1539 – Artifacts and Archaeology from Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s Potano Encampment

Author(s): Fred White

Year: 2015


Published by Academic Press Journal - Division of UK Scholarly Open Access

The site identified in the Florida Master Site File as MR03538 was the location of one of Hernando de Soto’s early camps during the 1539 entrada and was in later use during the seventeenth century Spanish mission and ranching periods. This previously unknown First Spanish Cultural Period site is located between Ocala and Gainesville, Florida on the wetlands associated with Orange Lake.

The European artifact assemblage of the White Ranch site (MR03538 West) has resolutely confirmed Spanish contact during the early part of the sixteenth century. The historical evidence also confirms this is the area visited by Hernando de Soto the Spanish explorer and conquistador in August of 1539. The location of the White Ranch site MR03538 is within the Timucuan Potano tribe area north of Ocala, Florida detailed in the De Soto chronicles.

The White Ranch site MR03538 now joins the Governor Martin Site at the Apalachee village of Anhaic east of Tallahassee, Florida as the only sites confirmed with Adelantado Hernando de Soto’s entrada. These significant sites correlate with the evidence and progress ethnohistorians, anthropologists, and archaeologists have contributed to reconstruct De Soto’s route. In 1997 after more than fifteen years of research Professor Charles M. Hudson working with numerous scholars reconstructed the closest route to the actual expedition thus far. The map was published that same year by the University of Georgia Press (Hudson 1997). The map route evidence corresponds with the original first hand chronicles and the actual site location of MR03538.

1. A metadata survey completed in 2005 and published in 2010 was an overview of all of the maps from the University of Florida field schools that began in 1940s with Dr. John M. Goggins to Dr. Charles H. Fairbanks and Dr. Jerald T. Milanich in the 1970s and included several volumes of unpublished field notes written by Ripley P. Bullen, Curator Emeritus at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida that remain in a private collection. The longitudinal study of the available metadata used computer spatial mapping and revealed architectural evidence of non-aboriginal features at the Richardson site confirming the location of the relocated mission of San Buenaventura de Potano at the 17th century Potano village Richardson site (8AL100).

2. In 2005 discovered a 16th century Potano village (MR03538 East Site) on the same wetlands associated with Orange Lake that is older than the Richardson site.

3. Excavated a primitive Franciscan mission / ranch structure within the 16th century Potano village (MR03538 East Site) dating from the 1580s and unearthed the largest cache of medieval coins ever found in the Americas.

4. Along the same wetlands between the 16th century Potano village and the 17th century Richardson village, discovered the location of a conquistador army encampment with European artifacts confirmed through X-Ray Florescence Analysis that are in the early 1500s date range of the Narváez and De Soto entradas (MR03538 West) The White Ranch / De Soto Site.

“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.”

---- Dr. Charles M. Hudson, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and History, University of Georgia. 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.

"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.”

---- Dr. Jerald T. Milanich, Curator Emeritus in Archaeology of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Professor Milanich is the leading expert and author of multiple books about the Potano culture and Hernando De Soto’s expedition.

"This (the De Soto site) is an extremely important site, historically and archaeologically."

---- Dr. Gifford Waters, Collections Manager for Historical Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and an expert on Spanish missions.

“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.”

---- Dr. Michael V. Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida. Professor Gannon is one of the most influential scholars and authors on Spanish colonial history.

Cite this Record

1539 – Artifacts and Archaeology from Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s Potano Encampment. Fred White. London UK: Academic Press Journal. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394333)

URL: https://www.academia.edu/9944364/1539_Artifacts_and_Archaeology_from_Conquist...

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1528 to 1539