Zelia Nuttall and The Vexed Question: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author(s): Melissa Darby

Year: 2015


It’s been almost two score and four hundred years since Francis Drake and his company in two ships, the Golden Hinde and a small ship only known as Tello’s Bark, landed somewhere on the west coast of American. This interlude was during what became known as ‘The Famous Voyage’ (1577-1580). Seventy to eighty men-- and a pregnant black woman named Maria—disembarked, built a rough fort, and remained for five or six weeks. The geographical location of this landing has been the subject of much archaeological investigation and debate in California, but no evidence of the landing has ever been found. In 1908 Archaeologist Zelia Nuttall found a trove of contemporary documents relating to the voyage. The Hakluyt Society published her ‘New Light on Drake’ in 1914 to great acclaim. She promised a subsequent publication addressing the location of the landing, which she theorized was on the Northwest Coast. Editors rejected that manuscript: to take Drake out of California would be like uprooting the redwoods. I discuss the evidence that lead her to the Northwest Coast, and I will introduce ethnographic, cartographic and new linguistic information that support her theory.

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Zelia Nuttall and The Vexed Question: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Melissa Darby. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397364)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;