of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Dr. Gifford Waters, Historical Archaeology Collections Manager of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Dr. Kathleen Deagan, Distinguished Research Curator of Archaeology for the University of Florida, Dr. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida and Dr. Charles M. Hudson, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and History, University of Georgia.
Dr. Charles M. Hudson, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and History, University of Georgia, noted on the important discovery, “Crossbow points, 7-layered chevrons, mail armor, and Ferdinand and Isabella coins now backed up with XFR testing, this is the definitive De Soto site.” “The discovery and recognition of the White site is a major archaeological and historical event. The on-going investigations and interpretation of the White / De Soto site promise to clarify the Spanish and Indian history of north-central Florida and to add immeasurably to our knowledge of the Hernando De Soto expedition.” Professor Hudson is considered the world’s top scholar on Hernando De Soto, author of countless research publications and Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun.
Dr. Jerald T. Milanich, Curator Emeritus in Archaeology of the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated on the significant discovery, "I looked at the archaeological evidence. There is absolutely no doubt that is a De Soto contact site.” “The site Ashley White has found seems certainly 100 percent I’d say to be the main Indian town of Potano that De Soto had been at and also the later location of the mission of San Buenaventura de Potano.” Professor Milanich is the leading expert and author of multiple books about the Potano culture and Hernando De Soto’s expedition.
Dr. Gifford Waters, Collections Manager for Historical Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and an expert on Spanish missions, noted, "This (the De Soto site) is an extremely important site, historically and archaeologically."
Dr. Michael V. Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida, stated that, “The White Ranch / De Soto site is one of the absolute most important American / Spanish archaeological discoveries in my lifetime. Having been a priest and being able to walk the site and hold a Rosary discovered within the mission ruins was quite overwhelming. There was a calming and reassuring feeling that the 500 years of history here had not been lost and that the fine archaeological work would ensure a permanent record and the hope the artifacts will join the collection of the University of Florida Museum of Natural History.” Professor Gannon is one of the most influential scholars and authors on Spanish colonial history.
The recent scientific findings were published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Archaeology and with the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee, Florida. The collection of artifacts is at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Cite this Record
New World Treasures – Artifacts from Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s 1539 Expedition. Fred White. Ocala, FL: Appleton Museum of Art, College of Central Florida. 2013 ( tDAR id: 391009) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8XP75ST
Archaeological Overview • Architectural Documentation • Architectural Survey • Bioarchaeological Research • Collections Research • Data Recovery / Excavation • Ethnohistoric Research • Geophysical Survey • Historic Background Research
Apula Visita • Ashley White • DE Soto Expedition • Ethan White • Fred White • Hernando de Soto • Hernando DE Soto Expedition • Michele White • Potano Culture Change • Potano Indian Village • San Buenaventura de Potano mission
Calendar Date: -800 to 1720
min long: -82.384; min lat: 29.109 ; max long: -81.969; max lat: 29.552 ;
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